Ask parents if their children make them happy and they’ll likely say yes. So why does almost every study on the subject show that having children tends to make people less happy—and that, in fact, many parents love their kids but hate parenting? In an extensive New York article, Jennifer Senior explores how parenting, and Americans’ reasons for having children, have changed over the decades.
Gone are the days when procreating was an economic necessity. Now, a child’s purpose is both simpler and more complicated: To be groomed for future success, and to bring parents a sense of fulfillment that’s easier to imagine than actually obtain. But perhaps, Senior posits, that’s because we’re defining happiness incorrectly, focusing on in-the-moment stress rather than end-of-the-day reward. “The problem is, 95 percent of the time, you’re not thinking about what they mean to you,” says one psychologist. “You’re thinking that you have to take them to piano lessons.”