Every few years, someone does a new study that proves that parents are less happy than non-parents. I don't know why it makes the news over and over again, but it does, and naturally it gets us people with offspring to wondering if it's actually true that parents are less happy than non-parents. It's a toughie - how does one objectively measure happiness? Is my happy the same as your happy?
Frankly, I wish they'd talk more about the methodology in articles like this one. And maybe use less depressing photos. And also stop putting scare quotes around things and implying that all parents in the U.S. are leading a busy middle class lifestyle that includes driving their spoiled kids to a different activity every evening. But anyway.)
Personally, I don't feel less happy than I did before the Babby was born. If you discount that first six months of intense sleep deprivation, I think I am overall more happy, more cheerful, and less prone to depression than I was before I became a mom.
Maybe it's just that I feel like I have to make the effort to see the good things in life because I don't want to teach the Babby to focus on the not-so-good things? Happiness, much like love, is often less something you feel and more something you do. Happiness is so subjective that we each invent it for ourselves, in other words.
That said, I have another theory about why parents report being less happy than the "no kidding" crowd and it has to do with expectations. When someone is pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant or dreaming about what it will be like to be a mommy or a daddy, they tend to focus on things like baby's first smile or lots of huggies or teaching junior to ride a bike.
Very few people sit around daydreaming about poop explosions so bad they require cutting a onesie off of the baby or waking up to a crying infant for the seventh time in a night or a kid screaming "I hate you!" over and over again.
But these sorts of things happen and they happen a lot. Maybe having lots of younger brothers and sisters made me see early on that being a parent is not all newborn coos and picking out cute outfits? I wasn't around all that much when they were all growing up, but it only takes a week of family immersion to see a fight, to see someone getting grounded, to see a baby spit up or have a fever, etc.
Before I had the Babby, I knew that being a mama would sometimes be kind of disgusting, kind of frustrating, and even kind of annoying. Not all the time... not even most of the time. But, yeah, sometimes.
And then you're looking at your friends with no kids who are enjoying their disposable income and free time and suddenly you're thinking about shipping yourself to Dubai via FedEx Overnight.
Here's another thing that may contribute to my happiness: I have made a conscious effort to engage in hobbies and activities that enrich *my* life... ooh, doesn't that sound selfish? Here's the thing, though: I don't actually think it is. Me being happy is good for the Babby and as long as I don't neglect her to enrich myself, what's the harm? Now if the BabbyDaddy would just use some of his free evening coupons to work on some of his projects *wink*
In the end, what's nice about reading articles like the one linked to above is that it makes me feel like the BabbyDaddy and I are kicking tush and taking names in the relationship and parenting departments because we actually like spending time with each other and spending time with the Babby. We are happy! And that rocks!