We want to be happy and we spend a lot of time wondering what path offers us the greatest chance at achieving that goal. And while we all know that heading to Ikea on a Saturday is the surest route to emotional and psychological collapse, when it comes to the journey that is parenthood (and its effect on well-being), we’re a tad conflicted. Does having children make you a happier, more fulfilled person? Or does the key to eternal happiness lie in bucking our biological imperative completely?
These are questions our grandparents likely didn’t ponder. They do however provoke extreme reactions from people who live on either side of the divide today.
A recent study, investigating whether or not parenthood makes or breaks our eternal quest for bliss, suggests that the answer is more complex than a simple yes or no. To sum up the results, parenthood increases intensity of emotion. We’re either crazy-happy or crazy-miserable. When it comes to overall life satisfaction however, being called Mommy has little to no effect.
For the study, researchers Angus Deaton (an economist at Princeton University) and Arthur Stone (a psychiatry researcher at Stony Brook University), analyzed information derived from the Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index. The index looks at six factors — life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviours and access to basic necessities — to come up with an overall score related to well-being.
The researchers discovered that there are indeed benefits to procreation. People with kids derive financial and health benefits from their status — they make more money, for example. Moreover, parenthood intensifies our emotional lives. Parents experience greater joys, but they also enjoy greater stresses and worries.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Stone summed up the findings succinctly: “We find that in terms of life evaluation, people with kids and people without kids are not very different.”
If you’re an adrenaline junkie who longs to ride an emotional rollercoaster for the rest of your life, then parenthood may be the path to fulfillment. If not, then bridge the divide by aiming to make more money and taking better care of yourself.
Click here to find out if parents with only one child are happier.
Have kids? Tell us how your happiness differs since they were born in the comments below.