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DOES PARENTING REALLY MAKE YOU UNHAPPY?

A whole lifetime ago, when Good Enough Mother was anchoring The Early Show, I remember sitting down to interview a psychologist. I don’t remember who he was or what book he was hawking but one thing he said stuck with me all these years because it literally sent a shiver down my spine. He said “If you are not careful, kids will rip a marriage apart at the seams.”

So it was with great interest that I read this week’s parenting piece in New York Magazine called All Joy and No Fun. To put it mildly, it was pretty sobering. Among the eye popping items in the piece:

*Perhaps the most oft-cited datum comes from a 2004 study by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize–winning behavioral economist, who surveyed 909 working Texas women and found that child care ranked sixteenth in pleasurability out of nineteen activities. (Among the endeavors they preferred: preparing food, watching TV, exercising, talking on the phone, napping, shopping, housework.)

*Today’s married mothers also have less leisure time (5.4 fewer hours per week); 71 percent say they crave more time for themselves (as do 57 percent of married fathers). Yet 85 percent of all parents still—still!—think they don’t spend enough time with their children.

*And couples probably pay the dearest price of all. Healthy relationships definitely make people happier. But children adversely affect relationships.


A whole lifetime ago, when Good Enough Mother was anchoring The Early Show, I remember sitting down to interview a psychologist. I don’t remember who he was or what book he was hawking but one thing he said stuck with me all these years because it literally sent a shiver down my spine. He said “If you are not careful, kids will rip a marriage apart at the seams.”

So it was with great interest that I read this week’s parenting piece in New York Magazine called All Joy and No Fun.  To put it mildly, it was pretty sobering. Among the eye popping items in the piece:

“Perhaps the most oft-cited datum comes from a 2004 study by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize–winning behavioral economist, who surveyed 909 working Texas women and found that child care ranked sixteenth in pleasurability out of nineteen activities. (Among the endeavors they preferred: preparing food, watching TV, exercising, talking on the phone, napping, shopping, housework.)

*Today’s married mothers also have less leisure time (5.4 fewer hours per week); 71 percent say they crave more time for themselves (as do 57 percent of married fathers). Yet 85 percent of all parents still—still!—think they don’t spend enough time with their children.

*And couples probably pay the dearest price of all. Healthy relationships definitely make people happier. But children adversely affect relationships”

I am going to be brutally honest here. Sometimes I hate being a mom. I did not say I hate my kids, oh no, far from that. But I do hate what they do and how they act at times and how they can tap dance on my last nerve until I am at the breaking point.

As I sit here typing this with clenched jaw, I have just had a spirited debate with my son on why he does not need ANOTHER air soft gun. Prior to that, Casey and Cole were playing a video game together and while I am happy they were not yelling at each other, they were yelling nonetheless.

I hate the snotty attitude I get back, which has been ever increasing of late.

I hate that they think I haven’t been around the block a time or two and don’t know what I am talking about (‘Oh mom’, roll eyes here).

I hate that I feel like I have turned into a nag who only says “No!”  and screams. A lot.

And I REALLY hate that I feel like it makes me old.

It’s funny, at the beginning of summer, I couldn’t wait to spend a lot of time with them and during the drive from New York to South Carolina we had some great times. It was also incredibly stressful with Cole in the backseat telling stupid jokes off an iPhone ap he found  (for 842 miles!) and Casey asking to buy things I already told her we would forego. Sometimes, my soul craves silence.

As I read the piece I tried to figure out what is it exactly that makes parenting so difficult.

*It’s Stressful: The day-to-day stresses can be utterly exhausting. The kids bickering, us forgetting proper school attire and making meals to name a few, all just wear on us like a river over rock. It’s not wonder at the end of the day we are drawn to the bed like monosyllabic zombies who can barely string two sentences together.

*Expectation: There is an unrealistic expectation placed on parents that we will love our little angels no matter what they do. Let me join the chorus of those who say, that just ain’t so. There are plenty of times (please see above) where they do or say things that set us off.  And when you are in close proximity to people for so long, even the ones that sprung forth from your womb can be grating.

*Responsibility: Rearing another human being, from birth until they leave the nest and making sure they have the proper leg up on life is a HUGE responsibility, one that will keep you awake at night if you think too hard on it. Being responsible also means saying goodbye to the carefree days of our own youth. For me, I always wanted to backpack through Europe. But that window of opportunity is closed now, unless I want to hear

“Hey who brought their mother?” while staying at youth hostels in Germany.

So what is it exactly about this parenting thing that I DO like?

*LOVE: My kids truly love me. This is not an ego thing; I very am humbled by this. Because there are times that I am as unlovable as they are – yet that doesn’t stop them. I totally dig the fact that, despite the arguing, the love flows freely between us. No one hangs on to anger or hurt long; we get it out and then get on with it.

*FUN: We actually do enjoy each other’s company and even the little things are adventures for us. I try to use everyday as a learning experience and that goes both ways. I teach and guide but I also learn from them. They remind me again how wonderful it is to see the world with such innocence.

*RESPECT: Sure I get the push back and more lip than I’d care for, but there is a healthy respect that runs both ways between us. I am quite confident that will grow as they get older and figure out that I actually DID know what I was talking about.

What this article and my own life demonstrate to me is that this is about balance, something I have been preaching for years.

So do kids make you unhappy? Sometimes. But like all moms and dads out there – I wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world…

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