If someone had told me 25 years ago that Chris RepMan, Jr., Cody would one day be my best friend,
I’d have asked for an ounce of whatever he was smoking. But, I’m thrilled to say that Chris is, indeed, my best friend. I share this personal tidbit because it flies in the face of a highly controversial New York Magazine cover story entitled, “I Love My Child. I Hate My life”.
The article, which is based on mind-numbingly extensive research, says becoming a parent doesn’t make one happier. In fact, it makes people sadder and undermines relationships. Experts quoted in the text say the findings “…expose the gulf between our fantasies about family and its spiking realities.” Holy counter-intuitive!
The article tracks a parent’s happiness from childbirth on and shows that it’s extremely low in the first few years of an offspring’s life (thanks to zero sleep), peaks when the child is between six and 12, and then tails off big time during the teens (no surprise, there). But, get this: the more children one has, the less happy one becomes (so much for twins). And the richer the parents, the greater their misery. Holy lose-lose!
And, talk about a relationship buzz kill. The cover story says parents spend less than 10 percent of their time ‘alone’ and that 10 percent is typically spent “exhausted and staring at a TV set.” Sound familiar? If one needed a coup de grace to the entire ‘parenting is what life is all about’ argument, check this out: 40 percent of all arguments between spouses are about their kids. Game. Set. Match.
So much for the image and reputation of becoming a parent. But, here’s the real kick in the head. Single people surveyed near the end of their lives always list ‘not having a family’ as one of their biggest regrets. So, it’s a classic damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
As for this blogger, I’m thrilled with my kids and very proud of them. Has raising kids adversely impacted my marriage? Probably. We still argue about them all the time. But, I know I speak for Angie when I say we wouldn’t have passed up parenthood for the world. And, how many dads can say their son also happens to be their best friend? That’s my bottom line. What’s your POV?
Thanks Peter. How about a blog about the Second Amendment instead? Is she into guns and ammo? I’m an AK-47 man myself.
Thanks Steve. I agree that Gail Collins is awesome!
I find Dowd annoying as she trivializes her talent. Who cares about how many new ways she comes up with to call Cheney the devil, and Obama effeminate or dispassionate (“Spock”)? Dowd did write an excellent piece recently on nuns being the only good thing left about the Catholic Church, but that’s sadly the exception nowadays.
No disrespect intended, but my wife won’t tune in to RepMan until you start writing about things that are important to her, like the 1st Amendment, Leonard Cohen or cinnamon toast.
Thank you for weighing in, Dr. Harte. I believe this is your first official post on Repman. Chris really has become my best friend. I know I can count on him for anything and can confide in him as well. It could be gender and generation specific, but I’m sure glad it’s happened. As for grandchildren, I can wait.
Good stuff, Peter. Thanks for sharing. Sorry to hear that you don’t enjoy Maureen Dowd. I make a point of reading her and Gail Collins at every opportunity. I love their POV and sarcastic prose. As for your wife, sign her up for Repman. She’ll thank you.
I promised my wife that I would never tell her when I read NY Magazine “trend” articles or especially annoying and superficial Maureen Dowd columns. Fortunately, my wife doesn’t read RepMan.
If they were childless, these same interview subjects would whine about how hollow and empty their lives are. The first reader comment to this article was “pathetic” and I agree.
Look, NY Magazine deliberately seeks out the most negative, self-absorbed and annoying people they can find. The results cater to an audience that eats this up. It generates heat, but not much light.
On the other hand, I happily salute your relationship with RepMan Jr. I wasn’t nearly as close with my Dad. But as adults, my mother and I were lucky to become best friends. She’s gone 8 years and almost every day I think of something I want to talk with her about.
Having read the article in NY Magazine and your comments Steve I find myself envious of your good fortune in having a son you can call your best friend. I myself have 3 kids, 2 daughters and 1 son and love them dearly but cannot call them my best friends. I guess our definition of best friend might differ in that I can confide in my best friends my most intimate secrets which I cannot not or choose not to do with my kids. Im glad you mention the different ages and experiences because as my kids got older I do believe my son and I confide more in each other. My point is that I believe the problem is clearly gender related as is apparent in your commments. However to your point I do not believe my life would be the same without the experiencesa I’ve had raising three kida and now as a senior being rewarded with 4 wonderful grandchildren. Hopefully you and Angie will have that opportunity soon. Yes, it’s a whole new thing.
Meeting you was 10,352, Med Guy. As for you and your kids, to each his own. See how you feel when your 42 kids grow to adulthood. You’ll find the conversation and relationship will change dramatically. Or not. Sounds like you’re pretty rough on them.
rep- if meeting ed was 3,132, was meeting the MSE number 3131? also, i love this post but have one point to “argue”. i now have 6 kids and while i love them all dearly, i cant see ever calling any of them my best friend. having children means having to show tough love at times, having to discipline, having to “parent” and i dont think i would want to ever do those to my best friend nor would my best friend want me to do that to them.
i think the parent/child relationship is a very special bond that is greater than a best friend, but dont think i would ever group the 2. your thoughts?
Thanks Stacy. I agree 100 percent and always point to Chris’ birth as the best moment in my life. Catharine’s birth runs a close second. Meeting Ed was number 3,132.
I’m glad you posted about this article, and love your perspective. I think this is one case where data can’t separate fact from fiction–even if it’s used as proof to illustrate a point. I think having children may make one sadder in some respects; but that may be because you have such immense love for another being (or beings) that it often translates into constant worry and that sense of “something on your mind” at all times. Does that make me sad? Sometimes. And I’m in the thick of those early, no sleep years.
But, to your point, I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything in the world. There’s nothing like the happiness they give me–and I think that makes me happier overall in the long run.
That’s rather uncharitable don’t you think, Michael? And, considering the cover story has generated such high-profile publicity, I think you’ll lots more like it. Put that in your licensing pipe and smoke it.
I think New York Magazine should stick to what it knows best: Albany, Wall Street, co-op prices, private schools, Spitzers, Bronfmans and Kennedys.
To piggy-back onto your topic today, there is a great Time article this week on “The Only Child Myth”. According to the article a 2007 survey found that at a rate of 3-1, people believe the main purpose of marriage is the “mutual happiness and fulfillment” of adults rather than the “bearing and raising of children.” There must be some balance between the joy our kids give us and the sacrifices we make to care for them. Apparently singleton households may become “the new traditional family”. And, you mentioned older people near the end of their lives? My mom was a geriatric nurse and I remember her commenting many times on how the unmarried, childless, elderly women she cared for appeared more healthy, youthful and content than their married with children counterparts. She rarely met one with regrets. Parenting another human being exposes every emotion known to man, good and bad round the clock, its never-ending. If you are well grounded you won’t allow it to make you sad and let it undermine your relationship as the article suggests. And, the long-term rewards are worth the effort – as you have discovered.
You make some great points, Sam. I’d agree that the idea of having a child to save a relationship is still born. There’s dumb. There’s smoking cigarettes. And, then there’s having a child to save a relationship (or, dumb, dumber and dumbest, if you prefer).
Speaking of the gulf between parenting-in-fantasy and parenting-in-reality…this is a regular soap opera theme. Many people–in these fictional towns and in our real world–believe that having children will “fix” things or will “make” them happy. We may have all known of a couple who had a child to “save” their marriage. I know of a family member right now who calls his son “Elmer” because he is the only thing holding their family together. What soap opera couples often find is that having children when you aren’t happy won’t make you any happier, and the home that was going to fall apart will fall apart or else will live in complete relationship disrepair. I wonder if there was any aspect of the research that looked at where these parents were in life when the child was born, whether having a child was planned or unplanned, and so on…
Fair enough, Michael D. The author says you’d be happier if you didn’t have twins named Ed and Ed, respectively, but, rather, an only child. Any thoughts on the findings that show the more kids one has, the sadder one becomes?
Thanks again, bookandbloggeek. Our kids are like glue as well, except sometimes they cause us to come undone.
Good for you, Frank. That said, I’ll bet Jim Foster buys into the concept lock, stock and barrel.
Can’t imagine life without my kids, no matter how annoying they sometimes can be. And trust me, my 12-year-old son is like a lit Roman Candle this summer. But it doesn’t change the fact that he’s very smart, funny, goofy and lovable as he enters the terrible teens. Let’s face it, every human being is annoying at sometime or another. I’d call that article utter BS.
My final word on this subject, is that children make us (both Mike and I) happier, sometimes together, sometimes separately but ultimately a happy family. I don’t think that would change even if I were not married to him and I don’t believe it would change for him either. Our children may have caused some arguments between us but that is not their fault, the fault is another person’s inability to seek a compromise (on both sides). Children are glue and like pages of a book, hold us together. I would not want it any other way.
Our generation has information overload and dual income stresses. My parent’s generation had the cold war reality and nuclear war threat. My grandparent’s generation had the Great Depression, World War II and the Holocaust. Let’s put our larger problems in perspective and not conclude our children are responsible for taking away many of life’s great joys.
Many thanks, bookandbloggeek. The article’s author says having kids will undermine, if not ruin, most relationships, thereby making the parents sadder.
Darwin would tell you child-rearing is part of natural selection, Michael D. We procreate in order for the species to survive. It’s programmed into our DNA. The author also says that parents have become sadder in recent decades. Post-World War II parents were almost universally happy, she says. Perhaps the information overload, dual income stresses of modern-day society have undermined that happiness?
My POV is that if having children make parents sad, I feel sorry for those people. While I have had many ups and downs with said children, the upside has been so high that dealing with any lows surely made up for that. These days, with young adults, I have found no downside other than the occasional worry when they are out and about or are hurt by something or someone. They enrich our lives like nothing else, bringing new ideas and different things to do to the table and I for one look forward to more good times when they (and I) enter other phases in our lives. Do these people who are sad feel they are missing something or missing out b/c they need to do things for their children? Because if that is the case, the thing they are missing is joy and love found in having children. So there you go RepMan, my POV.
Why thank you, bookandbloggeek. What are your thoughts about the New York Magazine article and the research showing that having kids makes parents sad?
The New York Magazine research was, as always, tailored to meet the researcher’s – and ultimately the writer’s – point of view. Since the position of the article is so absurd I have to debate the merit of the “findings.” Asking if one’s life is more or less satisfying with children, when trying to measure the relative quality of life with or without children, is bad research. In the NY Mag article at least, I never saw the most simple yes/no questions like: Do your children make you happy? Do your children enrich you? Do your children enrich your marriage? Do your children help make life complete? Can you imagine your life without your children as an integral part of it? Is the happiness of your children an important part of your life? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment when your children enjoy accomplishments? Do you believe children are a gift to be cherished? Or, simple either/or questions: Would you rather spend holidays with your friends or your children? I’m not a researcher, but those questions may have caused a re-think to the point put forward. Children are meant to be best friends. They’re an inextricable part of most families’ lives. I am not saying everyone must have or want to have children. But the article from NY Mag suggests that it is a path wrong followed, and the conclusion is subjective and ill-conceived. How is this for research: if parenting truly led to life dissatisfaction, then why has it been the adult world’s biggest club since life began? Why haven’t there been precipitous population drops in societies where birth control is a well-understood option? If I need to go on let me know.
Wow RepMan – I hope Catharine is Angie’s best friend too! I know that my Erin is the best friend to a great many people, myself included and I count her as the truest and most honest friend a person can have. I love the person my daughter has become (and love my son too, albeit in a different way). She is outspoken, confident, fun, happy beyond belief, energetic, always willing to listen at all times of the day/night and would wish this child on any one. She epitomizes the word “friend” and I could not be happier that you and Chris have that relationship also.