I have had no less than three friends either email or mention this article from last week’s New York Magazine to me.
The article is about parenting and happiness. Or, really, a purported lack of happiness among parents. My first reaction was: why did they forward this to me? I know I have been sick, so very tired and a little bit angry about it all, but do I really seem that unhappy?
Reading the article got me thinking.
Of the friends who mentioned it to me, none of them experienced infertility, miscarriages or had even the smallest amount of difficulty conceiving their children.
I’ve had to stop myself from blurting out or emailing back that the hardest day parenting is way easier than a day of dealing with infertility or the aftermath of miscarrying a very-much-wanted pregnancy.
Since most of you still reading this blog also dealt with some form of infertility, how do you feel about your role as a parent to young children? Are you happier now than you were before kids?
As a market researcher, I have a lot of issues with the methodology employed in many of the studies and anecdotes cited in this article.
Chief among them are the New York City- and Los Angeles-based examples that nearly all NYC writers use. Authors who cite only examples in two of the most unique markets in America need to get outside of their bubble. I cannot take their articles seriously. Every researcher knows that you have to temper the vibe of such cultures with milder ones. There are many extraneous variables in those markets that can muddy the waters of the parent-happiness-index: (1) lack of easy access to natural spaces (any place where you can still hear traffic, such as Central Park, does not count); (2) extreme costs of living that all but demand dual-income parents; or (3) a parenting culture that encourages overscheduled and micro managed children, to name just a few.
Granted, the author employs Texas-based and Danish-based studies, but, again, every good researcher knows that you can’t draw broad assumptions based on data from just one population, unless you are, say, focused on only Danish parents or Texan mommies.
The article also cites the theory that unhappiness caused by a shortened amount of leisure time that parents have today versus 1975 – a whole 5.74 hours less per week! Which, if you do the math and adjust for 8 hours of sleep per night per week (she hypothesizes optimistically) means that parents today have 4.8% less leisure time than parents in 1975. Are you seriously going to blame rampant unhappiness on less than a 5% loss of leisure time?
I have my own theories about why these parents are unhappy. I am sure you do, too.
Raising babies isn’t easy. But – in my opinion – it is not the chief culprit in why these parents are unhappy with their lives.
When I reconsider of my most unhappy, challenging days as a parent - the days or nights when I was the most frustrated with Missy - it wasn't at all about her. If I was honest with myself, it was always about something else or myself. And she was the most accessible person on whom to lay blame.
With that in mind, I’d trade with these unhappy parents a day during my past IF slog – say, a two-week-wait day or the day after AF arrives - any day.
They might have a little more perspective.