I recently read an article in which the research outcome was that becoming parents makes people less happy. No, I don't have a link to this article. No, I can't remember where I read it. And, in fairness, though I read it recently, it could have been a very old article. I read a lot of hand-me-down magazines.
My point is this: I disagree. I would agree if the scientists had used the word "stressed". Having children has added significant stress (and gray hair; I always thought that was just a saying but seems true in my case) to my life. I worry about my child's development, her feelings, my capability to meet her needs. I worry about paying attention to my marriage as well as my role as a parent. I worry about her future, both the world she will grow into and the choices she will make. I worry about the possibility of dying young and leaving her with someone other than us to raise her. I worry.
But am I less happy? I'm no scientist, but I would argue that "happy" is something each of us would define very differently. Not only is it an individual idea, but it changes for each of us depending on the time in our lives in which we define it. Ten years ago, happiness was heading out for a beer with my then-fiance while in Massachusetts for a visit. Five years ago, happiness was remodeling our little kitchen in our old house.
The key to our happiness, in my mind, is to change our expectations as our situations change. I know a lot of people who vow that life will be no different once they have children. Those people are fooling themselves and probably are less happy once the children come. For me, I embraced the fact that my life would be different with children. If it wouldn't, then why bother having them?
Before having children, sometimes the idea of kids would scare me and I would think: "What will I do when it's not all about me anymore?" Once I had children, I thought: "Oh, thank God, it's not all about me anymore!" I found it very freeing. Which isn't to say that I am not frustrated by something involved in parenting daily. Some days I am overwhelmed. But I am happy. Being a mom is the best job I have had yet.
For me, the love of having a family has brought me more happiness than any of the self-serving things I did before having children. I am glad I waited until I was older to have kids. I was lucky enough to have lots of time to be selfish and inquisitive and silly and fun. I am glad I had all of the time I did when I was young to explore and make mistakes and have successes in lots of way. But I am really glad to be right here, too.
So, for those scientists who are wondering, here are some moments of what happy looks like to me today: seeing The Nugget's hands waving over her head in the rearview mirror as she sings and dances along with her children's music. Sitting down as a family for any meal. Listening to what was once baby babble become more and more intelligible upon waking. Hearing The Nugget say her ABC's. Watching the world of pretend open up for my daughter. A stolen day at the bookstore with The Mister. Smelling The Nuggets clean, soft hair as I rock her good night and sing "Baby Mine" at her request.
Right here, right now = happy.