Happiness Is No Children

No babiesMy decision not to have kids was hard to make, but it was the right one for me.

Now, it seems, I’ve been backed up by a psychologist who says that having children significantly reduces people’s happiness. Research from Europe shows that, while people are very happy when expecting a baby, this drops off when the child is born and the nappies start piling up.


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Apparently all those cute moments of laughter aren’t quite enough to make up for the boredom and drudgery of looking after kids.

The scientific evidence shows people are very bad at predicting what will make them happy, said Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard University and the author of the book Stumbling On Happiness. He said people’s happiness goes into steep decline after they have children, and never recovers its old level until the children leave home. As a source of pleasure, playing with one’s offspring rates just above doing housework but below talking with friends, eating, or watching TV, research has shown.

Part of why I decided I din’t want children is because I’m happy with my life as it is. I do what I want, when I want. I’m unchained from the 9-5 existence and I’m my own person. And I have a lot of creative things I want to achieve which I wouldn’t be able to if I had a baby. Why would I give that up?

What’s interesting about this happiness research is that most parents will tell you it’s bullshit. Professor Gilbert has an interesting comment on this point.

Explaining why the statistics conflicted with most people’s view of parenthood, Prof Gilbert made the unusual comparison to buying a pair of Armani socks.

“When people own Armani socks they can’t stop telling you they are the best socks, the most amazing socks,” he said.

“(But) I suspect that one of the reasons that people who own Armani socks think they are wonderful is because they have paid $US85 ($A90.30) for a pair.

“The psychologists tell us that we like things more when we pay for them – what does that sound like? It sounds like children.

“We pay for them in time, attention, blood, sweat and tears – what kind of idiots would we be to devote all of that to the rearing of our young if they didn’t bring us some happiness?”

Naturally this makes me feel very smug… and lucky. And relieved.

There’s a bunch of comments here, most of them obnoxious and refuting the idea, but there’s also a retort from Professor Gilbert himself where he says:

The studies aren’t mine. I’m just reporting their results. The studies show that on average, people become less happy when they have kids. You may well feel differently than the average parent does. But why would you insist that the average parent must necessarily feel as you do? Do you really believe that YOUR experience must be EVERYONE’S experience?

Sources: SMH, News.com.au