The joys of parenting? Er, “the rationalization of parenting” might make more sense.
According to a recent study in the latest issue of Psychological Science, as the economic costs of parenting have grown, parents have greatly exaggerated the emotional benefits they actually get from having children.
For the study, 80 parents read information about the financial costs of having children—most notably that from birth to 18 a child costs $190,000—and were then asked questions about how emotionally satisfying it was to have children. A control group was asked to read the same financial information, but was also given information about how grown children eventually support their parents. They then answered the same questions about the emotional benefits of parenting.
Compared with the control groups, the parents in the first group said they were more likely to enjoy spending time with their kids and that they got more emotional satisfaction from parenting.
According to the report:
Many people believe that to be truly fulfilled in life, it is necessary to experience the joys of parenthood. Children are considered an essential source of happiness, satisfaction, and pride. However, the idea that parenthood involves substantial emotional rewards appears to be something of a myth.
Margaret Hartmann of Jezebel added:
The theory is that when parents stopped looking as their children as fellow workers with tiny hands well-suited for picking carrots, they started playing up the emotional satisfaction of parenting rather than admitting they’d made a huge mistake. OK, perhaps that’s overstating the facts. Obviously, there are emotional benefits to reproducing, but it may not be the 24/7 portrait of parental bliss that people say it is, particularly when disparaging friends who choose not to have children.
As always, the truth is probably somewhere in between. To say that the emotional rewards of parenting are “something of a myth” is overstating it, but perhaps there’s some truth to the idea that parents might be overstating their emotional satisfaction just a tiny bit.
But really, what parent today is having a kid for some kind of economic benefit? Maybe, you know, 60 years ago parents would’ve had a hard time accepting the diminishing economic returns of parenthood, but today? If you’re having a kid, you know they won’t be working in the fields or closing the family store. Plus—depending on your situation—you’re probably going to have to put a nice chunk of money toward college, too.
What do our resident reader-parents think? Is there any validity to this study? Are you delusional? Or, I hope, do you genuinely enjoy your children? Let us know.