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No Kidding: Studies Tell Us Parenting is Tough

At the end of my first post in this series, I made sure to link to a New York article from last summer, "All Joy and No Fun." At the time (and probably still), the piece made people go a little berserk. The idea that having children, that parenting is not a wholly rewarding, fantastic experience, seemed to really chafe. I get why, even if I think these stories create a more open, honest dialogue about why some people choose not to have kids.

Last week, Time published another piece along the same lines, "Kid Crazy: Why We Exaggerate the Joys of Parenthood." This piece focuses on actual studies from the journal Psychological Science about parenting, but the take-away is still the same as the New York article (so much so that it's mentioned in Time): childfree couples are happier, parents have it rough, and those who think they don't are sort of delusional. ("Delusional" is not my word, by the way; that's from the meta title Time chose for the article on their website and one tossed around in the article, based on the study findings.)

According to the studies, parents have been found to be angrier, more depressed, and to have less satisfying partnerships than childfree couples. It also looks at the financial compromises that come with raising a child and how parents explain away the cognitive dissonance that arises when you consider just how much it actually costs to raise a kid today. (In one part of the study, $193,680 was cited as the average for a middle-income family in the Northeast to raise a child until age 18. Google "cost of raising a child" and you'll get numbers that suggest a quarter of a million dollars is the average a middle-class family shell out.)

Since the topic of money comes up here a lot—the cost of a tubal ligation, for example, or the idea that not having kids is selfish (which in my experience is usually judged from an emotional and financial standpoint)—I'm particularly interested in these numbers. I don't know about you, but I don't plan on having an extra quarter of a mil in disposable income over the next two decades. That might only be $12,500 a year, but that's an awful lot of money to most of us. I'm not naive enough to think people choose to have kids for financial reasons, but at what point does it become problematic, if ever?

Because I've been doing it here for the last six weeks, all of this also begs the question: do we have to keep revisiting this idea? Do we really need to tell people that their choices might make them unhappy? Doesn't it just make everyone defensive? Or is there something useful in acknowledging that raising kids today isn't exactly a picnic? Why do we feel compelled to constantly justify our behaviors, no matter what they are?

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Comments

33 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Raising a child isn't a

Raising a child isn't a picnic. Throw in single parenthood and a child with a disability, and my childless friends wonder why I enjoy a glass or two of wine on the weekends. When I made the choice to have my child, I knew it would be expensive, and challenging, and also a whole new experience. Nobody really knows what parenting is like until they are one. On that note, there seems to be some glamorization of parenting with shows like Teen Mom and all of its' spinoffs, as well as even some parenting magazines. If I'm in the doctor's office, missing work because my son is sick, I look at some of those magazine covers and say to myself, "Wait, how did she get her hair, and her child's hair, so perfect?! There isn't a coffee stain on her shirt! Or any stains whatsoever on his shirt!" I would loooove to see what those photographers could come up with if they were capturing real moments of parenthood, and not glossed-over shoe-shined staged setups. I adore my son, of course, but parenting is not for the faint of heart, and if you're not up for the challenge, don't bother.

Uh?

I just think that it's not really fair to make all these statements without actually having children yourself. But, at the same time, not all people are made for parenthood in general.

Some people feel completely rewarded by parenting and others find it to be completely draining of their lives and freedoms. A facebook friend of mine posted this link to an article about a woman who basically chose to leave her husband and children in search of a more rewarding life:
http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/parenting/the-opposite-of-a-tiger-mother-...
And he posted it with the comment "Our country is really jaded enough to glorify this? This lady is awful. Really awful. I hope she dies, I mean that."
But maybe this is different because this woman already chose to have kids and then pretty much abandoned them, opposed to choosing to just not have kids at all.

As far as people being cosidered selfish by not having kids, that is a double sided coin when one takes into consideration the general population of the world and the constant vying for resources. Nevermind the fact that often people will bring children into the world under very bad circumstances that are not really healthy for the child. But then again, this opens up the whole topic of "who are you to decide who can have children or not etc..:

I think this whole discussion

I think this whole discussion is awesome, I have some nights when I absolutely NEED the kids to go to bed just simply to remember for a minute who I am, or was in most cases. I get tired of needling them, reminding them to do their homework and quit pickin their nose, I get tired of standing over the stove all day because they are if not hungry now, going to be hungry, but when I get a moment to step back and look at my husband and I's beautiful creations I am absolutely astonished. They are beautiful, they are functional, and they are healthy and I thank the Good Lord everyday for that. They are good people that cry when they watch the meat packing plant episode of Oprah and they are inquisitive as to who I was before them. Yes, kids cost a lot of money, depending of course on the dental work involved or the college involved, but it can all be worked out, they dont need mansions to live in and every new toy is not going to satisfy them, kids for me hold the essential truth about being human, that we give and take love as much as we can. My kids can defenitely burn me out in an afternoon and turn me into a cussing sailor by sunset but I love the little ingrates (Ha Ha!!) and I would do anything for them.

uh... huh?

Dolly, could you please clarify for me exactly which statements in the piece you commented on you feel the author is unqualified to make due to not being a parent?

I really strongly disagree.

I really strongly disagree. Everything that's been mentioned is something that's come up elsewhere at one point or another, almost always from people that are parents. These are the sort of things that people need to evaluate BEFORE they have children, and people need to be able to talk about it without fear of unwarranted criticism. Frankly, the overwhelming societal message is, "HAVE CHILDREN", when there are many, many valid reasons for not doing so.

I didn't see anywhere that the author said that these were all-encompassing statements that are true for everyone -- just that they are true for enough people that it's worth taking notice and using when evaluating choices. And it's something people should evaluate, rather than just have kids. Kids deserve to be wanted and loved by their parents, and if the parents decide that they can't handle it... well... they aren't something you can just take back.

Not the whole picture: Let's ask the important questions!

These studies never do enough to present an adequate portrait of, well, anything. Sure, parenting is stressful and does leads to moments of depression and anger; but instead of pointing to *children* as the source of these emotions, why not more closely examine the ways in which the world makes parenting more difficult? Why don't we look at how patriarchy has devalued the role of care-giving to the extent that, for example, employers driven by capitalistic desires are increasingly less willing to provide maternity leave, sick-child leave, and pumping rooms? Why don't we consider how culture has shaped the way we have constructed our identities as mothers/fathers/care-givers, and honor the tensions that arise from negotiating those identities with all our other identities? As far as the strain it puts on relationships--graduate school had the same effect on us, but no one told us not to go to school! The strain parenting put on our relationship made us think harder about the way we delegated responsibilities, communicated, and prioritized our lives.

My overall feeling is this: It's a personal choice and does not reflect how "liberated" or not we are. Sure, kids are a HUGE financial strain, but I'd pay anything to see my girls feel as empowered as they do when they're kicking around that soccer ball in their soccer gear. There is hardly a single thing in this world that does not bring on some kind of "unhappiness"--jobs, school, pets, friends, etc.--yet we continue to make these choices because we personally believe that they are worth it in the end.

Larissa, you nailed it. Thank

Larissa, you nailed it. Thank you for these astute observations. For a society seemingly so obsessed with "focusing on the family" we sure are failing at supporting families in all the most important ways.

Missed the point

Larissa, I think you completely missed the point of this post. It's part of an ongoing series of blog posts about people who choose not to have children and the criticism and negativity they get from people they know and society in general. The topic you suggest has been and should continue to be addressed, but not in this blog.

Exactly!

I am a single mom to two very young children (two and one years old). I am also a doctoral student. Frankly, I was never very maternal and having children at this stage in my education and/or career was not really part of the plan, but I am slowly acclimating to a new "normal." In the beginning, it would have done me a world of good to listen to other moms talk realistically about the struggles of parenting and feeling a profound loss of identity. Instead, we are deluged with these manufactured media stories of parental "bliss" and unbound joy.

I love my boys. I would gladly give up my life for them. In many ways, they have forced me to grow-up, to grow stronger and become a better woman. Still, I just don't derive joy from watching Yo Gabba Gabba, being kicked and bitten, or changing diapers. At the end of the day, I am beat and, yeah, there are times I fantasize about just getting in the car and driving away. Before hearing moms talk honestly about their struggles and frustrations, I thought I was a freak and a horrible person. Perhaps misery loves company, but moms talking honestly really helped bring some sanity into a very stressful situation.

At the end of the day, I always return to: Who benefits by making women and mothers feel inadequate? Who benefits by instilling guilt and making us feel doomed to failure unless we morph into some 1950's housewife? Patriarchy.

Thank you, this was my

Thank you, this was my thought exactly! Parenting is hard because we don't live in a culture that supports it. Our culture certainly supports women having babies, don't me wrong. But parents are left with very little actual material and emotional support for the whole undertaking. Of course you're going to be depressed and stressed and financially strapped when you're trying to raise a healthy, happy, and well-adjusted child in an atmosphere that seems to force people to be almost anything but.

It's not employers that are the problem, it's selfish parents.

Larissa, I am one of those who hates the employer argument put forward by parents and would be parents. It is a company's job to make money, it is not there to support anyone who isn't at work (for whatever reason) and I object to the fact that Governments in some countries try and interfere and make businesses pay people for not doing work, in fact it's absurd!

The issue isn't actually companies, the issue is parents wanting to have their children and not take any hit in the number of luxuries they own. I know VERY few parents who actually need child benefit or maternity pay but boy do they all take it. That's MY taxpaying money! And that taxpaying money of MINE isn't about the children, it simply allows people to have children and continue to run two cars, maintain a larger house in a nicer area, keep satellite TV etc.

My parents did without to have children and that is the way it is meant to be. If you value the luxuries in life then just don't have children, it's that simple! But please, do not ever ask to be paid for not doing work because all the time you are being paid some of us are actually doing the work and paying for your children and that is the most ridiculous thing that has ever happened in our society, that we have been allowed to bring about a nation where I pay for my neighbour's life choice!

So those families of four

So those families of four making 30,000 a year should do away with the luxuries of healthy food, shelter, and basic health care? How selfish of them to want their children to grow up without diabetes, a decent education, and to spend time with their kids without losing their homes!

No one suggested that they

No one suggested that they should do without healthy food, shelter and basic health care. I think what was being suggested is that people shouldn't have children if they can't afford to have them... the same way I wouldn't purchase a car or go on vacation if I didn't have the funds to do so. Those of us who make a deliberate decision not to have children because we cannot afford them should not become responsible for your choice to have them. While many criticize those who decide not to have children and label them "selfish", having children when you do not have the resources to care for them yourself properly seems to be more consistent with selfish behavior.

at this point in history,

at this point in history, having kids is a choice. there are plenty of people in the world to keep things moving. about 6 billion people.

if you choose to have kids, i hope you're happy. if you choose not to have kids, i hope you're happy too.

it should be a happy choice. why judge?

if you don't have kids, great! more stuff (resources) for mine! :-)

I think a little more honesty

I think a little more honesty couldn't hurt. We sort of get this bizarre education when we're younger about not having sex because sex leads to disease and babies and you don't want that until you're older(fair enough, I guess...). But then the media saturates us with perfect, ideal lives filled with children and fame and, well, perfection. Pregnancy is portrayed as a painful but life-changing time and child-rearing is portrayed as a wacky hi-jink filled existence where problems are resolved with a lovely soundtrack and studio audience. While we may realize that's not the case intellectually, it sets up unfair ideals. Parents become guilt-ridden and frustrated when their children start becoming their own kind of person, not the person the parents intended. Society sets up unfair standards for families to live by. Stay married, have an easy pregnancy, have lots of babies and money and a really beautiful house. If you don't, you're a failure. BUT STILL HAVE BABIES WHY AREN'T YOU HAVING BABIES HAVE MORE BABIES NOW.
Telling parents that their choice(or not choice as the case is sometimes) to have these babies is making them miserable isn't helping. Realistic portrayals of families needs to be more pervasive. Also, demonizing of children should probably get toned down. It's easy to get vitriolic about screaming, cavernous child maws and creeing spawn but babies do what babies do. Children gotta be children.

The first, yes. Second, no.

I agreed with your whole first paragraph. It was very insightful, thank you for sharing it. Not so with the second, however. There's no demonizing of the children going on here.

I really appreciate this forum to discuss the issue in a balanced, respectful exchange of ideas.

For Happier Parenting, Fix Socioeconomic Disparities

I think there should be a lot more press over the issue of increasing income inequality in the U.S., and the fact that those with less income are routinely denied state and federal benefits such as tax cuts while the rich are given even more money for being rich. Add to that the knowledge that child care for a family with two or more children is often more expensive than rent/mortgage payments; parental leave, though protected by law, is almost never paid (i.e. you can keep your job but won't be paid a cent while you're recovering from childbirth or welcoming a newly adopted child); and maternity care/leave is often covered only by workplace "disability" clauses (a DISABILITY, not a judgment-free state of existence?) and it becomes clear that in the United States, "happy" parenting is a pursuit only available to the moderately wealthy.

Meanwhile, those of us who might choose not to have children for financial reasons also have trouble getting access to the health care that would facilitate that decision (such as affordable family planning and contraception services from Planned Parenthood, which Republicans are currently attempting to force to extinction in Congress).

The stress, depression, and outright suffering related to being a parent if it wasn't a choice, or of having to sacrifice most of your income for 18+ years of your life and STILL having to live in a food-insecure household/fear not making rent/forgo essential preventive health care is enough to make parenting seem pretty miserable for the large proportion of the U.S. population that faces these issues regularly. But I think it's also worth asking if it's the contingencies, and not the actual process of raising children, that make it so unappealing for at least a significant portion of those who choose not to have kids.

The National Center for Children in Poverty reported in 2010 that 42% of children in the U.S. live in low-income households (less than $44,100 a year for a household consisting of 2 parents and 2 children, or about $11,000 per person per year) and 21% live in poor households (less than $22,050 a year for a household consisting of 2 parents and 2 children, or about $5,500 per person per year). If this were not the day-to-day life of nearly half of the nation's children -- and the parents who worry, work, and do without for them, only to find their kids are still more likely to have asthma, lead contamination, learning disabilities, nutritional deficiencies, and behavioral problems than their wealthier counter parts -- I bet parenting would seem a lot more welcoming to those of us who have worked very hard to be financially secure.

I really want a kid someday. But if it means being unsure if I can provide for myself or them financially due to the fact that this country provides pathetically limited support and protection for those of us who do choose to take on this huge, if rewarding, challenge, I'll pass -- provided I can even afford birth control so that the decision is really mine to make.

I am pointing all this out not to be pessimistic, but to highlight the fact that UNSUPPORTED parents are likely to be UNHAPPY parents, and that this is all connected to how terribly this nation treats its poor. If we fix the socioeconomic disparities, it will be possible to mitigate or remove a lot of the factors that contribute to unhappiness for unhappy parents. As a woman with health and financial issues that mean my physical health, economic security, and chances of a healthy and productive life would likely be destroyed by an unintended pregnancy, I consider the financial barriers to parenting in the U.S. a profound, but far-too-rarely talked about, form of misogyny. And it makes me really angry, and really sad.

"UNSUPPORTED parents are

"UNSUPPORTED parents are likely to be UNHAPPY parents"

This is one thing the studies often touch on that the articles about the studies do not. The studies don't show a definite kids=unhappy connection. For a lot of couples - those who were financially, physically, and emotionally prepared - these vast detrimental effects weren't present.

Have always been grateful..

I was born in the mid 60's, and I consider myself very fortunate to always have had choices. At 12 years old I decided to never to have children or get married and have kept both of those promises. I have had two abortions, have placed a child for a adoption, and have had a tubal ligation at 26 years of age.

I am not proud of my abortions, but I was told I was sterile and was too young to know that Doctors can be very wrong. I was never challenged on any of these choices. I do not, of course, usually talk about the abortions as they were as personal as my choice was, and not everyone is rational about this subject. I am used to living with moral ambiguity however, as my mother still lives with the man who sexually molested me. A society that tolerates a lack of effective action against pedophilia should also be able to tolerate abortion. While not all abortions are done by women who were sexually molested, if there were fewer women sexually molested, there would be less abortions.

I am very fortunate to have healed psychically from the abortions, and to have reunited with my beautiful daughter when she was 17. She had a terrific childhood with two parents who loved each other and who really wanted kids and knew what that meant. My daughter's mother go pregnant one year after I placed our daughter in her arms.

I have never felt any strong pressure to either have children or to get married. I get occasionally jibed about marriage these days, but have never felt to be less than anyone else and have rarely been made to feel bad about my choices, never by people who cared for me. I believe that this is because of when I was born, and because my country, Canada, is pro-choice, and because I can eloquently express why it is important that a child be raised in a loving, secure family with mature parents.

Society has never recognized the value of caregivers, neither underpaid nannies, nonpaid housewives nor underpaid daycare workers. I do not expect this revolution to occur. I believe that pending environmental issues will overshadow even wars and profits. Cities are crumbling in my country from an unsustainable infrastructure and our social consciousness is being overwhelmed by a chorus of underfunded groups in crisis: the physically ill, the elderly, the mentally disabled, the homeless, the victims of childhood sexual abuse, not to mention the children in care who our society is doing the biggest injustice to. We all should have a lot of things, affordable childcare is far down the list. This needs to be acknowledged.

The cost of bad parenting and of parenting in general needs to be advertised - this data has been collected to some extent in our country. As just one example, there is strong data showing that children of teen mothers often grow up in care or end up in prison or end up in low paying jobs where it is not feasible to have children, as documented by Statistics Canada.

We cannot stop unprepared parenting from happening, however, the media can continue to be honest about the impact of parenting for those who are not prepared or who do not have enough information. This will not stop those who have no idea what else to do but parent, who need someone, somewhere to love, admire and obey them, who need the feeling of strength imparted by an infant, who need their choices reduced to caring for a child, who obey their strong biological drive or who, like the parents of my child, know everything involved and still have the love, the grace, and the endurance to parent.

I am grateful for posts that at least point out the other side of parenting.

Important

I do think it's important to talk about these issues, but not in the way the news articles often do. I don't need study telling me parenting is hard to justify my not having kids. I'd still not want them if parenting was the easiest job in the world. However, society should be acknowledging the difficulties more often to give those who are parents and parents-to-be both a clear picture of the realities and the support they need. As someone else mentioned, parenting magazines, television shows, and movies often make parenting out to be a simple, joyous experience all the time. Those who are having trouble often can't or won't talk about it for fear of judgment or being seen as a failure. Just look at the reaction someone gets if they're open about their mistakes or unhappy moments. They're villainized. Maybe if we were a little more open about the difficulties, people would be able to realize that they don't have to be perfect all the time and that its ok to ask for help if needed. And, if we didn't put perfect parenting on a pedestal in that way, parents and childfree alike might not be so defensive about their choices.

Yes, exactly.

"However, society should be acknowledging the difficulties more often to give those who are parents and parents-to-be both a clear picture of the realities and the support they need."

Yes, exactly this.

I, personally, wasn't aware that being childfree was a valid option until maybe five years ago. I had always been hesitant about having children and never felt a maternal drive to do so, but the family and societal pressures to raise children can be pervasive. Articles like this are valuable in illustrating a truer reality for the path of parenthood and are a balance to the constant montage we're exposed to, of only the positive qualities to raising a family.

Ultimately, the goal should be that we each do what it best for us. I respect people who decide to parent because that's what they truly want to do and those of us on the other side are just looking for that mutual respect.

Although I'm childfree by

Although I'm childfree by choice, I'm skeptical of any study that blanketly paint parents who report feeling fulfilled as "delusional" or all childfree people as happier. Firstly because they seem to address no other factors as to what would put people in either of those states - neither happiness or suffering delusions are solely factors of your reproductive choices. Secondly because not everyone derives happiness from the same choices - as childfree people my husband & I are happier without children than we would be if we had them against our desires to meet expectations from family, society, whomever. At the same time, I've known people who have said all along that they really wanted to one day have kids and be a mother or father. If they say they feel fulfilled by their choices even if it is a lot of work, why should I think they're deluding themselves? They're doing what they said they always wanted.

I suppose an even bigger question might be "why would we assume that anyone who claims to enjoy something that can be hard work or challenging is delusional in the first place?"

If you read some of the

If you read some of the actual studies, they do support what you're saying. Perhaps not this one, but others have. The news articles just tend to take the controversial aspects and run with it.

Actually, Larissa is 100% on

Actually, Larissa is 100% on the subject. Parental stress, anger and depression have everything to do with a massive lack of cultural support. Do the math; we evolved with up to four adults and several older children per infant in groups offering mutual support. A Kung San mother can expect to hold her baby a few minutes out of every hour when in camp; we now have, generally, an often-isolated caregiving parent or, more often, one paid caregiver for up to six young children.

Babies and children are not the problem. Sleep deprivation, isolation, and financial strain are the problem, because the culture has managed the externalize almost all of the costs of bearing and rearing the next generation. Please: suggest another line of work in which working conditions are irrelevant to job satisfaction.

After parenting mostly alone with a tired, overworked spouse, visiting extended family is a spa vacation and a garden of delights, not the least of which was being relaxed and rested enough to - what's a strong enough word? - rejoice? exult? - in my baby, which is, I believe, the true normal in childrearing. The reason that people have second and third and more children in spite of the difficulties is often that the love is so fierce and exquisite that nothing else comes close.

So, yes: we need to talk about the difficulties, although I'm not sure what sanitized parenting media everyone else is reading; surely not any of the perennially best-selling parenting books.

True, I've no doubt the media

True, I've no doubt the media is slanting it in whatever way will most stir the pot. On a related tangent, one of my Facebook friends posted a link to this article today, about how people who claim to have happy marriages are also---you guessed it----"delusional".

http://www.newser.com/story/113542/want-a-happy-marriage-be-delusional.html

Is this some new kind of thing going on? Criticizing those who make a different life choice, or perhaps find more fulfillment in a life choice others didn't, by dismissing them as "delusional"? Is there some bigger comment about our society that most are waiting with baited breath to hear the next utterance of a man who claims to have "tiger blood" and be a "rock star from Mars", but people who make outrageous statements such as that they love their spouses or children are to be met with disbelief?

And even if the people who

And even if the people who have children or are married are delusional, who cares? If they think they're happy, then what's the problem? Isn't that better than thinking they're sad?

I really think it comes down

I really think it comes down to priorities and what people want.

Many of my close friends are parents. And for a lot of them, they were mostly aware of the financial pressures of having child/ren. For them, it was worth it. My husband and I, for instance, are in a position where we really are not well off, but if we absolutely wanted kids, we could manage. We might have to step down in our standard of living, buy more things used rather than new, have less discretionary money, but we could probably do it. Thing is, we're well used to our creature comforts, and we don't want to give them up. Even my husband, who is more amenable to the idea of children than I am, says he (theoretically speaking) wouldn't want them until we could maintain our current standard of living.

So for us, it would absolutely not be worth it. I can't speak for husband-creature, but I know that I would resent the heck out of the kid because I couldn't pick up the latest paperback I want from the bookstore, or that I might not be able to go out to dinner, or whatnot. My priorities are on myself and my family's well-being, and I can't really wrap my head around a potential child being family. Reasons why I should not have children. :P

But for some people that deeply want to be parents, it's worth every sacrifice. I don't "get it" emotionally, but logically, I understand.

Power of candor and realism

Hi--author of Families of Two here. I appreciate your questions at the end re how best to continue the discussion. I also appreciate how much if not all of the replies don't go into the "bashing" mode, and include thoughts from parents, parents-one-day-to-be and childfree. There is power in candor and realism about parenthood, and it can break down barriers between parents and not, and give a huge sigh of relief to many parents. A great example is a ted by Rufus Grisom and Alisa Volkman on parent taboos.

Rather than continue to make justifications for either choice, comparisons, etc. seems a very productive direction is specifically how do go about making the parenthoood decision. Here are some things I have found help people to do/think about Before they have kids:

Spend lots of “real” time with children of different ages—do some serious babysitting!
Talk to couples who have children; get candid responses to this question: If you had to do it all over again, would you have children? Why or why not?
Know who you are and what gives you meaning in life first—then determine how children would fit into this picture.
Know your answer to why you want or do not want a child. Ask yourself:
What is the experience I think I want through having a child?
Is parenthood the only way I can have this experience?
Can I provide for a child emotionally? Financially?
What fears do I have about having a child? Not having a child?
To what degree might are others’ desires or expectations be in the mix, e.g., my spouse, parents, in-laws, friends?
Imagine yourself at the end of your life—how will you feel if you had not had children?

I say it is hard to judge another when you know they are making their decisions from a well-thought out place, and being honest with themnselves.....~Laura Carroll laviechildfree dot com

Why can't we comment

I hate the whole "you can't comment because you're not a parent" nonsense. We have all been parented (be it well or poorly) and we were all children. Also, how to raise a child isn't rocket science at all, if you even have the basics of the psychology of human development it is very easy to see why a child behaves the way they do, how to deal with that behaviour, and how to prevent it in the future.

Thing is, parents don't want to hear that. They want to hear that it's really tough and it's the hardest job in the world, it makes them feel better. But it's not. It is the most 'DONE' job ever, in the history of our universe, and even at any given time. There are more people parenting than there are people doing any other type of job. Yes, it's not done as well today as it used to be, but that is because people's focus used to be raising a healthy, happy child, whereas today (if we are honest with ourselves) there are a heck of a lot of parents whose focus is on how it all appears as to what they are actually doing. Indeed, parents today focus a lot more on their own desires than previous generations did, and who can blame them, they've been sucked in by the 'you can have it all' mantra. But you can't have it all, and happiness and contentment lies in accepting that and making the necessary sacrifices (career or money or social life) to give your child what they actually need. I know so many parents who think they are great because they hold down jobs, manage to have a social life and still have a (seemingly) happy child, but they are keeping that child out late and neglecting the fact that the developing brain of an infant needs 12 hrs sleep a night! And yes, a baby will procrastinate and try to stay up late just like a teenager will, it's YOUR duty as the parent to KNOW that the child needs 12 hrs sleep!

Parenting isn't hard, people make it hard by wanting to do it while changing their own life as little as possible and by making as few sacrifices as possible. Just make the sacrifices already, if you really love your child then why isn't your child more important than how your life appears to your friends?

I do wish people would stop making a song and dance out of the most done job in the world and just get on with it, and put the CHILD first, instead of themselves! And when you make any decision ask yourself "is this actually in the best interests of my child? or do I just want to do it because I want to do it?" because your child doesn't want to be sat in a fancy restaurant at 8 o'clock at night having to sit still while adults talk. Your child doesn't want to be dragged out for ladies that lunch. Your child doesn't need both parents to work and the latest clothes, all your child actually needs is love, nutrition, attention and lots and lots and lots of sleep!

Parents vs. Non Parents

As a parent, I agree with Random. It's important to hear from both sides of any issue, in my opinion.

I will say that the money argument doesn't really hold for me. If you want to be a parent or not, it's less about dollars and cents than it is about emotional and mental currency, in my opinion.

I think more openness and communication is important. People need to know the joys of having kids, but they also need to know the struggles. It's certainly not all sunshine and rainbows! I have a 16 year old girl and a 15 year old boy. I had them in my early 20's and struggled a lot. I divorced their father and spent time as a single mother. I remarried and have been part of what they call a "blended family" for nine years.

Here's the thing: having kids is not for everybody. And it's a big enough thing, something that affect many lives, that people need to understand what they're getting into. I didn't plan on it, but once I had one I knew I wanted another so that my first wasn't an only child. Personal preference.

Personally, I've enjoyed it more than not. In fact, I've loved it. They were sweet when they were little, and it made up for the hard times. I am really enjoying them as teenagers--they are smart and funny and independent, but loving and still very sweet. My husband -- their step father -- enjoys it as well. They have a great relationship and we all have a lot of fun as a family.

As a parent, I've met other parents who probably would have been so much happier not having kids at all. Sometimes I am jealous of my childless friends, but the closer I get to both my kids graduating high school, I feel my own personal freedom growing. I'm still young -- I'll be 42 when my youngest graduates -- so I still have time to enjoy myself and my husband.

Just like anything, it's great for some people and awful for others. Totally personal choice. Neither one is right.

What's interesting to me is

What's interesting to me is the fact that the study points to the idea that parents have to be delusional to be happy about being parents. A recent study showed that the same thing is true for married people: the more a person delusionally idealizes their partner, the happier they'll be in marriage. Perhaps people just have to be delusional to be happy in general. Or maybe "delusional" is the same thing as being "optimistic".

"Why do we feel compelled to

"Why do we feel compelled to constantly justify our behaviors, no matter what they are?"

Isn't it good that we feel this need? Our choices affect others. The need to justify thoughtless action is the need we can do without.

I can honestly say...

... that I love my kids but I had reservations before even having them. Our first was born while we were still engaged, and I knew that "family way" was in the cards with my bride to be, so I said, Okay! Let's GO! Let's DO THIS.

Well, now I feel quite badly - for my kids that is. I mean, I don't mind paying the price for my decisions. That's what adulthood is all about. I've cleaned up my life as best I could (I'm not a non-drinker, non-smoker, non-drug user and I'm even losing weight) and I've tried my best to grow as a person. But, as a "later in life dad" (2 young kids, over 40) I am feeling just so totally emotionally drained and worn out. It's been a constant battle financially and with managing stress. And I think this will have an affect on my kids despite my every effort to avoid it.

I now need to leave my "manageable" job (about as much stress as any sane parent could handle) for a much more demanding and stressful job only for an incremental increase in pay - just to make ends meet. I am not looking forward to it - and the wife has to know that with this extra money and extra responsibility will also come even more hours. So, I will get home to an exhausted wife, putting away the supper dishes glaring at me and telling me my supper is in the fridge - as if it's my fault the cost of this family operation is considerably more than we even calculated it would be.

What I find interesting about parenting is that the "cliche" of the stressed out tired and resource-sapped couple is no cliche at all - it's true. I knew being a parent was going to be hard, and I knew it was going to be "not as rewarding" as the hormonal mommies-to-be will make it out to be. But this last long stretch of depression - this last stretch of lacking all motivation and living entirely to support others... I don't know how many more of these "self sacrifice missions" I have left in me.

So, kids, before you go off on the "what normal people do" mission of starting a family, do the wise thing. Stop hanging with your cool, single, trendy energetic and generally happy friends for just a few months and spend some REAL quality time with families. See first hand what the day to day is like and HONESTLY ask yourself if this gig is for you or not. Don't do things because they are the right thing to do - do things because they are the right thing for YOU to do.

I would not give up my kids for anything. But the thought of me burning out and even expiring long before my due date and not being able to take care of my kids anymore is depressing.

If I knew having kids meant being this TIRED and stressed out ALL THE TIME I would have never done it. That's why the species continues - because nobody REALLY knows what they are getting themselves into except for the odd nanny.