Monday, July 19, 2010

Studies Show Parents Are Not Happier Than The Childless

According to an article in New York magazine, a number of studies have revealed that parenting is not necessarily a source of happiness. Creating babies, therefore, may be something you shouldn’t try at home. Children, like Toyotas, appear to be a disappointment and may, in fact, find themselves being recalled.

In 2004, back when people still had jobs, a survey was done of 909 Texas working women. They ranked childcare sixteenth in pleasurability out of nineteen activities, behind housework, napping, exercising, preparing food, shopping and watching TV. I have to assume they don’t get the same programs we do on the East Coast. I wasn’t among those queried, but I got far more enjoyment from singing "Wheels on the Bus" to our son and participating in the process of his evolving into a competent young adult than I ever have on a treadmill. Given how parenting is perceived in Texas, one wonders about the popularity of the pro-life movement there. Toddlers would be well advised to hide their parents’ guns.

But these perceptions are not limited to Texas. Other studies claim that parents are more depressed than the childless and report that childcare is seen as drudgery. As a Hollywood scriptwriter, I had what is considered a glamorous career, yet I found being with my son far more compelling than watching rehearsals of "Growing Pains." Being a mother is the most important role I’ve had, the most challenging and rewarding. Parenting is dynamic, requiring repeated reassessing and revising, which keeps it fresh. Sure, having a child adds anxiety and stress, but that’s the case with anything you take seriously.

Dogs, ironically, continue to get good press and are credited with providing emotional support, particularly in difficult times. I’m baffled that pets are getting better press than children. My relationship with our Tibetan terrier was far from reciprocal. I did all the giving and caretaking with nary a thank you. Unlike our son, who learned to go to the bathroom by himself, the dog made it clear that the antique rug would suffer should I be selfish enough to go to dinner and a movie.

From the first touch of his tiny fist on my chest to today’s amusing instant message, my son has enhanced my appreciation of life. From him, I learned much of what I know about men, that I can’t persuade him or maybe anyone to use sunscreen, that there comes a time when backing off should replace being there, that teasing can be an expression of affection and that when my computer gives me trouble, I should reboot. Without him, life would be far less meaningful, my world would be smaller, I’d certainly not be as happy as I am and I’d be totally depending on Tech Support.