Thursday, July 3, 2008

Does Having children make you happy?

I remember back in HS one of my teachers was telling us all about Prozac Nation ( I never read the book) which is about how everyone these days is depressed. She kept saying how rich and beautiful people were also depressed, and that the reason why depression rates in the Torah community are so low, is because Jews cling to Hashem's will. She said that its having a family and having kids and a warm and loving home environment that keeps people happy.

I always assumed she was right. It seemed that having a family or something else very meaningful (deeper than just a high paying job) is really what made or kept people happy. However, today I read an article Having Kids Makes You Happy. The author quoted studies which stated "that parents are about 7 percentage points less likely to report being happy than the childless" and that "Parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers."

Basically, parenting isn't going to make you happy. The author did say that parents were more likely to feel very fulfilled in life than non-parents, but fulfillment isn't necessarily a root to happiness.

I don't really have a point other than that one of my teachers was wrong again. Don't think your BY teacher knows anything. She probably really doesn't. Like just yesterday I decided to watch the new TV show by the creators of 7th Heaven called "The secret life of the American Teenager" The girl got pregnant her first time having sex. My friend that was over was like "Is that even possible." I looked at her as if she were an alien. then she was like "one of my teachers said its almost impossible."

Gotta love them B"Y teachers. They're so educated in those rip-off seminaries.

22 comments:

abandoning eden said...

that's one of the questions I usually ask on my midterms! (I teach sociology of the family). Parents tend to have a sharp decrease in happiness after a child is born (well IMMEDIATELY after the child is born they are usually pretty happy, but as soon as they have to go home and deal with the reality of having a child their happiness greatly decreases), but the good news is that happiness increases as the child gets older.

Also are jews the only people who have families and a warm and loving home environment? It seems (the way you tell it at least) that your teacher was saying that...which is totally wrong. Plenty of jews have terrible home environments, and plenty of non-jews have awesome home environments.

Actually I am totally jealous of my bf's (non-jewish) family, cause they are so much more normal and nicer to each other than my family (like they actually like seeing each other, and they makes good-natured jokes about each other and stuff..they're so awesome it seems kinda weird to me).

David said...

Interesting; so there's a dichotomy between "fulfillment" and "happiness?" Then, which is better?

Also, as a side note, I think the survey (and most sociology-- sorry, AE) is a crock. Ask a different question in your survey, and you'll get answers that suit you. Did anyone ask the parents the extent to which they loved their children? Or whether they might be inclined to exchange those children for anything else they ever had or could have? Do you think that removal of the children from a family would not make the parents happier, or less happy?

Recently, I was with a group of people who tried to save the life of a small child who had drowned; we couldn't. After that, I saw the grieving mother sitting in a hospital room with her hand on her dead child's forehead. Childless people can speculate at length about happiness and children and what the two might have to do with each other... but unless you know the extent of human emotion that is invested in a child, your speculations will fall short of the mark, I'm afraid.

Moshe said...

Well, first you'd need to define happiness.

Having children means less time to have fun. No more sleeping in, no more partying all night. More responsibilities and expenses. Infants and toddlers are fun, they do cute stuff and they say funny things. And then they turn into teenagers.

How happy you are after having kids is influenced by how well off you are financially and how well you raise your kids. If the kids are spoiled and don't listen and stand on their heads all day, obviously you're not gonna be happy.

Jessica said...

The only person who can make you happy is you. If you're happy with having children, then you may be happier than some people without children. If you're happy with not having children, then you may be happier than some people with children. One of my favorite quotes is by Elanor Roosevelt. She said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Though the post and study were not about inferiority, I think this quote still applies. The attitude you live with depends on how happy you are, not all these outer things. Another quote I love is from my mother. "Everything in life is 10% fact, 90% attitude." You can't change that 10% but you can decide how you react to those facts.

Moshe said...

You know, makes me wonder if she was trying to convince you or herself.

Jessica said...

moshe - And if it was to convince herself that makes it less valid?...

Moshe said...

Meant fs' teacher.

Jessica said...

ah, assumed that since you had already replied to her it was a reply to my comment. sorry.

Rachel said...

"My friend that was over was like "Is that even possible." I looked at her as if she were an alien. then she was like "one of my teachers said its almost impossible.""
Hehe, they told us the same thing. It had to do with Avraham and Hagar... in case you're wondering where they came to such a conclusion from.

frumskeptic said...

Generally I'm so super interested in articles this. I read it, and basically only discussed it as a way to say "if you think kids wont make you happy, don't have them, they may actually NOT make you happy." Kinda like what Jessica was saying. Mostly my point was, don't think just cuz BY teaches it, its fact, theres alot more to it.

Jessica: I also thought moshe was talking to u. lol. :)

Moshe: She probably was trying to convince herself. She had 6 kids at the time she was teaching that, and now has 9. I bet she is "happy" lol.

I've been to her house, its a mad house. While her kids happen to be REALLLLY good, they're all so young and ridiculously attention needy (like normal small kids) and its almost impossible for her to divide her time.

rachel: Thanx for the info. lol. :)

Ike said...

Interesting article but I don't think your point is universal. Consider that happiness means different things for different people... Would running 500 yards faster than anyone else make you happy? For Olympic runners I believe it does... etc

Having children might make some people happy but others not.. to say that X will make you happy is a statement that doesn't have any meaning as it will apply differently to different people...

Consider this though... calling a NJ guy.. and telling him u want his junk.. that will probably make u happy...

p.s. Jersey = good, BK= bad

frumskeptic said...

Ike, If i thought calling a certain NJ boy would make me happy, I would've already done so.

Skeeta said...

and where did she get the idea that the depression rates in the jewish community are low?

i went to a presentation on abusive marriages in the jewish community, and the presenter pointed out that orthodox jews think the reform have more wife beating because they're less religious, and the reform think the orthodox have more because they're supposedly sexist (which had never occured to me). and the reality is that the levels are the same, and every group is just shooting themselves in the foot by comparing themselves to everyone else instead of working on their own problem.

Moshe said...

Nothing to do with sexist. Hassidim, for one, are less likely to go to a psychiatrist with postpartum depression. There's also the problem of some Rabbis not allowing women to use birth control. Add to this also those families where the husband learns and the wife works and has to take care of ever growing brood.

The Babysitter said...

Actually recently I read that having children is like a drug in that chemically it really does make you happy, it puts you on a high when you have a baby. Actually its the babies smile that puts you on the high: baby smile effects the brain like drug

Moshe said...

And then the rest of the time there's the paying for babysitter or playgroup, paying for diapers, paying for baby food, paying for school. Buying new clothes every half a year. Etc.

The Babysitter said...

Moshe: so think of all that money spent as an investment. If you take care of the baby then it will be a good baby then you'll be happy with the results and it will be worth it.

frumskeptic said...

no matter how much you invest in the child, or take care of it, you still cannot guarantee that he will be a good baby, or that you'll end up happy.

Its a risk.

Moshe said...

Yeah, can grow up into a frum skeptic ;-)

frumskeptic said...

I'll have you know, my parents are very happy with me. So its definitly not the worst thing that can happen with your kid. lol. :)

Moshe said...

Рады до слёз :-D

The Babysitter said...

FrumSkeptic: True but the ones with a high risk give you the highest returns.

and :-) I think you turned out great and your parents are getting much nachas!