Okay, I know this blog is total fluff, but sort of in the "mommy blog" genre. I heard a speaker on NPR today and it really has me thinking a lot about being a parent so I'm going to tell you what it was and what it has me thinking. It's parenting-related. Ready! Here goes!
The speaker was Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert and he was speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival earlier this summer about the brain, and how he has taken a scientific approach to studying happiness. He wrote a book called Stumbling on Happiness.
He said that according to our culture, what we need to be happy is marriage, money and children. He decided to test that to see if it was actually true. Turns out that married people are happier than single people, (and wealthier, and healthier. Men especially.) Money matters to an extent. You need to have enough but after a point, it doesn't really matter to happiness that much.
The interesting question is does having children make people happier? He said not really. They followed parents around and rated their happiness during different activities throughout their days. Women were happiest talking with friends and eating. (No kidding, that's what he said!) They were less happy doing housework and grocery shopping, and when they interacted with their children they were about as happy as they are while they are vacuuming. VACUUMING! (I don't know about you, but vacuuming is not that fun, but it does kind of make me happy after it's done. I'm very happy when I empty the canister and see the three pounds of dust bunnies I've vacuumed up.) He said that the least happy times in a marriage are when kids are really small, and the happiest times in a marriage are after the kids leave. I said, "WHAT!" and as if he heard me, he said, "I know, you can't believe it and I'll tell you why."
He said that parents convince themselves that they are completely fulfilled by raising children because it's such a huge investment. He compared it to buying Armani socks. He said if you are going to drop $250 on socks, you are going to convince yourself that they are the best dang socks in the entire world even though you're a total sucker who just paid $250 for socks. Raising children is the same way. It's a huge investment so we fool ourselves into thinking that we love it and it's the best, and we brag it up and we try to convince everyone to do it. We do this to such a degree that we even let it play games with our memories. Like for example, if you're spending the day with your five year old, it's mostly drudgery, but that three seconds when they hugged your leg and said, "I love you so much," made the whole day seem wonderful and happy. You forget about the complaining and boredom and loneliness, and all the other icky parenting stuff (He didn't say "icky") and convince yourself you were as happy all day as you were during those three seconds.
I thought about this and thought about it. My kids just came home today after being gone for a week. I missed them SO MUCH by this morning that I was watching the clock waiting for them to come home. After I saw them and hugged them and talked to them for about a half an hour, we were back to normal. I was saying things like, "Quit picking at your sister!" and "FLUSH THE DAMN TOILET!" And I can pretty much guarantee that if Dr. Gilbert asked my how happy I was when I went into the bathroom and saw a gigantic unflushed turd, I would have said that I wasn't all that happy. Probably comparable to finding out I have a cavity.
I guess parenting is sort of like being a drug addict. You'll put up with a lot of garbage because you know eventually you'll get your next big high. And then you make it last by writing it up on a blog.
So, my friends, what do you think? Does having kids make you happy? If you don't have kids, would you consider yourself happier with kids, or are you pretty darn happy without them? I'm pretty happy. I think I'd be just as happy without kids though. (I know, that's a total taboo thing for a parent to say, but I think it's true. I mean, now that they're here and I've gotten to know them, I'd be pretty sad if they were gone, but if they were never here, I'd be okay.) Do you think marriage makes you happier? I think I have to agree with that one. There's nothing as great as being with someone every day who understands you and thinks your cute and funny even though you're not all that cute anymore, nor all that funny. (I made Mitch laugh last night by making spit bubbles. Not many other people would laugh at that. Except babies.) I can't wait to READ YOUR ANSWERS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! (hint hint!)