My son has recently, and incessantly, begun asking me, “Daddy, are you happy?” I think he us just trying to gauge my mood at that moment, but he asks so often, I’m starting to think he is psychoanalyzing me.
With that in mind, I read a surprisingly interesting article in New York Magazine. With the cover proclaiming “I Love My Children, I Hate My Life” I was expecting another screed about entitled parents and their over pampered children. Instead, the article “All Joy and No Fun – Why parents hate parenting” is an interesting essay on why having children doesn’t necessarily make you happier.
The article mentions studies that show that people with children are not happier than the childless, how expectations, as well as, the family structure itself have changed, and of course it talks about the Scandinavians got it all figured out (there is a reason why the Swedish make the coolest children’s furniture.)
But its not until the very end of the piece do they touch on what is at the heart of the matter for me. What defines “happiness”? And that happiness in life isn’t defined “by how much fun we had, but what we did with it.” And they ask the philosophical question, “should you value moment-to-moment happiness more than retrospective evaluations of your life?”
Personally, I have always thought that children won’t make you happier, at least on a day to day basis. But I never viewed having children in terms of happiness, its about doing something selfless, devoting yourself to something other than yourself. I think this used to be more common, peoples lives weren’t just about themselves and their own self satisfaction, it was as much about family, church and community. And this doesn’t necessarily make you happier, but it might give your life more meaning and a greater sense of purpose.
Kids can definitely suck sometimes, but even with my shirt covered with oatmeal, my back sore , and my mind completely zombied out from waking up at 5:30 every morning, “Yes Nate, I am happy.”