Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Guess what? Kids don't make you happy

I caught part of NPR's radio show On Point yesterday, and it was on the topic of happiness. The expert guest was a professor, Sonja Lyubomirsky, who had done research and was promoting her book, "The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want." I'm typically suspect of these shows: 6 steps to happiness! 12 ways to become a joyful person! but I do like On Point and generally they do a good job with important topics. So I listened.

Here's where it became very interesting:

At about 27:40 into the show (and you can listen to that exact part if you click the link above and move the little bar to 27:40), the host asked: of all your findings in this research, what was most striking to you?

Lyubomirsky replied, and I quote:
"The most surprising thing is that the research shows that kids don’t make people as happy as they think they would--that people with kids are actually less happy."

Lyubomirsky seemed really perplexed with this finding. She kept backpedaling. Perhaps we aren't using the right methodology? The host questioned: are you asking mothers after they've been up all night with a baby?

Lyubomirsky replied: "it’s a robust finding...and the more kids that people have, the less happy they are."

Still perplexed, she hypothesized that the measures she's using just aren’t quite capturing the complexity of parenting. And she ended: "I hope to show that kids do make people happy."


As I've said before...no duh.

Kids don't make you happy. They make you crazy. They make you tired. You have moments of happiness. But I don't think that kids, at least little ones, make you happy. It doesn't fit with the Hallmark vision of what having kids is supposed to be like. But that's the reality of it. And now...research shows it, too. Hmm...

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