so i guess this doesn't mean i'm crazy?

today i'm talking to the moms out there ... ever have one of those days when you seriously wonder, "why did i think having a child was such a good idea?!" and then totally feel guilty for thinking that way? i have lots of those days. and it causes me to truly believe i'm a horrible parent for actually feeling unhappy when i'm around my kids. i look at other moms and i just don't get why i can't appear to be genuinely happy and pleased to be a mom.

but it turns out i'm not the only one. while listening to an interview with professor daniel gilbert (of harvard), i learned that most people aren't particularly happy when they're with their kids. according to his new book stumbling on happiness, children don't raise our happiness levels on a day-to-day basis. he cited these examples:

  • a couple's happiness level drops from their newlywed happiness levels after having children, especially during the first few years of a child's life and during the child's adolescent years. the happiness level doesn't return to newlywed levels until after the children leave the home.
  • while following moms around all day and measuring their happiness levels, researchers found that when the kids are around happiness levels are pretty low.
  • people's happiness levels are high when they're socializing with friends or having sex; watching tv causes happiness levels to dip a little; and doing chores and housework is pretty low on the happiness level. and guess where happiness levels are when you're spending time with the kids? they're at or below the levels of when you're doing housework.
  • apparently, in the long run your children may bring you happiness, but for the most part you get minimal happiness from your kids on a daily basis. i was living these facts but thought i was wrong for being that way. but i guess it's not so crazy. i know people will argue that their children are the biggest source of happiness in their lives. but when you stop and think about each minute of your day, how happy are you really? at the end of the day you may get a few minutes to yourself to reflect on how blessed and happy your life is, but while you're running around, chasing your kids, working, trying to run a household, and trying to maintain your sanity, are you truly happy? think about it.

    [disclaimer: i haven't actually read gilbert's book and didn't even finish listening to the entire interview, so if anything i've written is wrong that's entirely my fault.]


    jae said...

    No you are not crazy! I feel that way all the time! I think that the pressure of having a perfect child is overbearing! My son is almost 2 but is as tall as a 3year old and people expect too much out of him for his age. And too much of me being the 1st time parent that i am.

    allison said...

    Thank you, thank you, Yucaree, for posting that. I can't count how many nights I have crawled into bed feeling depressed, unhappy, and disappointed with myself. The frustration, the feelings of failure, compounded by the guilt and the self doubt just left me deflated and even immobilized. I am slowly starting to realize that I feel truly happy when Devin comes home from day care, smiling, and eager for a hug from me. I am happy when we spend our evenings together playing and eating dinner. Not the time I spend sometimes tethered to his every demand.

    I have the highest respect for moms who dedicate their days and nights to their children at home and do it regardless of their low levels of happiness (even lower than when we're CLEANING!?!)

    Maybe you see other moms appearing to be happy because they are happy when they are out and about with other moms like you. But at home when they are by themselves with the kids, it is probably a different story. At least with me, it is.

    (Sorry 'bout the long comment.)

    Northern_Girl said...

    I'm convinced the only way children bring happiness to their parents is by having children of their own. There is a little bit of "taste of your own medicine" there, but hey, whatever gets me through the day/night that doesn't require a prescription. :) (I'm not always so sarcastic. Really.)