We love our children and they’re ruining our life

Latest Posts  •  July 27, 2015

Does becoming a parent ruin your life?

If you asked me when Emma was 4 months old, you’d get one answer. If you asked me when she was 17, you’d get another.

Because children are great, and they’re terrible – the best thing that ever happened to us and the worst – a never-ending drain on our energy, time, and emotional well-being.

Compared to their childless counterparts, parents appear to be both happier and more miserable at the same time.

It seems like having kids is a great idea that will also ruin your life.

Jennifer Senior, an award winning journalist and author of the book “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood” has made it her life’s work to examine what it means to be a parent.

After exploring and pulling from a spectrum of disciplines from history and sociology, to economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology—she’s looked at how children change the lives of their parents for better and sometimes for worse.

Her book considers the impact of children on marriage, sex, work, friendships and one’s sense of self.

And although most parents would agree that the transition from nonparent to parent can be a very stressful one, Senior’s research reveals: the children are not the problem.

In her TED Talk “For parents, happiness is a very high bar”, she says, “something about parenting right now at this moment is the problem.” And she adds, “I don’t think we know what parenting is supposed to be. ‘Parent’, as a verb, only entered common usage in 1970. Our roles as mothers and fathers have changed. The roles of our children have changed.”

Up until the 20th century, children were viewed as economic assets to their parents. They started working at a young age, helping at the farm or in their family trades. Nowadays, children are economically worthless but it’s their emotional value that’s increased. The Princeton sociologist Viviana Zelizer describes this transformation in five fierce words: “economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”

As a consequence, we’ve become increasingly concerned about our children’s emotional well-being. More than anything we want our children to be happy, self-confident and equipped for future success.

And maybe that’s expecting too much. Maybe in order for us all to be happy, parents and kids alike have to let go of the universally agreed upon mantra, “all I want is for my children to be happy”.

Maybe if we expected less of ourselves (and our children) we’d feel more adequate as parents – maybe we’d enjoy the joyful moments and accept that we can’t and won’t feel blissfully happy all the time.

I certainly agree with Senior when she says, “happiness and self-confidence can be the by-products of others things, but cannot be goals in and of themselves.”

She suggests that instead, we should “focus on producing productive and moral kids — and simply hope that happiness comes to them by virtue of the good they do and the love they feel from us.”

Watch Jennifer Senior’s TED Talk: “For parents, happiness is a very high bar.”

2020-04-27T13:22:39+00:00July 27th, 2015|

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