Does Having Children Make Us Happy?

Where do we go when we die?

What’s the meaning of life?

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These above questions are things that most people in their early 30’s don’t think about, but these are questions that constantly perplex me.

Friends will be gone in 100 years.  Parents and siblings will be gone in 100 years.  My spouse will be gone in 100 years.  I will be gone in a 100 years.  We are living and breathing in such a small pocket in time.  

When I think about people that I know that have died, I wonder if they lived their life to the fullest?  Did those people find peace at the end of life or did they have any regrets?  How will we remember these people?  What is their legacy?  Were they happy?

Very, very early, maybe in my early teens, I decided I wanted to eventually be a father.  I wanted to be a parent.  Mostly this is due to my feelings about where we go when we die and the meaning of life.

Being a parent was going to be something that I was going to take pride in. It was something I wanted to have a zest for.  I wanted being a father to be something that defines me.  I wanted my children to learn personal character traits from me. I wanted them to teach those traits to their children and I wanted their children to teach the next generation, and so on and so on, into eternity.  I wanted them to be reincarnated, genetically, mini forms of me.  Personally, this is what I believe the meaning of life encompasses.  I came to this belief from watching my parents.

I feel it’s an honor to raise good people with my same last name and to carry on our traditions and our legacy as a family. Raising consistent, authentic, honest, loving and caring people is how I want to spend the good majority of my life.  Bringing children in this world, who solely depend on me for guidance throughout their future, provides clarity and purpose to my personal life.

When you think about that though, it is kind of depressing.  I am not living for myself, I am living for my children.  My strength, devotion and sacrifice is all funneled to another being.

This conundrum has to cross the mind of people that are unsure about whether or not they want to have kids.

Most people don’t know in their early teens whether or not they want to have kids.  These needs, wants and desires come to the forefront in your 20’s or 30’s when you discuss this topic with your partner.

What about the people that sit squarely and evenly on the proverbial fence when thinking about what they want to do with the rest of their life? 50 percent of their thoughts say they want to be parents, while 50 percent of their thoughts are okay with passing on the opportunity.  What should they do?

Don’t ever consider having children because you think it will make you happier.  Be happy first before you consider having children.

Having children is hard on your relationship with your significant other.  Your relationships with your family, friends and loved ones change when you have children.  Children are expensive.  Very expensive.  Recent estimates show that for a middle-income family to raise a child for 18 years (without taking into account college), one child will cost a current family about a quarter of a million dollars.

While mind-boggling, it’s true, one ultrasound appointment for me and my wife confirmed we were having twins and we were going to be a half a million dollars less rich.

Children also rebel.  They throw tantrums. They make you worry.  They test you. They disobey. They can increase your stress due to responsibility.  They can disappoint you.

Worst of all, a child potentially be injured, crippled, diseased or die before you.  My father died before my grandfather.  A part of my grandfather died when he buried his son.  This is the ultimate devastation.  The decision about whether or not to have children is a dynamic choice.

Recently I wondered, on average, do children truly make us happy?  What does the research show? I knew that about 90% of polled adults in America said that they either had children or they plan/hope to have children in the future.  That’s staggering.

Is it proven that the average person that has children, is consistently more happy than the average person that doesn’t?  That seems to be the perception.  That seems to be why everyone pressures young couples to have children, right?

The simple answer to this question is no. 

Far less than half of the studies on this topic cite a higher polled rate of happiness by parents of children versus adults without children.  There is nothing close to a consensus that being parents makes us happier.  Studies show that the sacrifice, responsibility, stress and worrying, whether it be conscious or not, wears on the well-being and happiness of parents.

If you sit evenly on the fence and you and your significant other are unsure about whether or not to bring another human being in this world, and you have a choice, I would urge you to not do it.  The research shows you will be unhappy.

Also, if someone tells you they don’t plan to have children in the future, don’t look at them with disgust and bewilderment.  Our lives are so short.  Don’t we deserve to live them with a smile on our faces?

The one hole or problem I see in many of these studies though is the timing of a person’s life when they are polled and measured for perceived happiness.  Most of the studies measure perceived happiness of adults when children are between the ages of birth and 18 years old.  The studies are not looking at empty nester or end of life contentment.  This is where the real happiness and sense of accomplishment could potentially show itself.

I hope, in my life, I will have comfort when my kids graduate from college, get married and start a family of their own.  I hope to reap those benefits of a job well done when my children reach pinnacles in their lives.  While the thought of dying makes me extremely uneasy now, I hope I find comfort about dying and passing into the great abyss when I think about these moments which will hopefully take place in the future.  I can only imagine how happy my mother is when she thinks about her three children and what they have accomplished in life.  I can only imagine the pride and reflection of herself she sees in the eyes of her grandchildren.  They would not be here without her love, sacrifice and devotion.

Measure her happiness, pride and contentment compared to a similarly aged woman that never had children.  I would be curious to see a collection of studies that measure empty nesters contentment, happiness and pride while reflecting on being a parent.

So does having children make us happy?

It’s an unbelievably loaded question.

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