It is the one maternal feeling no mother wants to experience, the ultimate in parenting taboos: admitting (whisper it) that life might have been better before you had children. Now new research purports to show that starting a family doesn't make parents any happier than their childless counterparts.
A book out next month will cause controversy by suggesting that parents exaggerate how much better off emotionally they are with children around. Nick Powdthavee's The Happiness Equation paints a bleaker picture of parenthood than most parents would own up to recognising.
His findings will unsettle those parents convinced their children enrich their lives. But Dr Powdthavee's views may actually chime with more mothers and fathers than a quick glance around your local park would suggest, according to the magazine Psychologies.
Far from turning their lives into one long treat, say mothers in an article for the monthly, having children left emotional scars and endless worries that turned their lives upside down. Marsha, 50, described being "locked in a daily battle" with her son, who left home at the earliest opportunity, while another, Laura, 40, said she "missed the creative output" of her former life.
Descriptions of constant struggles with children suggest that parenting has more downsides than permanent fatigue and loss of social life. "No group of parents, whether married, single, step or empty-nesters, reported significantly greater emotional wellbeing than non-parents," found Robin Simon, professor of sociology at North Carolina's Wake Forest University. "Of the three major components of adult life – employment, friendship and parenthood – raising children is the only one that doesn't promote wellbeing."
Although most parents would claim that children enhance their lives, Dr Powdthavee, a behavioural economist at the University of York, believes this is only because "there is a discrepancy between what we think makes us happy and what happiness data shows actually makes us happy". He added: "When you measure how happy parents are on a happiness index, they report either an insignificant difference in happiness or lower levels of happiness compared with non-parents."
Monday, July 5, 2010
Study: Children ruin lives.
From Guest-Coozer La! Item!