If you want to be happy, you shouldn’t have kids. That’s a fact. Or at least, Time magazine and the sociologists who conducted this study believe so.
Parents get less sleep, have less money, and less independence. Parents have more stress, more marital arguments, more expenses.
And although those facts are indisputable, when I see them my feathers get all kinds of ruffled. I am defensive. Angry.
How dare you insinuate I’m unhappy?–I’m sooo happy! You don’t know just how happy I am, you stupid PhD scientists. Isn’t that right, mamas!?
Truth is, my husband and I are tired and broke and frazzled. Our kitchen looks like a yogurt bomb exploded in it, and my Diaper Genie has yet to grant my one wish: a pleasant smelling nursery. For the last three months my hair has literally been falling out – by the handful. Oh, it’s growing back . . . in stand-up inch-long patches. There are bags under my eyes and cold coffee in my cup.
Sure my non-parenting friends have fresh hair and dewy skin and exhilarating hobbies and romantic Caribbean vacations. But what do they know about happiness….?
A lot, apparently.
They are well-rested and well-entertained and well-traveled. Oh hell, I’m not even going to dispute it. They’re SO happy.
I’ll go a step further and AGREE: If you want to be happy, you shouldn’t have kids.
What is happiness anyways?
It’s a fleeting emotion. It’s a feeling we experience when life circumstances serve our interests. Momentary bliss. Don’t get me wrong–there’s nothing bad about happiness. In fact, it’s a beautiful, sunny sort of thing that everyone wants to have.
But what happens when it rains throughout your Caribbean vacation? I’ll tell you: Happiness crawls back into its little turtle shell and waits for the weather to improve.
I have no doubt that as a mom, I experience that brand of happiness less than I used to. My guitar playing and horse riding and fancy dining days are few and far between. And those things truly made me happy.
But please, Time Magazine. Don’t feel sorry for me. Because, to me, your brand of happiness is overrated.
What I have now is joy. A fullness and abundance of joy that transcends my current sleeplessness. That negates my messy hair and offers more sun than 100 Caribbean vacations.
Happiness is merely an outward expression. Joy is a deeply-satisfying inward contentment.
Sociologists can study joy all they want, and they’ll never be able to quantify it.
But I can. My aptly named “bundle of joy” is 22 pounds and growing. And the longer he’s in my life, the more my heart is overwhelmed with the quiet gratitude, the self-sacrificing contentment that is JOY. It swells up in my chest as I watch him sleep. It bubbles through me as he laughs. And joy stays. It remains through the yogurt bombs and the stinky butts. Through long nights and low account balances, joy will remain.
Sure—parents are tired. And we bicker. And we’re broke half the time.
But let’s be honest. Happiness is overrated.
This post was originally featured on Mary’s blog, Mom Babble.