It may be my imagination, but my friends without kids just seem happier than those saddled with parental responsibilities. Parents certainly have more responsibilities than those of us not saddled with all the daily feeding, changing, driving, homework helping and the like so it makes sense that they are more tired and squeezed for time.
Then again, those of us without kids often tend to take on more (work, volunteer activities, friendships, social obligations and so on) and people expect more of us precisely because they expect us to have more free time without the burdens of childrearing. The end result according to research? Those of us without kids are happier. Childfreedom equals happiness. Having that extra time to ourselves (or to give to others as we choose) really does seem to pay off, apparently.
Independent studies show that married people are happier than singles, but married couples without children are the most content. When couples do have children, their happiness increases dramatically once their children grow up and leave home. This is all revealed in a three-part PBS series called: “This Emmotional Life.” In it, narrator, writer and professor of psychology at Harvard, Daniel Gilbert explores the endless quest of the human species to find happiness. The series features various celebrities and non-celebrities (everyday people, scientists, experts in the field of psychology and the like) with their thoughts and studies on the search for a happy life. Daniel Gilbert explains some of these findings in an NPR interview below:
“Mr. GILBERT: It really is true that if you look at the happiness of people’s marital satisfaction over time, you’ll see that the day people get married, they’re extremely satisfied with the relationship, and it kind of goes downhill from there. Relationships usually are the gateway to hard work: the hard work of raising children, establishing a household, et cetera. The good news is it begins to go up again once children have grown, and according to most studies, it reaches its initial level, or at least very close to it, when the children leave home.
… without children, your marriage might be happier in the sense that you would report more daily satisfaction. People are surprised to find this, because they value and love their children above all things. How can my children not be a source of great happiness?
… although children are a source of happiness, they tend to crowd out other sources of happiness. So people who have a first child, often find in the first year or two that they’re not doing many of the other things that used to make them happy. They don’t go to the movies or the theater. They don’t go out with their friends. They don’t make love with their spouse. All the things that used to be sources of happiness are no longer there.
So yes, the child is a source of happiness. On the same hand, it may be that average happiness goes down.” (NPR)
What do you think? Do your childless friends and acquaintances seem happier to you? Does childfreedom equal happiness?
Here’s a sneak peak at “This Emmotional Life.”