Does Society Exaggerate the Joys of Parenthood?

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One of my friends (who happens to be a mom) posted this Time Magazine Article on Facebook about parenthood.   The article delves pretty candidly into the realities of parenthood and how society may tend to exaggerate the joys of parenthood.   I’m surprised by the  blunt objectivity of the article.  I would suspect that most parents would stop reading by the second paragraph because they wouldn’t want to face the fact (even when deep-down inside they know) that raising Johnny or Sally is a road full of challenges and frustration as well as giggles and joy.   The article pulls no punches and mostly comes across as anti-kid.  Here’s an excerpt:

Researchers have known for some time that parents with minors who live at home report feeling calm significantly less often than than people who don’t live with young children. Parents are also angrier and more depressed than nonparents — and each additional child makes them even angrier. Couples who choose not to have kids also have better, more satisfying marriages than couples who have kids.

The last part of the article breaks down the study that was conducted to test this hypothesis.  Won’t bore you with the details, but the findings are interesting.   Maybe I’m trying to find the rainbow in my childless-not-by-choice state, but  this article states boldly the fact that kids add a lot of stress and strain to your life, and in our kid-centric culture kids have been elevated to a state of worship for which they may not be worthy.  The summation of the article is this:

Does this mean you shouldn’t have kids? Yes — but you won’t. Our national fantasy about the joys of parenting permeates the culture. Never mind that it wasn’t always like this. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we thought nothing of requiring kids to get jobs even before they hit puberty. Few thought of it as abuse. Reformers helped change the system — and rightly so — so that children could be educated. But this created a conundrum. As Eibach and Mock write, “As children’s economic value plummeted, their perceived emotional value rose, creating a new cultural model of childhood that [one researcher] aptly dubbed ‘the economically worthless but emotionally priceless child.’” Or, as the writer Jennifer Senior put it in a New York magazine article last summer, “Kids, in short, went from being our staffs to being our bosses.”

Yikes…that’s pretty harsh, but there’s some truth to that paragraph.  Not that I ever think kids should be “staff”; however, in many families the kids have become the bosses, and that’s not healthy either.   I think our society needs a swift kick in the pants to alert us to that fact.  Discipline, training and respect for elders have become for the most part a thing of the past, and our society is suffering because of it.

Yes, this probably made me feel better about not being able to have kids, but like the article says it still doesn’t take away the desire which is firmly implanted in our DNA and our souls.  We were programmed to procreate be it for emotional or economical reasons.

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6 responses »

    • Definitely, I was exposed to that numerous times when I was at the mall yesterday. It seems…at least in my area…that you can’t enjoy a day of shopping or leisure without having to endure the bad behavior of undisciplined children. That’s why what I consider a “leisure day” will never entail going to the mall or any popular public place. Its a shame that this is the way it is, but it is. I told my husband that it isn’t that I dislike kids, but I dislike kids who are bratty and undisciplined. 😉

  1. The arguing, and bickering over things like cleaning the room, bath time, bed time, food, homework, clothes, disrespect, proper behavior… the daily drudge, has certainly got to be a big turn off when it comes to parenting. I read one of the articles referenced in the piece you posted titled “All Joy and No Fun.” I think at the bottom of that article the author gets to the crux of the matter on parenting vs non-parenting. It quotes two psychologists, Martin Seligman, who stated that “purpose is happiness” and Tom Gilovich who did a study concluding that “People are more apt to regret the things they ‘haven’t’ done than things they have. I think that I might always have “regret” about not parenting and that this contributes to my disatisfaction, but I don’t think that parents are immune to regret, they just reget not having done “other” things. So that leaves me with “purpose”. I suppose if you have raised children, you have had a very clear and specific purpose, and one that is highly valued and promoted in our society, so the key is recognize and acknowledge the purpose and meaning in our own lives without children.

  2. I think society does…I cannot tell you how many of my Facebook friend Mom’s COMPLAIN constantly about being a Mom. It’s one of the most frustrating things for me to read, maybe because I don’t really understand. Its interesting though, because the ones who complain the most keep popping out kids…I guess I will never get it unless I am blessed with children someday down the road.
    Thanks for sharing Vicki! 🙂

  3. People seem to forget that no matter how well you raise your kids; they can grow up to be a disappointment; turn to drugs, become criminals, prostitutes, etc. You just never know what to expect when you have a kid. It is the chance you take. That is why I am childfree. I don’t want ot possibly go through all the headaches of parenting. Also I don’t see where it is so rewarding based on the eay how some talk down to and boss their parents around,.

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