Children and happiness

July 18, 2008

There was a guy on the radio just there talking about happiness and he dared to cast doubt on the truisms that both marriage and children make you happier. The response was, predictably, a flood of texts saying “I’m happy in my marriage” and “My kids make me happy”.

One woman had the temerity to text in saying “I have 2 kids and I’m miserable – I got led into the idea of mortgage, marriage and motherhood and it sucks”. One of my (male) workmates actually got offended, and started declaiming that the woman obviously hates her children and “some people just shouldn’t be allowed to have kids”.

This is why I never believe surveys that say Irish people are the happiest in the world. We seem to view any admission that our lives aren’t filled with joy as a betrayal of the people we share them with. We talk about the tribulations of fatherhood quite a bit in the band among ourselves, because among us it’s understood that we love our kids, and we don’t have to qualify every moan with some “aaah but they’re great aren’t they” platitude. You just can’t do that in public though, except jokingly. It’s sad, y’know? If you’re not happier as a parent than you were before (which does not mean you don’t love your children – you love them because of who they are, not because they give you some kind of happiness payoff), it’s made worse by the fact you can’t talk about it, and the fact that everyone else seems to be so happy. A friend of mine was at a parent-toddler thing a while after her first was born and all the mammys wanted to talk about was how amazing it was to be a parent … and then when my friend mentioned she was finding it kinda hard going they all started to open up. One woman had had post-natal depression but still blathered away about the joys of motherhood until she knew it was safe to do otherwise.

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