In the Grass is Always Greener Category

, , 23 Comments

Usually I get a little hot under the collar when I hear parents muse longingly about whether their life would have been happier without kids. Oh, to even have kids to imagine away.

Such parental musing happened, again, the other night by a mother of two who didn’t have any idea how ludicrous she sounded to an infertile woman who only wished she’d had the chance to have one.  I didn’t have the energy to point out the irony, paid my bill and went home.

The absurdity of the situation took on added meaning after Geohde in the UK sent me an article from an Australian newspaper on a similar subject. She said it made her brain hurt. (Somehow I feel the need to get a Canadian perspective to help round out the British Empire — other non-empire citizens are welcome to weigh in as well.) The article is entitled: Happiness plummets with kids’ arrival.

So apparently there is a conference called Happiness and its Causes, and according to a professor who presented scientific data, if one were to read between the lines I should be among THE happiest people on the planet because I don’t have kids.

Yes. Per his research, “despite the belief that children were the apples of our eyes, they actually had a negative impact on happiness. The more kids you had, the sadder you were likely to be.”

I’m guessing he didn’t spend a lot of time talking to people who can’t seem to have them.

The prof seems a perfect example of a guy who may have a lot of academic degrees but is in great need of tact among other things. One of the sentences from the article that made my head want to explode was his declaration that having kids was not unlike like owning Armani socks.

I’m not kidding. He says, and I quote, “When people own Armani socks they can’t stop telling you they are the best socks, the most amazing socks. (But) I suspect that one of the reasons that people who own Armani
socks think they are wonderful is because they have paid $85 for a
pair.”

This would indicate that those who spend beaucoup bucks and succeed with fertility treatments must brag endlessly on their children because they dropped some serious coin to get them??

* * * * *

Ah…just as I was ready to post this morning I received a lovely surprise from Ms. Heathen who bestowed a Pink Rose Award. Many thanks to her and Kymberli who created this idea.Pink+Rose

In turn I would like to offer, well about a thousand and one. First to each of you who drop by and visit, this rose is for you. I’d also like highlight these roses personified:

Mel who provides limitless support and inspiration. She is always there to prop us up when we’ve been leveled and to encourage us along whichever path we choose.

Lori whose sunny disposition and generous heart lets us know that bad days are followed by good days.

Chicklet who has fire in the belly to spare and a wicked sense of humor. I admire her spunk.

The rules are as follows:

1. On your blog, copy and paste the award, these rules, a link back to the person who selected you, and a link to this post. You will find the story behind the Pink Rose Award and other graphics to choose from there.
2.
Select as many award recipients as you would like, link to their blogs
(if they have one), and explain why you have chosen them.
3. Let them know that you have selected them for an award by commenting on one of their posts.
4. If you are selected, pass it on by giving the Pink Rose Award to others.
5.
If you find that someone you want to nominate has already been selected
by someone else, you can still honor them by posting a comment on their
award post stating your reasons for wishing to grant them the award.
6. You do not have to wait until someone nominates you to nominate someone else.

 

23 Responses

  1. luna

    May 16, 2008 2:58 pm

    the prof needs more than tact. a clue maybe. just another thing that’s wrong with academia and the pressure to publish or perish. a whole lot of crap.

    congrats on the pink rose, you deserve it!

  2. loribeth

    May 16, 2008 3:19 pm

    Hmmm. I have heard variations on that theory, although never accompanied by an Armani socks analogy (!). My own theory is that so many people have children without really giving the matter a whole lot of serious thought — why do they want children? How are they going to provide for them? etc. etc. Maybe the parents don’t particularly like kids but think it will be different when they have their own. Or it’s an “oops” pregnancy that they’re not emotionally or financially ready for — or it creates conflict in the marriage when the dh turns out to be not as helpful & involved as mom would like him to be. The reality of parenthood, even for the most thoughtful & prepared of parents, can be a very rude awakening.

    People who are childfree by choice have obviously made a very conscious decision NOT to have children & tend to be very satisfied with their lives, from what I’ve read. And infertile people obviously have to be pretty sure they want kids to jump through all the hoops they/we do.

    But I hear you. There’s nothing I hate more than hearing people complain endlessly about their kids, & then turn to me & say, “So… when are you having kids?” lol Really a convincing advertisement for parenthood, you know??

  3. Beth

    May 16, 2008 3:22 pm

    The idea that one magic thing will make all happy – or unhappy – is about the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. There are undoubtedly parents out there whose lives may have been “happier” without kids. I’d venture to say there are just as many “non-parents” (for whatever reason) out there whose lives would have been “happier” with children.

    My point is that we can ALWAYS play the grass is greener game. I think true happiness is found in acceptance and appreciation of your life as it is.

    And I can think of several places I’d like said professor to shove is study.

  4. JJ

    May 16, 2008 3:34 pm

    I knew the pink rose would make its way to you quickly–definitely deserving!
    Have a great weekend, PJ

  5. Bea

    May 16, 2008 3:37 pm

    I read that article, and I also read the research which lead to the lecture series (it was published… what? 12-18 months ago?). I actually found it comforting.

    I think it explodes the myth about how life is only worthwhile if you have kids (which, as you know, is the extent to which some people take things). It explains why this myth is so prevalent – people have to work hard to convince themselves of such when they’ve made such a huge investment. The armani reference is overly flippant, but valid. And since most people are parents, the myth gets widely perpetuated.

    But it also means that alternative choices can bring just as much happiness and be just as worthwhile. When I heard this theory, it was a kind of lightbulb moment for me and it made child free feel like a real option for the very first time.

    Now, what you have to understand is that infertility is still going to be unhappy. A choice to remain childfree can be as happy or happier than a choice to have children, but any way you look at it, going through infertility is going to suck really, really badly. The research only applies once you’re beyond the grieving period.

    Obviously, I chose to continue treatments – I still thought having children was a worthwhile choice on balance. But it did add hope and options to the journey.

    Bea

  6. Kami

    May 16, 2008 3:52 pm

    I haven’t seen a single study on happiness that didn’t show people with children were less happy. Yet, here we are pursuing that dream. One of my rationales is that I will be different. (Don’t we all think that?)

    I also like what the author of Stumbling on Happiness said. He said it could be the way the study is set up. One example was to ask someone at random times how happy they were on a scale of 1 to 10. Most of the day is spent doing extra laundry, dressing kids, driving to sporting events, etc. These times might only be 2-4’s. Then there are other moments that might rate a 15, but the scale only goes to 10 and they don’t happen as often.

    My goal is to enjoy the extra laundry, drives to soccer games, etc. while still balancing it with time for myself and time for my husband. We shall see.

  7. zhl

    May 16, 2008 4:22 pm

    I just finished reading his book. And like Bea, it made me feel a little better about not having children and actually a bit anxious about trying other options to have them. What if after all this time having kids won’t make me happier? I think his comment about the socks is flippant, but his comments about the kids are based on multiple studies. And I think his comments about the socks were partly to bond him with other parents. It’s a mixed bag but interesting. The book is definitely thought provoking and very little of it is devoted to kids so if you are looking a good read, I would recommend it.

  8. Kymberli

    May 16, 2008 4:27 pm

    I wonder what type of parents his test pool consisted of and whether he asked background questions concerning what their views were towards parenting *before* they became parents. It seems to me like there might be a fallacy in his “logical” deductions somewhere.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, and congratulations on your award! Thanks for passing it on!

  9. DD

    May 16, 2008 4:52 pm

    My poor sadsack of a son, then, if appreciation for children is based on their overall “cost”.

    I’d love to take a sock, fill it with $85 worth of quarters and beat some fucking sense into that professor.

  10. WaterBishop

    May 16, 2008 8:29 pm

    I have heard that theory many times, but most of them forget the key part: that people are happier when they have a choice in how their life goes.
    Infertility is just as unhappy of a state as an unplanned pregnancy depending on the person.
    It’s so easy to throw a sweeping generalization over the population without knowing if those people chose to be parents or chose their childlessness.

  11. Lori

    May 16, 2008 9:16 pm

    OMG. I so needed a bright spot in this day.

    Thanks, Pamela Jeanne. The pink rose is lovely.

    And so are you.

  12. Mommypause

    May 17, 2008 1:11 am

    I have two daughters (both domestic infant adoptions). My oldest was a preemie and for a very short time went to a playgroup with other families who had preemies. I actually heard one woman tell another that she felt cheated because she was only able to carry her daughter for 30 weeks! To this day (2 years later) I seethe with rage. People.

  13. chicklet

    May 17, 2008 3:21 pm

    You my friend, are just fabulous. Between the invites to come get drunk in California, and the rose award, you’re part of what’s helping me through the shiteousness lately. I really may take you up on it you know…

    And the award I’ll post in a few days when I’m more shit-together.

  14. shinejil

    May 17, 2008 4:56 pm

    I have to say that I have noticed anecdotally that children do not make most people happy, in particular those who see their kids of extensions of themselves and their egos. There are tons of shit parents out there with very shallow connections to the person they produced.

    There are a lot of difficulties attributing this unhappiness to the kids themselves: were the parents basically miserable before the kids arrived, but they look back on the days of bars and dating with rosy nostalgia? Are the parents selfish pricks? I mean, marriage and money have selfish payback every day: Your mate makes you feel good physically and emotionally, and you can indulge your whims when you have plenty of money. With kids (yours or others), it’s not all about you. It’s about them.

    I think it would be interesting to do the same type of study with people parenting after IF, and see if thoughtfully wanting to become a parent affects the happiness level. And with people who fought their asses off via treatments unsuccessfully.

    I’ll happily send you an acceptance letter, Pamela Jeanne! Promising a hefty advance, too, if you’d like. 🙂

  15. Alacrity

    May 17, 2008 7:00 pm

    I agree with waterbishop – people are most likely to be happy when they have control over how their lives turn out.

    As helplessness and failure rarely lead to happiness, he must have found a way to eliminate childless infertiles from his study.

    Congratulations PJ on the pink rose!

  16. Freyja

    May 18, 2008 3:10 pm

    We were just talking about him on one of the chat forums I frequent. I had a degree in Economics. Many microecon professors do consulting work on the side in the marketing arena. He had participated in some very similar studies in his tenure. And he himself, having two kids, espoused that the data says people without kids are happier. I honestly think he’s probably mostly right. The thing about infertility is that we don’t get to choose – and that lack of choice makes us unhappy. We want something we can’t have. But if we could get it, would we really be happier? The data says no.

  17. jc

    May 18, 2008 7:55 pm

    I also found the study comforting. It was a reminder that maybe life wouldn’t have been all sunshine and fluffy bunnies had I been able to procreate. You know, happiness comes from within, lemons to lemonade, blah blah blah all that crap. It also led me to wonder how much of an effect worrying about their kids has on the happiness of parents.

  18. Mel

    May 18, 2008 10:36 pm

    Thank you–this means so much to me.

    I saw Gilbert when he was on the Colbert Report. I actually ended up picking up his book, though I haven’t started it yet. I was reading the other book on happiness that came out at the same time. The point he made on the Colbert Report is that we’re good at predicting what will make us sad, but we’re terrible at predicting what will make us happy.

  19. Jody

    May 20, 2008 12:58 pm

    Others have written this, but I wanted to say it again, too: these studies can be a comfort to those for whom IF treatment doesn’t end in a child.

    These studies are almost always set up so that people can’t game the system. Parents can’t say, “Oh, nothing gives me greater pleasure than my child” — because how we feel and what we say aren’t always in sync.

    One variant would be to ask people to rate their happiness in a variety of areas of life, including relationships with family members, children (whether one’s offspring or other children), etc. Then the researchers run regressions to see how the answers stack up according to different variables — and time after time, folks with children rate their happiness LOWER than folks without children.

    Now, if they were asked directly, “do your children make you happy,” many parents would say yes. I’m guessing it would approach 100% for those who pursued IF treatment — although I have seen anonymous postings from people saying “if I knew then, what I know now” — and I will say, I think that’s the sort of conversation that isn’t meant to be “overheard” by those still in treatment, or those letting go of the promise of a child at all. One of the tricks of the Internet is that it becomes hard to have semi-private conversations; if you get pregnant and post it on your blog, not just your fertile but also your still-trying friends can “overhear” your complaints, for example.

    But the studies consistently show that the constant refrain — “you need to have children to be a happy, fulfilled adult” — just isn’t true.

    If there’s a way through the grief and loss of IF treatment, there’s a future of life’s joys still out there.

    I don’t know if there are studies of folks who’ve done IF treatment, to compare the satisfaction of those with different treatment outcomes five and ten years on. If they haven’t been done, and if I were a social scientist, I’d be trying to get funding for those studies ASAP.

    • Pamela Jeanne

      May 20, 2008 3:00 pm

      Thanks, Jody, and all who commented here. You’ve definitely provided some food for thought. I do believe people get caught up in saying what they think is the “right” answer when in fact they might think otherwise. It’s next to impossible to separate out where the truth lies when the conventional wisdom and the constant refrain from parents is how great their kids are, how much they’ve enriched their lives and how wonderful the experience of having kids is.

      You can’t help but feel like you’re missing out on something really amazing when the message is “you are so missing out!” As Chrissy said in a comment on my post “A Window into the Silent Disorder,” you can’t  help “feeling like the only one not invited to the party that everyone was talking about.”

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