Why You Should Have Never Had Kids (If You Want To Be Happy, That Is)

Update September 2019: Wow. It’s been two years since I published this post and the comments are still pouring in.

Reading these comments will teach you more about human nature than the article will because of the strength of human biases (especially cognitive dissonance reduction and confirmation bias) that is being portrayed.

Please read the article before leaving a comment. Thanks


 

parenthood paradox parenthood gap

Do you think having children makes you happier?

If so, think again.

Research shows (over and over again) that having children reduces happiness (e.g. Anderson, Russel, & Schumm, 1983 or Campbell, 1981), even though parents think it will make them happier.

This phenomenon is known as “The Parenthood Paradox” or “Parenthood Gap“.

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You can download the free PDF here.

Why don’t children make parents happier?

One of the dominant explanations for this is that children increase the amount and level of a variety of stressors that parents are exposed to (Glass, J., Simon R.W., Andersson M.A., 2016,), such as:

  • time demands
  • energy demands
  • sleep deprivation (potentially starting a vicious circle)
  • work-life balance disturbances
  • financial burden

 

It goes without saying that all of these stressors apply even more to the lives of single parents. This is why single parents report the lowest levels of well-being compared to married or unmarried couples who are living together.

To make matters worse, people generally become less satisfied with their marriage when they have children (making the attempt to fix a marriage by having children even more ironic).

Research shows the disadvantages of parenthood to be the strongest in the United States. We’ll talk more about this in a bit.

 

When parents are at their happiest

In his seminal work “Meanings of Life“, Roy Baumeister tells us that there are two happiness peaks in the lives of adults in America, namely:

  • between the wedding and the birth of the first child
  • between the departure of the last child from home and the death of one’s spouse

 

So if you’re looking at children from the perspective of personal happiness, the phases of the married life without children are the happiest periods. Yet another argument against having children for the sake of personal happiness (what’s the score, 3 to 0 for not having children now?).

 

The good news

I can hear you thinking… but there’s got to be an explanation for why we’re making children, right? Otherwise, we would never have gotten this far as a species!?

Right.

And there is.

Because as emotionally taxing as having children may be, it has also proven to be a great source – if not the most powerful source – of life satisfaction, self-esteem and meaning, especially for women (Hansen, T., Slagsvold, B., Moum, T., 2009), even though men are a lot more likely to view childlessness as disadvantageous (Blake, J., 1979,). This is true even, or even more so, during tough times and is illustrative of the fact that cognitive evaluation (what you think) and emotions (what you feel) are not on the same continuum.

I.e. we can value something and find it meaningful even if it detracts from our happiness in the moment.

In the words of Baumeister:

“Sometimes the quest for meaning can override the quest for happiness.”

But wait a minute.

That sounds familiar…

 

Would you plug in?

Do you remember Robert Nozick’s thought experiment of the Experience Machine?

He asked people to imagine a machine that would provide them with only pleasant experiences as soon as their brain was hooked onto it. Let’s say it’s a machine triggering dopaminergic and endorphinergic activity in the brain without building habituation or tolerance and without side-effects.

Would you choose to be hooked onto that machine?

Most people said “no” even though, rationally speaking, it would make sense to do so. That is, if your goal is to maximise happiness for yourself, which is the case for hedonists and certain types of utilitarians.

Like one of my favorite writers Tim Urban remarks:

“In the end, I think I probably would skip the machine. And that’s probably a dumb choice.”

This brings us back to the Parenthood Paradox.

A possible explanation for why the negative impact of having children on personal happiness is the highest in the United States might be its extreme focus on personal happiness (and hedonistic values).

There I said it.

The Parenthood Gap exists because of unrealistic expectations and desires regarding personal happiness.

And research is indeed pointing in the direction that the more individualistic a society is, the greater the Parenthood Paradox is (the level of financial support from the government being another important factor).

 

All this leads us to the real paradox…

The real paradox is not the Parenthood Paradox, but why people seemingly strive for personal happiness even though they would choose meaning and/or life satisfaction (subjective evaluation of one’s life as a whole) over personal happiness when push comes to shove.

It goes to show that, once again, we not only suck at predicting what will make us happy (as explained in Dan Gilbert’sStumbling on Happiness“), but also at valuing our personal happiness compared to other things, such as meaning in life.

And besides… happiness is so fragile.

Happiness fades with the first punch that life throws at you.

 

The solution

The solution is to avoid falling prey to the illusion that happiness results from meeting your ideal version of life.

Rather than holding on to an image of what a happy life should look like and comparing it to your current life, you can allow life to unfold with unexpected moments of happiness.

Having children will not make you happier, nor does not having children.

It is not what life offers, but what we believe that life should offer that prevents us from experiencing happiness.

So let go of your expectations and lower the importance of your personal happiness. Thereby you will lower the stress you experience from not being as happy as you think you should be.

In his book “If You Are So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy“, my friend Raj Raghunathan remarks:

“Because when one pursues happiness, one is likely to compare how one feels with how one would ideally like to feel, and since we generally want to feel happier than we currently do, we are likely to feel unhappy about being unhappy if we pursue happiness!”

This, Raj. This.

And not only do we feel unhappy about being unhappy, we can start to feel even more unhappy because we don’t know why we aren’t happy, especially if we have all the reasons to be happy.

But that’s a song for another time.

Please enjoy your parental unhappiness, for you have all the reasons to.

Best,

Seph

We hope you found this article useful. Don’t forget to download our 3 Meaning and Valued Living Exercises for free.

If you wish to learn more, our Meaning and Valued Living Masterclass© will help you understand the science behind meaning and valued living, inspire you to connect to your values on a deeper level and make you an expert in fostering a sense of meaning in the lives of your clients, students or employees.

Anderson, S. A., Russel C. S., Schumm, W. R., 1983, Perceived marital quality and family life-cycle categories: A further analysis, Journal of Marriage and the Family, 45, 127-139

Baumeister, R., 1991, Meanings of Life

Blake, J., 1979, Is Zero Preferred? American Attitudes toward Childlessness in the 1970s, Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 245-257

Gilbert, D., 2006, Stumbling on Happiness

Glass, J., Simon R.W., Andersson M.A., 2016, Parenthood and Happiness: Effects of Work-Family Reconciliation Policies in 22 OECD Countries, AJS. 122(3): 886–929. (Available here)

Hansen, T., Slagsvold, B., Moum, T., 2009, Childlessness and Psychological Well-Being in Midlife and Old Age: An Examination of Parental Status Effects Across a Range of Outcomes, Social Indicators Research, Volume 94, Issue 2, pp 343–362

Nozick, Robert, 1974, Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

Raj Raghunathan, 2016, If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?

Tim Urban, The Experience Machine Thought Experiment, published on Wait But Why

About the Author

Seph Fontane Pennock, BBA, is the co-founder of PositivePsychology.com. Seph strongly believes that we can deal with most of life’s absurdities by leveraging human connection and challenging ourselves, instead of using dogma or pharmaceutical drugs.

Comments

  1. Ryan

    Look, this debate in the comments is pointless.

    Want kids? Have them! Do it and don’t lecture to people who dont want them about what they are missing.

    Don’t want kids? Don’t have them! Don’t have them and don’t lecture to people who do about what they’re giving up.

    Each choice has its own benefits, rewards, and sacrifices. And those things are determined by the individual.

    What vexes me the most are people who ha e kids they can’t afford, keep having kids they can’t afford, and then open their hands for welfare because they expect the rest of society to pay for them. Then, many times, their kids turn out to be losers like their parents and continue the cycle.

    I think people would be more open to children id the system wasn’t constantly rewarding losers who make bad decisions, while making it difficult for people who do things the right way to start a family.

    Reply
  2. Lisa

    Good grief! It seems that most posters have a difficult time understanding that a life full of meaning (which is what they are really describing) is not the same as a happy life. And you never claim that they are the same. In fact, you clearly point out that people who have children perceive more meaningful lives or experiences than those who do not. BUT, that does not equate to happiness.

    So, you can have a life that is happy and meaningful, you can have a life that is happy without a lot of meaning, or you can have a life that is meaningful and miserable, and a thousand variations in-between.

    Thankfully, we live in a world with choice (for the first time in history–more choice than ever before), but it appears that with that choice comes a great deal of cognitive dissonance over the choices made, judging by the comments.

    Great article!

    Reply
  3. Mike P

    Father of one and one more on the way.

    First one came super early at 30 weeks. PTSD from that.

    Second one on the way has my wife like Satan himself. PTSD from that.

    Having kids is like the Vietnam War. Rolling in on the heli all smiles, rock songs, billowing smoke from the fresh cigarettes, semi auto gun in one hand and your freedom in the other. Then the Vietcong (kids) come out and it all goes to shit after that.

    Then you lose the war and keep telling yourself it wasn’t that bad.

    PTSD from that.

    GIVE ME THAT MACHINE!

    Reply
    • Mike P

      Love your writing technique though. Ok don’t read often and made it through the whole article with a smile on my face lol cheers!

      Reply
  4. Amelia Hurst

    a) you obviously don’t have children
    b) the U.S. isn’t reporting highest unhappiness bc of unrealistic expectations of happiness but bc of a societal structure for the least respect or support to the parent.
    c) the argument could be made that it is much Easier and Happier to stay a child.

    Reply
    • Joy

      He isn’t reporting his opinion he is reporting science.

      Reply
  5. Simbiat

    In the end, even if we create children just because we want them to exist, they will still end up ceasing to exists (as all human beings will die).
    So, when we think of why we want to have children, isn’t our reason selfish? And isn’t the best way to love our children, is to love them before they were born? Not intentionally bringing them to an unjust world? Not bringing them to a life we know they can never escape pain (either physical, mental or emotional?)
    Also, in a world, where life has no meaning, what do we really want them to come to the world and do?
    However, even if somehow we choose to have children, then the least we can do is to make sure that they are able to live the happiest life possible, by equiping ourselves with the financial ability, intellectual knowledge and emotional intelligence required to ensure our children have their best chances of being happy.

    Reply
    • Rula

      People have children to have more meaning in their life. Especially if their careers and / or social status is not satisfying. In a sense it is selfish. There is over 7 billion people in the world so it is not like we are an endangered species.

      Reply
  6. Anne

    Parenting is the most annoying, frustrating, draining, exhausting, and stressful thing ever. I love my child (everyone says this) but it is horrible trying to care for my child. If you don’t have children, just don’t do it.

    Reply
    • Lue

      Amen

      Reply
  7. Magnus Wootton

    I didnt want kids when I was younger because I thought it was quite average to do so and I wanted to be something “remarkable” instead I remember. But now i’m older I realize that I have to admit we do share a great proportion of lifes activities whether we like it or not, and we have children, just like we breathe, all together, all at the same time, and doing yourself without it isnt really prooving anything remarkable except making you a slightly illogical person? 🙂

    Reply
  8. LilyR

    Right from an early age I never believed kids would be part of my future, although I came close to having them.
    Having seen the chaos they appear to have created in many people’s lives I’m really glad to be childfree. Out of all my siblings, neighbours & friends who are parents I know of ONE person who I would say is happy & a good parent (her daughter’s needs & wants are met, as are hers) and has ever once said she regretted her choice.
    I don’t care for her that much as a person, but she seems to have nailed having a life as well as having a family & doesn’t appear to have been crushed under her daughter’s endless demands… which is the opposite of my less happy friends. What she does do (and other parents don’t appear to) is to have set boundaries and to stick to them…..she isn’t strict, per se, but she has clear rules & non-negotiables.
    The majority of other parents I know seem to adopt a “laissez-faire” style where their child/children are the boss of the household, are given everything they demand, when they demand it & hence they roll-over to any of their child’s whims, no matter how unreasonable – and two of my friends have said as much this week…. berating themselves for allowing this to happen.
    Maybe I should be more sympathetic but everybody has choices & there’s plenty of evidence all around to show that parenting isn’t an “Instagram hobby” and can be brutally hard.
    So, did these people think “Oh, but MY child will be perfect?” I don’t know, none of them are stupid, or did they cave in under the weight of spousal/family/societal pressure?…. who knows?…or did they blame it on “my body clock” a theory which has since been shown to be incorrect?
    Regardless, I’m now 54 and happy with my choice – especially during lockdown where there are so many fractious kids & exhausted parents.
    Not for me at all….. you do you & I’ll do me – it’s that simple.

    Reply
  9. Ginty Grayble

    Having kids is crap. That’s what childless people don’t realise how lucky they are to have their freedom to do whatever they want instead of listening to people churn out the same overused phrases ‘you’ll be lonely when you’re older’. Do older people not have friends?
    I think it is selfish having kids then complain about childcare and going to work. Why have them in the first place? For your own selfish needs? Conforming to societal expectations and norms?
    I see lots of couple’s with kids and they look miserable. Why would anyone want that life.
    Stop focusing your life by being in a relationship and having kids; there are enough humans and we don’t need anymore. You’d be happier for it.

    Reply
    • leigh

      Can’t wait to see what all these childless old and single cat ladies have to say about “don’t have kids!” 15-20 years from now when they all start regretting that they didn’t.

      Reply
      • Mark Diorio

        Having children in no way means you won’t still end up alone. (I get zero recognition or thanks, even on “Father’s Day”). In a world where the chances are high that one day you’ll end up divorced and out of the home, having children is pointless and meaningless. Having kids is total crap. Still raising kids, totally alone, at age 64, I am tired, exhausted, frustrated, and trapped. If I could give young men one word of advice it would be in one word: vasectomy.

        Reply
    • Meg Breed

      I agree with everything besides the part where you say child free people are lucky. We are not lucky because it was a choice not controlled by chance, it was a choice made not to be miserable. The easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life is not get pregnant.

      Reply
  10. Kim

    What we really need to ask ourselves is “is it kind to unneccessarily expose new, fragile life to this dangerous world, where it’s likely they will be traumatized or traumatize others, could be victims of rapists, cancer, brutal car accidents, etc., will be forced to deal with the same problems I’m going through including aging and dying, just to make myself feel better?”

    Reply
    • Simbiat

      This is the perfect question.

      Reply
    • Ryan

      Actually, that’s a really stupid question. I mean, utterly stupid.

      The world sucks. The world has ALWAYS sucked. Acting like it just started sucking now, or sucks more now than it ever has, is asinine and demonstrates that you’ve never once picked up and read a history book.

      Every single person must seek happiness for themselves, regardless of the state of the world.

      Id that means having children, have them. If that means avoiding having them, dont have them.

      Im far more angry at losers who have kids that they can’t afford and everyone else has to pay for them through welfare and handouts.

      But yea, don’t use the whole “the world is awful” argument to dissuade people from having kids.

      Reply
  11. Claire

    Writing this to put things in perspective for anyone in my position (childless but considering parenthood in the future) who is poring over the comments in dismay. First, let’s consider the somewhat-clickbaity nature of this article. With a title like “Why You Should Have Never Had Kids (If You Want To Be Happy, That Is),” it is likely that it pops up most often when someone is searching things like “do kids make you happier,” “unhappy with kids,” “i wish i never had kids” etc. If it did not pop up in as a search result, then maybe it was shared by a parenting (or anti-child, if they didn’t read the article) account. Or the reader is like me, and stumbled across this article while looking at another blog post on this site and read it out of curiosity.
    As a result, there are several main types of people who would read and then feel compelled to comment on this article. They are:
    1. People who have kids and feel very unhappy and unfulfilled, who want to share their story and warn others
    2. Childless people who look upon “breeders” with pity or disdain, who want to tell everyone how happy they are without kids (or share stories about their unhappy parenting friends)
    3. People who have kids and do feel happy and/or fulfilled, who feel compelled to respond defensively to negative comments or simply share how much they appreciate the article
    4. Childless people who are considering having children, who want to comment about their rationale and their doubts about having children, and perhaps seek advice if they are on the fence
    Those seem to be the categories that most of the comments fall into, but as with all places on the internet, the people who feel the strongest are the most vocal. That means that many content, fulfilled parents who read this article will probably not feel compelled to leave a comment because they agree with the article and have nothing else to add. Furthermore, the fact that the article’s title is a bit misleading means that most people who find this article are probably in search of information about the unhappiness of parenthood, which most likely means that most readers are unhappy parents or childless people who are searching for information to affirm their feelings or decision.
    This is all to say that I don’t think these comments are at all representative of what parenthood is. I do not wish to invalidate any comment here, but simply remind comment-readers that there might be a bias towards negativity that doesn’t totally encapsulate what it means to have children. I myself am not a parent yet, so I cannot speak from firsthand experience, but some of the most accomplished people I know (I have specific women in mind who I think of whenever I fear that becoming a mother will prevent me from doing meaningful work) are parents. I know parents who find joy in their children and their career, who gain meaning and fulfillment from multiple areas of their lives. Privilege is certainly a factor, and it’s true that many parents are prevented from finding that healthy balance for numerous reasons. But if you are considering parenthood and are frightened by the negativity in these comments, I hope this helps you put things in perspective. Besides, it’s probably best to pay attention to the insight of parents in our lives rather than strangers online.

    Reply
    • Loni

      I think you are spot on. I think it’s all a personal preference. I do feel unhappy at times during my parenting journey but overall feel more life satisfaction as this article said. I was looking up articles such as this to see if I should have a second child and overall I feel like one is enough for us. Having a child put a significant strain on our marriage and makes working less enjoyable because I am always stressed about what my schedule looks like more so than just enjoying my career. Life has gotten easier with time, a young baby is very stressful and toddlers are more enjoyable, they see the world with fresh eyes and remind me that it’s the little things that really are important. Toddlers don’t worry about the existential questions in life but rather enjoy each moment for what it is, a practice I want to emulate. So in the end I don’t think people should be berated for one choice or the other. I always get the question, “Do you not think your child will be lonely without a sibling? That’s selfish!” Of course I worry about that but also know our personal experience and how a second child would strain our relationship further and have the potential to also create bad scenarios on our child (parents that fight, parents that are negligent due to time restraints, etc). I think it’s all a personal choice based on your own experience, you cannot base your happiness on what others find their happiness in or think you’ll find your happiness with. I really do get the comments about how having a child is selfish and have thought the same things myself. I understand these people have probably been told not having children is selfish which may lead them to contemplate what is actually the more selfish decision, I as stated have also been there before, am there right now. Anyway at this point I’m rambling but essentially it is one’s own choice and no one should be berated based on what decision they make. As someone stated you do you and I’ll do me.

      Reply
    • Anna

      Thank you for your perspective. Know that you’ve at least helped one person with it!

      Reply
  12. selormaddipa@yahoo.com

    The Existentialist917, sheesh the Article and the comments were on point and brutal that’s what I like to see. But anyway I’m 28 years old male and still have a lot to learn. But one thing I promise myself was to learn from others and never make the same mistake as they have done. Marriage and having kids? yeah that I have come to a realization is a recipe for disaster! I read a quote once and it said “It takes a life time to understand oneself”. I’m 28 years old and still trying to figure who I am as a person, so what makes me think a 28 years old man going 30 (next year) will be capable of understanding the next person (wife) to the point an innocent child? All that will lead to is pure misery. At this point I’m more focused on my education, work and hobbies, and for the past few years all my classmates are having kids and getting married and for some reason I feel compelled to tell them their are making a mistake but who am I to tell the next person what to do with their life?
    And so with that I stay in my lane and mind my own business, I know for a fact I do not want any of society’s formula of life, I want to live my own life on my own terms, I cherish my freedom and I enjoy my solitude. Freedom is happiness and putting more limitations on your life (Marriage and kids) are just the few examples. I always tell myself “ Do not repeat the same tactics your grandparents and parents did, do better be better”.

    Reply
    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi there,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Sounds to me like you’re clear on what your values are (e.g., freedom and solitude). Knowing those, you’re in a great position to choose the formula for life that best suits you.
      God speed!
      – Nicole | Community Manager

      Reply
    • Allison

      I am 25 and have the same thought process. I grow and change so drastically every year, how can I commit to a partner yet or worse be locked in with that partner and kids. I think we already have enough stress in our lives, don’t really need kids to add to that. I would much rather focus on financial freedom (of some degree), travel, fitness, and having incredible experiences. If you’re interested, check out my blog https://everythingunconventional.com/ that I started because I felt the need to consolidate ideas about living a less traditional life, and like you mention, different than past generations.

      Reply
  13. Alice

    This article and articles like it fail to carefully consider parental happiness during different life stages. Obviously parents of young children will have different levels of happiness than parents of school age children or empty nesters. Hopefully most people don’t have kids because of how happy they think it will make them in the short term. Parenthood is a long term pursuit and should be considered as such. I once saw research showing that empty nesters with more kids have higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction. I’d like to see more detailed research on parental happiness through different stages of life. Of course people without kids will initially experience higher levels of happiness. A guy sitting on his couch will have higher levels of happiness than a guy struggling up a mountain. But if you check in with them at a later date when the mountain climber has accomplished his climb and is in peak physical fitness, you might get different results. (No I’m not saying not being a parent is comparable to sitting on a couch. lol. I’m just trying to show that when you are doing something with levels of progression, the point in the journey where you check happiness levels is going to make a huge difference).

    Reply
    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Alice,
      Thanks for reading. You raise an excellent point about how parents’ happiness is likely to change depending on the age of the child. It happens that there is research that has tracked these trajectories from birth to age 18. If you take a look at some of the charts in this article, you can see the trend. Happiness reaches a high a few years before the birth of child and then dips after the birth and remains quite flat (or lowers further depending on other factors) particularly between birth and age 10. In no case does it rise back to the level before the birth of the child.
      Of course, there will always be other factors at play and differences between family units that can alter this trend. 🙂
      – Nicole | Community Manager

      Reply
      • Mona

        Hi Nicole, sorry to bother , but I was just wondering is there any “special way” to download the comments , regarding this article, as I am not able to…neither in other articles too. I would really really appreciate if you can help with that, please.
        Thanks a lot, Mona.

        Reply
        • Nicole Celestine

          Hi Mona,
          I’m afraid we don’t have a feature that enables you to download all the comments on a post. You may need to copy and paste these manually (into a spreadsheet, perhaps), or get help from a web scraper who can automate the process.
          – Nicole | Community Manager

          Reply
          • Mona

            Thanks a lot, Nicole.

    • Matt

      This is only true if your values match the goal. Some people value family above all other things, and would be unable to feel complete if they did not complete that goal. Other people value their work above all other things. They may not feel accomplished if they do not reach a certain professional goal. Some people value spirituality above all things. In many cases, having children is not permitted for their goal. The point is to recognize the things that you value most, and to make a concerted effort to apply energy to those things. That is the way that one feels fulfilled.
      There is an assumption that children are a necessary piece of the puzzle for all people, but the reality is far more nuanced. The world and it’s resources have been taxed to a point that having children could be considered harmful. Similarly, putting children into a broken world can be harmful to the children and their progeny. I think considering these types of values should be just as important.

      Reply
  14. Man 42 without children

    Well, so far so good, happy without them for sure. Why I do not have children (yet)?…
    First because I haven’t found the woman I can say I want to live the rest of my life with her and not with any other.
    Second because actually since I passed 35 I don’t know if I want them. (Yes for some reason I did want them before, theoretically or emotionally at least). What a hustle and restriction in your life? I see it from all my friends, they don’t regret it, they like it, they do seem and probably might be happy too, but their personal life is over and if not completely over to a very large extent for sure. I love my life thank you.
    Third, cant get out of my head the idea that in truth we should not give birth to so many children, the earth is overpopulated 100% sure. In a similar pattern of thinking the human society world that is being created is not of my liking, ideals and ethical standards. Furthermore in the same pattern of thinking the future doesn’t look that promising for humanity.
    Fourth I definitely tell myself that having children is the most common and detrimental goal of everyone, seriously nothing special in it, everyone does it and it is certainly the easy thing to do even though it is so hard and demanding. It is the easy thing to do because everyone does it and looks highly of it. The hard choice is to not have children and live with the idea that you are missing out on something. The words of a friend of my parents echo in my ears “ a person is incomplete without children”, I say inside me sorry fu I don’t agree with you at all, but the words still echo and make me ponder, is she right about it?
    Fifth the idea and many times said, that children will be with you and take after you when your old. Common what bs is this, have children for being taken care off? Are we serious? Isn’t that the egotistical thing to do? people seem to have children to satisfy their own desires, weaknesses and holes in their lives by saying this and similar other things.
    However Im still very troubled in my mind and heart, do I want children ? Do I really want them? There is a part of me that Is truly fond of the idea and on the other hand I like my life and freedom and my carefree spirit. And should I ever make a discount/Compromise and have children even if I don’t find my relatively “perfect” wife for me?

    Reply
  15. Juliet

    I wish I knew what I wanted a year ago, or at least listened to that voice inside me to get an abortion. Dad’s pro lifer and basically, I can do what I want but I will loose him. I choose love instead. I am, or WAS, independent woman with a high paying job on my way for grad school. All of those are put on halt when I kept the child. Funny thing is, it’s always the mother that sacrifice everything no matter how our society has changed. It’s just Part of it. I hate motherhood and I deeply regret being tied to my child. The spontaneity is gone and the constant cry is suffocating. I love her- saying it because it always goes to say this everytime- and I will do everything for her. But if I could turn back time, I would stick to my decision 200% no children

    Reply
    • Rhi

      Hi Juliet,
      I am of exactly the same thinking as ‘Man 42’ above and just cannot figure out what is right for me. I am 36. I would love to know how old you were when you had the baby if you don’t mind saying?

      Reply
  16. Lisa

    I’m surprised there are almost no women that responded to this article. Makes me feel very alone that only men feel the way I do. I’m a mother and never wanted kids. I was given an ultimatum by my husband a year before we got married ( he wanted kids and it was a deal breaker if I didn’t) so, I gave in, made a baby, and now our life is just sad, we’re always angry at each other. I’m angry at myself that I ever had a baby. And I can’t tell anyone about it because that would make me a “bad mother”

    Reply
    • Mack

      Lisa, I’m so sorry you feel this way. I’m a mother, and although I don’t feel like you do, I regularly want to run away, or feel dissatisfied with my life, due to being a mother. I love my children and I’m so glad I had them. BUT I think the lack of honesty around this subject feels like a massive conspiracy. I’m so sorry you have no one you can talk to about this. You are not alone in your feelings. It’s difficult, but I try and speak honestly to my friends, hoping they will do the same. With time, many of them have. This makes me feel less alone. I’m sending you compassion and understanding.

      Reply
    • Catherine

      Lisa, you are not alone!! Quite a few women (myself included) feel the same and it’s awful. I never wanted kids but I got pregnant due to birth control failure many years ago. I desperately wanted an abortion, but my husband refused to sign the paperwork (we lived in a state which still enforced spousal consent even though the supreme court had overturned it in the 70’s) so I was forced to carry out a pregnancy I absolutely did not want.
      I tried very hard to be a good mother and, of course, my now-adult child has no idea that I feel this way. But I hated motherhood and everything that goes along with it and could not wait for the child to grow up. And now I am a crappy grandmother because I am just not a “kid person” and don’t enjoy them.
      I really wish everyone would think long and hard before deciding to have children, and I really hope abortion stays legal and spousal consent laws are never revived. Children should have two parents who want them and are thrilled to be parents, that’s the least they deserve.

      Reply
      • ZZ

        Excuse my ignorance, but I had no idea you need your husband’s “permission” to get an abortion! I need to get educated on that topic. Thank you for this!

        Reply
        • ZZ

          Ok I just read your comment fully and realized that it’s not the case now. Thank god!!

          Reply
  17. Lexi

    I’ve been noticing a pattern in life where people start off very young (example having a successful, high paying job at 20), get bored of that job within a couple of years, and traded that life to be a stay at home parent instead.
    I’m not saying it’s better to work a 60 hour work week for 150K a year, I’m saying you can work a lot less, be happy with what you have and not feel burnt out to give up your job to have children instead. At age 28 now, I have noticed 3 of my friends fall into this trap already. They become successful young, burn out by mid 20s and feel that kids would improve their happiness, but at the end of the day it is simply a different form of stress. You’re still working around the clock, you’re just not getting paid for the work you do.
    A lot of people like to chime in how I’m wasting my life devoted to my hobbies and traveling. I beg to differ. This year, I have taken up a simple new hobby called reading. Starting October of 2019, I have managed to finish 2 books that are over 1000 pages each. If you have any book recommendations, please feel free to reply! I have also travelled many parts of the world and I have yet to reach the age of 30.
    I have backpacked throughout Europe, the Middle East, cruised the Caribbean, and have taken road trips across America. Am I done travelling? Not by a long shot. In fact, I probably won’t be able to go to some of the places that I dream about until I am at least 70 due to everything else I want to do in life. I am thinking about going to Australia in the near future, however.
    How do I have time and money for this? Massage Therapy. I work part time with roughly 3 massages a day for 3 days a week, and I have a 4 day weekend. I make roughly $60 per hour plus gratuits. I could make a hell of a lot more if I wanted to (and it’s not like I can’t change my schedule at any time), but I choose not to. I choose to have a work – life balance. I already love my career to begin with but having this balance makes life all the more easier and enjoyable.
    Pressuring someone to have kids when we can clearly see how miserable they are raising them is pure sour grapes jealousy. They say that misery loves company and I couldn’t agree more. I fully 100% support those who truly love their children and give them the world. If you love children and REALLY, TRULY want them, then you definitely should have them. In this case, I speak for myself as well as others who know deep in their hearts who absolutely do not want children and know it would be nothing but an energy drain for us, then we shouldn’t go anywhere near a penis without condoms and birth control. If an accident were to happen, do I honestly look like the type of women who would keep the baby?
    Think I am going to give this life up by having kids? Not by a long shot. In fact, on my 30ith birthday I am giving myself the gift of tied tubes. You are all invited to celebrate with me. Live life by your own standards, no need to follow a life script that does not guarantee happiness nor fulfillment.

    Reply
    • Ricky

      The thing is, happiness is not finite, and life will always throw you curve balls when you least expect it. What if your ideal of happiness and self-actualization is sabotaged by the ‘unknowns’ of life? Will you be able to live your new life ‘off-script’ based on your new set of life circumstances?

      Reply
      • Soli

        Lol what the ? does that have to do with not having a baby. You just wanted to say something negative. Sour grapes much?
        Btw EVERYONE that I know personally who has children, … Is miserable. Oftentimes they reveal this to me in private, when their husbands aren’t there. One time someone even revealed this to me while crying her freaking eyes out. Telling me that she wished that she hasn’t been such coward and gotten an abortion. Saying this within a month of her second child being born.

        Reply
    • Julia Sprung

      Good for you love it! Sounds amazing girl 🙂

      Reply
    • Alexa

      Genuinely happy for you and your life choices. I’m just a few years older than you and chose the same path. Traveling a lot, working part-time and dating a wonderful person who doesn’t want to throw any of that away for a child (that didn’t even ask to be born in the first place).
      Thanks for sharing your story. Hope more women will realise how fulfilling it is to be independent instead of falling for this trap called parenthood.

      Reply
    • Dee

      Now this is living!

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      Re: to Lexi: YES.

      Reply
    • roy norbury

      Hi Lexi,
      As a dinosaur dad of 2yo twins with my younger second wife, my former wife & I lived in Europe
      for 10 yrs and we have 3 boys and 1 girl who have between them produced 11 grandchildren!
      I found yours fascinating as after 2 German & 2 Spanish born I had a vasectomy in England.
      Fast forward my 2nd wife wanted children so IVF did the trick in California for us, now back in
      Australia I find your’s and other women’s opinion’s thought provoking.
      Our wonderful surrogate mum to our twins has 6 beautiful children in California and I marvel at
      her ability and it drives me to be a better dinodad than I was dad in Germany,Spain & Australia.
      No over expectations of life, and realistic to know that helping others is the buzz word in life?
      Great debate for the” new normal” lives we have ahead after the covid-19 pandemic.
      Australia dodged the bullet with just over 100 deaths to 25 Mn population , but the USA has so
      far over 100,000 for 350Mn and seems to be the target for this virus.
      Health should be our driver of happiness and that combination equates to fulfilment.

      Reply
  18. Smith

    The issue for many of us isn’t a question happiness or meaning, the issue is we find ourselves miserable after having kids. And that is a separate question. Life is what you make of it, but the making can be very unpleasant work that we don’t really want to toil at for years.
    I remember being stuck with my infant twins for two weeks while my wife was away. We were all sick and the crying never ended. I would wake up at 6am and all day was dealing with babies. 14 hours straight dealing with crying infants. Feeding, cleaning, comforting. And you are nailed to it like Jesus to the Cross, no way out. And it goes on for days and even years. Fast forward and one has reading issues. Fast forward and one has emotional issues. Fast forward and one develops a life long illness. One a bully, the other bullied. The teacher conferences, the 1000s of meals shopped for and cooked and clean ups. Later teenage depression. It never ends.
    Being a parent is a question of lifestyle, not a question of meaning or happiness. You are what you do and think about all day. Choose carefully, and ignore the big philosophical questions. Instead focus on the day to day duties and emotional demands, because that is what matters, and that is what you will live moment to moment.
    Before having a kid I suggest going to a swim meet or gymnastics meet. Imagine one of the kids is yours and watch the endless hours tick slowly away. Grinding by. If you see doing that every weekend, then being a parent just may be your thing.

    Reply
  19. Amin Parker

    This was an eye opener to read. I do agree that “happiness is so fragile.”

    Reply
  20. Judy

    Johnny Depp said it best: Hormones are God’s way of hoodwinking people into having children.

    Reply
    • Lilith

      Lol, I know I’m asexual and abstinence is real easy (wish dieting was!!). The peace of mind every month is mind boggling. I never understood how sex was a fair trade for such a dangerous and life altering risk. Screw happiness or meaning, freedom and solitude are priceless.

      Reply
  21. Father of one, not from US.

    With non-existent maternity/parental leaves and child support in the US, the argument for not having kids is understandable, as opposed to say Finland or Denmark. However, what is mind boggling is why the fertility rates are so much higher in countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan? In US, you have to give a job, a vacation, etc. In those countries you could be dead tomorrow and yet people have kids. Those who are on the fence, should pay close attention to this fact. Everything else is just first world problems/white whine. Worst things worst, if you are really such a snowflake and don’t have a lot of money find a job in Finland or another nordic country, move there and have kids there. It will be free for you and you may even get some stipends.

    Reply
    • Morgan Boyd

      Birth Rates are tied to women’s rights and health care. Allow women to get a post secondary education and a job and they will hold off having kids until later in life. Therefore they have fewer children due to age constraints.
      Improved access to health care means lower infant mortality. If you know you can have one or two children and they are likely to survive to old age you will most likely only have one or two children. If you expect several of your children to die before reaching reproductive age you are likely to have more of them. The countries you listed all have high birth rates, they also have high death rates.
      Currently Africa has the highest birth and death rates in the world, improving those economies to the point where everyone has access to health care and women are able to get an education and enter the workforce are paramount to controlling the growth of the worlds population.

      Reply
  22. Jim

    God punished me the day i was born unfortunately which i knew i was going to have a very extremely hard time meeting a good woman to settle down with to have a family. Then again which God created so many very horrible stuck up loser women these days too, especially when so many of us single men will try to start a conversation with a woman that we would’ve really love to meet. And then there are times we will get cursed at by these very mentally ill women for no reason at all, since i know friends that are having the same problem as well. Yeah, no wonder why many of us men are still single today. Very amazing how very different most women were back in the old days when they were the very complete opposite of today, and real ladies as well which made love very easy to find back then just like our family members did.

    Reply
    • MB

      Sounds like you are struggling by friend. My advice, if you would take it, is to look to yourself before you blame others. Self improvement is hard, but its the best way to improve the quality of your life. Start going to a gym every day, read some self help psychology books and some books on how to meet and talk to women. Learn some new skills and hobbies that are active. Join a club. Improve yourself and the ladies will follow. Good luck!

      Reply
    • Julia Sprung

      Ok, but you do have to understand all of this from a woman’s perspective. Literally with almost all men we’ve come across, maybe 80%, are sketchy, have ulterior motives and thus we have developed trust issues. Especially in terms of personal safety and some of the things we have been through with many men almost every day of our lives or in single events including harassment, abuse, taking advantage, like they just want one thing, etc. We have developed a guard to keep up because we don’t want to end up as another victim, so that plays a part. Very different in the world for women vs men.

      Reply
  23. common

    Father of three. Absolutely agree with the article. If you have any expectations of pursuing personal goals AFTER you have kids, think again. Doing all the tasks around kids takes significant amount of time and energy and you just see your life/time slip away without experiencing achievement of what you deem important or positive. If I could turn back the hands of time…
    Thank you for the article though, it feels good that I am not the only one who made this mistake.

    Reply
  24. Pete

    I have 3 kids twins 8 and another 10.I went from 0 kids to 3 in 18months.I am originally from Scotland and do not have any family here.My wife’s parents were older and lived in a different part of the Country.I do agree the government here really does not help at all with families and children,compared to most European countries.
    The fact that woman do not get any paid maternity leave is pretty shocking to me.
    Anyway we got through it our marriage is still intact but has taken a few beatings.The kids seem happy enough,my oldest has ADHD which has been a challenge.
    I enjoyed this article.Happiness is fleeting and I realize that as a father I measure it by the happiness of our family unit and not my own happiness.Maybe that is right or wrong,
    Our expectations of family life has changed dramatically in the last 70 or so years.The media/Hollywood has projected this picture of what a family should be like which is usually picture perfect.This is all bullshit and the more we move away from this thinking the happier we will be.
    I am just happy we as a family have survived the last 10yrs intact that my kids are happy/healthy,and when I am on my deathbed hopefully at the age of 100 surrounded by loving family.I will be happy that I experienced and survived all that life through at me.

    Reply
    • Jen

      This comment is getting me through a rough time. Such a balance of idealism and realism. Thank you, Pete.

      Reply
    • Mike P

      Happy the marriage stayed. High five! I like the comment about the unit as a whole instead of just your happiness. High five.

      Reply
  25. lee

    Mother of 3, gave up a good paying job after the 3rd one. My own family members do not wish to help me in babysitting at all. My husband works hard and late day in day out for the family but he has no time for the kids.
    Happiness index: zero.
    Fulfilment? Zero too.

    Reply
    • Karen

      Did you expect your family members to help baby sitting?

      Reply
    • maja

      completely understand you and sympathise wuth you.

      Reply
    • JP McCarthyizzle

      Happiness is a passing emotion. No one is happy all the time. Ask your husband to work less and spend more time with the family.

      Reply
    • Edy

      Hi darling,
      So if your husband is never there and makes good money, he should provide help for you. There is also programs of young girls wanting to travel and be nannys for roof and food. If it’s his kids, it’s not babysitting. it should be normal for him to take care of them. Even if you would divorce, he would have the obligation of taking care of them half of the time, not that I wish that for you, not at all!
      Best of luck,
      Xxxx

      Reply
    • Renata

      This is me. Everyday l get up and think l had it all (before baby) l screwed it all.

      Reply
  26. Never Again

    I had one child, a son, forty years ago; I almost lost my life to toxemia, and did not have any more children. If I had it to do again, I would have zero; this world is too cruel; the choice would not be for my happiness, but to prevent the suffering of another human.

    Reply
    • JPizzle

      Suffering of another human?? Would you be happier not to of been born?

      Reply
    • Stacey

      I agree. My son is destined for a cruel, cruel world and he has no idea. I should not have done this to him.

      Reply
  27. Leana

    I am extremely happy having a child. I love her more then anything in the world. Yes there are challenges but the amount of happiness my child brings to me highly outweighs the sacrifices. There’s nothing like having your child wrap their arms around you in the morning and Tell you “mommy I love you” we go to theme parks, ice cream, parks, parties…. kids help you feel the majic of what it’s like to be a kid one again and holidays are much more enjoyable. I feel like this is a biased article…. there are many people who can’t have children and they’d do anything to become parents. For those who don’t want kids, don’t have them, don’t make your kids miserable. Those who already had kids you made that choice and your children count on you to teach them. They love you unconditionally. Shame on you who complain.

    Reply
    • Tatyana

      I was also the same excited mother within 16 years with my son until he turned 16. After he turned 16 I could hardly recognize him: he transformed from a loving friendly child to a judging, hostile, cruel young man. Now he is 22 years old. My son took all resources from me, my Mom ( his granny) and his Auntie and he cut of ties with us 2 weeks ago. He has so many accusations towards us, though God witness, we all 3 women did our best to provide him with everything, believe me. I still can not believe that that transformation happened. I am looking at photos of my son under 16: a nice, smiling, friendly, emotionally balanced boy…. and photos now – emotionally cold, no more smiles, no more empathy, cold and judging eyes. Can not believe it happened to my family. If I had a chance to go back 22 years ago, I would not have this child. I raised him as a single parent but my Mom and sister helped me a lot. I was devastated first 10 days, even suicidal, but then I though I could live some part of life for myself and be happy. Your disappointment is several years ahead, do not worry.

      Reply
      • JPizzle

        Haha cry me a river, you sound horrendous.

        Reply
    • Adi

      I cannot believe Leana tries to spit some venom, socialist style, on the American capitalist research. The priest and family told Leana that it is a sin to regret having children, therefore once you have children, you do not need to exist anymore, your happiness does not exist, you need not complain. I do not have children yet, but I see that your reply Leana is full of bias too. I can even recognise you, you are from the same nationality as me, where 90% are religious people without capacity to think critically. I am not saying that you have no right argument, just saying something is biased does not make you less biased. It just smells like cognitive dissonance and rejection of your brain that something you do not like can be as objective as this study can be

      Reply
    • Suzanne

      Shame, really??!

      Reply
    • Vandana

      I’m literally on the verge and completely unsure of freezing my eggs. This article has brought a tremendous amount of perspective to me

      Reply
  28. MamaSquid

    Thank you for your article. I am 36 and pregnant with my first child. As a long – time sufferer of clinical depression and PTSD, I have spent many years learning the difference between happiness and meaning. I’ve been helped tremendously by Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which emphasizes values – based living in the face of chronic terror or despair. What most of us think of as happiness is really a more superficial level of in – the – moment contentment, but there is a world of profound meaning waiting to be uncovered in every life, and people are willing to suffer quite profoundly in the moment in order to get at a deeper and more fundamental level of satisfaction. This is why, despite my chronic struggle with depression, I wouldn’t call myself an unhappy person. Whatever my current mood in any given moment, my life is full of meaning – because of how I spend my time, the relationships I nurture, the values I embrace in my nonprofit career, my fiction writing, etc.
    So I can see how similar principles might apply to having a child. As my pregnancy has already begun to interfere with the things that traditionally have given my life meaning, I think I’m going to have to scale back and find some new ones – but that’s okay. There are a lot of ways to make meaning. I’m excited about the ones I haven’t yet discovered.
    I’ve wanted a child for ten years, but thus far pregnancy has only complicated my life and made it more difficult. That’s okay, too. Often, easing our suffering begins with letting go of our idealized vision of how we’re supposed to be feeling… I’ve learned that countless times throughout this difficult pregnancy and in my study of Zen principles more generally. Though it may be socially controversial not to express joy during every waking moment of pregnancy and motherhood, I’m allowing myself to be unhappy, without judgment nor indulgence, when the feeling arises. I’m learning to accept my limitations. I’m taking the pressure off the need for this to be a perfect experience. Anytime I find myself really afraid of what parenthood has to bring, I keep coming back to this, knowing I’m already in the practice of making meaning out of less than ideal circumstances, and I think I am going to be all right. If I’m perfectly honest, I even think we are going to have a lot of fun as a family.

    Reply
    • Meg

      You are spot on to allow yourself to feel any emotions that arise( mainly guilt for me), don’t fight them . Sit with them , let them come and go. I hope your child brings you Joy and happiness ultimately. I love being a mom and I struggle with it too and that’s okay ?. P.s hang on and don’t judge yourself so harshly. Life can be amazing if you smile more than not.

      Reply
  29. The Bad Guy.

    Sorry but I can’t wrap my head around the idea of de-emphasizing personal happiness. My personal belief is that if you’re living life and you’re not happy and not aiming to be happy, then what ARE you doing? Collecting money? And unless you’re Abraham Lincoln or Julius Caesar or someone like that, any concrete accomplishments that you make will be forgotten 20 years after you die.
    For most of my life I didn’t want kids, and I got talked into it by my wife, who was in turn talked into it by her parents (I didn’t make that connection until it was too late). And I get along great with my kid but constantly find myself at odds with other parents, who largely share none of my values and seem to actively seek out misery and complain about their lives on Facebook. My sister in law earns 150k, has two kids, and comes home after working her 12 hour day to clean the floor and get the kids ready for bed before collapsing into bed herself. What kind of life is that?
    I love my son. I’m doing my best. But I am absolutely miserable and unlike many parents, I am self aware enough to realize it. I can make the best of it for the sake of the little guy but I won’t indulge in doublethink and I won’t lie to myself and try to say that, well, happiness wasn’t that important anyway. That sounds like sour grapes. Happiness damn sure is important. It’s everything. You don’t have to live a hedonistic lifestyle to see and feel that imho.
    And I would absolutely use that opiate simulation machine. I’d use it to hell.
    I mean really, life is not all that hard, but people actively try to make it hard. Perhaps I just don’t belong with the rest of the human race… This quest for misery – I will never understand it. Never.

    Reply
    • Yurms

      Oh my Lord, I hope you get notified of this comment because I just want to say I feel the exact same way. I do my best with my THREE kids…to the point where a lot of people (including my kids and wife) consider me a good father, but I AM miserable. I didn’t plan to have any of my kids. I kinda just rolled with the punches, but if I had it my way, id choose to do a ton of other things that not only make me happy, but fulfill me instead of raising a family.

      Reply
    • Never Again

      “Life is not that hard….” Apparently you are younger than 40. You might change your mind over the next 20 years.

      Reply
    • Sheila

      I’m a mother of 4, and to be honest all of life’s ups and downs would have been a lot easier to get through if I want so worried about these kids.
      And now two of the four are legal adults telling me I destroyed their life.
      Whatever, seriously I whole hearted agree with the article the happiest we are is before we have kids and after the last one leaves and God help us if we say it in front of them cause the rest of your life you will hear about how traumatized it made them.
      And I agree with the last commenter, I was convinced how great it all would be by my mother too.
      Who also suffered her entire life raising her kids. Then pushed them all away after they grew into adults.
      If I was alone, is be on a cruise with my husband enjoying my life.
      But instead I raised these children so I could have a more meaningful senior life and so far they are just screaming in my face that I suck.

      Reply
    • Corgnificent

      I’m a mother of two and completely agree with your sentiments. I simply cannot understand why so many people prefer to wallow in their misery and wear it as a badge of honor rather than trying to be happy or working towards positive change. I love my children and would sacrifice anything for them, but I’m also honest enough to admit that’s being a parent is often grueling and the “meaning” you allegedly derive from raising children is tarnished by piles of conflicting emotions and layers of stress.
      Thanks for posting and you’re not alone!

      Reply
    • Romina

      Wow you’re the male version of me lol are you a Taurus by any chance. I was like, “Who the eff would say NO to that machine?!”

      Reply
    • Meg

      I like your response. If I am reborn after this mom life, I would sure as hell plug into that machine too! I love my children. It’s hard and annoying and exhausting but then I look at these little people we made and it’s amazing too.

      Reply
    • ZZ

      Well, your comment is fantastic!! It is so hard to find parents who are truthful about their experiences and talk about both the good and the bad (aka the whole picture). It’s usualy very taboo for parents to talk about or even think about the bad. So when you ask them about their experience, all they have to say is “Oh it’s wonderful. Unconditional love. My children are the best things ever.”
      Oh and my favorite: ” I can’t imagine going through life without my kids.” Which I find very hard to believe. You can always imagine NOT having something in your life. This lack of imagination, not admitting the difficulties and not having a clue about the things they could have achieved if they didn’t have children completely boggles me.

      Reply
  30. Anita

    Thanks for the article. I had a late marriage (at 34) and my husband is 18 years older to me. We both are very happy in our lives and love to travel. However, living in a country like India where everyone just likes to poke their nose in other people’s lives and blatantly ask about why you are not having children is not an easy task. Some look at us with suspicion as if there is some fault in us…..even my family….who had reluctantly agreed to my marriage (mind the age Gap) keep forcing me to have children while we seriously do not wish to. They feel I will be alone in my old age with noone to look after. My two sisters have two kids each and I am looked at with ridicule. I just take happiness as it comes and do not feel the need for children….I am too busy in my job and whenever we have time….we explore the world. While this article is comforting…I do sometimes get scared of what the future will hold.

    Reply
  31. Rebeca Anderson

    Amazing, you aren’t telling people to not have children, you are just saying that we shouldn’t put on our children the responsibility for our happiness, we should question why we want to have children and have for the right reasons, because when they are born is all about serving them, support them in THEIR dreams and not use them to fulfill our own expectations.

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      Exactly Rebeca. Glad to see you actually read the article 😉

      Reply
    • Never Again

      Unfortunately, The Greatest Generation” never saw it that way….The Boomers were nothing but property to serve them.

      Reply
  32. Teresa

    I am happy to have come across this article . Since I turned 30, I have a renewed sense of wanting to be a parent. I have still have many moments, as someone who has struggled with the mental health, and after seeing best friends whose lives seem completely consumed with their children’s wants and needs, where I wonder if I want it. If I can do it.
    I really appreciated the description of the fleeting nature of happiness ( ‘Happiness fades with the first punch that life throws at you’)- for me, in my life, and in my struggles with mental health, it is so true. In order to strive for balance, happiness cannot be my own end-all, be-all. It’s too fickle. I can’t define it concretely.
    Instead, I do believe I search for meaning in my work and relationships and when I think about having children. I have definitely felt the need to take care of someone else, and to make my life not just about me.
    Thank you, Seph (what a fantastic name), for this article. I appreciate the insight and the comments from readers.

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      My absolute pleasure Teresa.

      Reply
    • Barbara

      Hello Teresa
      I think I share a lot with you. I also have some struggles with metal health and want to influence the world in a positive way. And being 30 I’m quite anxious if I should have child(ren). However, I don’t know if that would be the right thing, as being a bit depressed may results in not that happy children – for both genetic and environmental reasons. So that the life may not be a gift to them, but rather a burden (as I often see my life). Also, considering overpopulation, every new life is a burden to the earth. So I wonder – what is your opinion on that matter? I don’t mean to attack you – I’m just genuinely curious of other point of view to maybe revision mine.

      Reply
    • The Bad Guy.

      I don’t know what issues you have but Ill say this – I have Asperger’s and inattentive adhd. Before having a child I structured my life around my strengths and kept my stress very low, also worked out constantly. I’d never seen the inside of a psychiatrists office since I was able to manage my own care. You wont be able to do that with a child. Sleep patterns, destressing techniques… it all goes to hell. 4 years into the parenting life now and I’m on 3 different medications and depression is a major, major problem for me.
      I’m not saying it won’t work. But really think about your current coping strategies and how having a child would affect them. Because I know from experience that I can’t say, I’m sick, or I’m in a panicky mental state, or I’m overwhelmed with depression and just want to sleep for 20 hours today. I don’t get to indulge in self-care. I just have to put on my best face each day and be a dad. It’s non stop. Just keep it in mind and be ready for that marathon should you decide to run it.

      Reply
      • ZZ

        This made me really sad to read. Thank you for sharing,
        I’m sure things will get better for you. Pain doesn’t always last. But this is such an important point of view everyone needs to think about..

        Reply
  33. John

    I get the idea of focusing on achievement over happiness, but where that thinking fails with having kids is… it’s not an accomplishment. It doesn’t provide any real “meaning.” Everyone can do it, it’s not special, it doesn’t mean you achieved or accomplished anything whatsoever in your life. It’s extremely mediocre and just kicking the can down the field, hoping your kids do something more useful than you did. If you’re going to accomplish absolutely nothing and just work some mundane job, you SHOULD focus only on happiness since you can’t achieve anything of note. Having kids doesn’t absolve you of being a loser. If I can’t achieve great and meaningful things, at least I’ll maximize my own happiness, rather than failing at both like most parents.

    Reply
    • The Bad Guy.

      Exactly how I feel. Once you have kids your own chances of real greatness, slim as they are for us all, are gone. Tesla said that it is impossible to reach your own true potential if you marry and have a family, which logically makes perfect sense.
      A lot of people seem to have this idea that they’re cashing in their chips and hoping the next player will do better than they did. Then later of course, they pressure their own kids to give up their own dreams in order to provide some grandkids.
      There’s a lot of duality with parenting. People call childless people selfish but since becoming a parent I have met plenty of awful, self-centered parents who view their child as a possession they can brag about, like a nice car. Parenting is not a real dream for many of them – it’s a milestone, something to do. And don’t even get me started on some of the narcissistic crap I’ve seen from grandparents.

      Reply
      • Helena

        Wow. I’ve always sort of felt this. People love to talk about the selflessness of parenthood and in so many ways it is, but, I just think so many people have too much ego wrapped into it. It’s a performance. It’s a way to show off and have your child be better than the others.
        On the other side, my childless friends are truly some of the most selfless people I know. They listen, they have empathy, they make time for me. I do have two children , but, I’ve never felt selfless. I think many of them wanted children and they’ve really had to choose happiness in their grief. I think that’s where the empathy comes from. In some ways for me me, it felt like something I had to do.

        Reply
        • c hsieh

          @Helena: I really do appreciate what you’re saying. In my estimation, you can learn a lot about people when you assess their ego and their heart. It’s hard to tell sometimes whether somebody is loving/caring about somebody with their heart, or with their ego. And furthermore, some people only show love from their hearts when their egos are stroked.

          I totally see your perspective, in the sense that I’ve learned to observe people’s hearts and egos — and the relationships between those two, within any given individual — as I’ve grown older and had to assess whether parenthood was right for me.

          Reply
  34. Happy without

    Personally, my partner and are both very comfortable with not being parents. The older I get, the more comfortable I feel with our decision.
    There were many different factors that influenced our decision, the biggest being climate change. My partner works in the environment sector and future predictions on climate change are pretty dire. We both felt that the world does not need the burden of another person, particularly a first world person.
    We both work part time in work we enjoy and while we may not be materially rich, but we love our lives and we have time to enjoy them and pursue other interests, even if that means just being able to spend an afternoon pottering in the garden, going for a walk in nature or reading a book.
    Our friends who have kids are good parents, but I really feel for them. They seem to be in a constant state of just going through the motions in life, with no time to look after themselves or for personal reflection. I feel like I would find it very hard to be happy with no time for myself.
    So for those who have chosen to be parents, I wish you very well, it is not an easy road you have chosen, but I’m sure it is very fulfilling also.
    For those who are thinking that parenthood is not for them, I’d say you don’t need kids to be happy. My life is simple, quiet and very happy without children.

    Reply
  35. Fiona

    I simply wish I’d given my child up for adoption when I thought about it the first time. As I knew what the future would hold. And I was right.
    I’m a solo parent. Unemployed. In school. Had back surgery 9 months ago. Besides chronic pain making me mentally unstable. I was abused my entire childhood.
    My son deserves better than what I can provide. I do not regret him. Or wish I hadn’t had him. Or care what happens in my old age, as I’ve never planned to live into old age. I wish I would have given him a home that could give him what I cant.

    Reply
    • Lulu R

      Is there any way you could get help for the mental issues? There are so many things you can do to feel better, and once you do that, everything else won’t seem so bad. I would like to help, I know how tough life can get.

      Reply
  36. Elizabeth

    Thanks for the article Seph. I appreciate the part about letting go of expectations and the image of what a happy life “should” look like. But then what? Not pursuing happiness helps achieve happiness and lowering the importance of personal happiness… what does that look like? Can you expand? I’ve goals and a vision of the life I want, but I’d like to be happy on the road to getting there. I’m trying to trust so I don’t fall apart if the “there” is different or doesn’t happen. But I’d like to be happier in general. Thoughts? Thx.

    Reply
  37. JJ

    Crazy how the bitter anti-child brigade always turn up in these threads. They are obsessed with trying to find something to prove themselves right. Racked with self doubt?
    I see one genius low down the comments (“John”) even go so far as to say having children is ‘illogical’. Do you not understand how stupid that is?
    A lot of you people are going to be bitter and alone in your old age, shunted into state-run care homes and ignored (or abused, if you’re particularly unlucky) until you eventually do the state a favor and pass away.
    Good luck! Enjoy your extra vacations and gucci sunglasses in the meantime.

    Reply
    • Adamska

      “A lot of you people are going to be bitter and alone in your old age, shunted into state-run care homes and ignored (or abused, if you’re particularly unlucky)”
      So the purpose of having kids is so that they have to look after you when you’re old? Funny how people like you like to assert that childfree people are “selfish” yet you spout nonsense like this. That’s not a good reason to have children, in fact anybody whose motivation to have kids is that is probably going to be a terrible parent.
      Having kids may or may not be ‘illogical’ but it is 100% unfair and for that reason alone it’s unethical and immoral. The child has no consent in whether they’re born or not, and they’re being brought into an increasingly difficult, competitive, over-populated and environmentally endangered planet. Yes, bringing more children into the picture to make the problem worse sounds like a genius idea 😉

      Reply
    • Max

      Let’s see…
      People probably need assistance when they’re 80+ years old. OK maybe 75+ and that’s like the end of your life already.
      Those who married and made kids around 25-30 are potentially wasting 45-55 years, just for the kids to look after them (maybe).
      Your point has just been annihilated old sport.

      Reply
    • Fiona

      It amazes me how preoccupied people are with old age- you had kids and potentially ruined the best years of your life (18+ of them) just so you won’t be alone in old age? None of us even know if we are going to make it to old age in the first place or how long we will spend needing care if any (and the only reason we have to get old in the first place is because of our parents, we didn’t ask for life or old age).
      Most people in care homes have dementia to a greater or lesser degree so guess what? A lot of them don’t even know if they have kids anyway! My auntie had a bunch of kids but only one lived nearby and visited her in her care home regularly, not that my auntie knew since she had no idea she had kids, or any concept of anything for many years.
      I believe having kids makes you more selfish, you might not be thinking always of yourself but you are thinking about your mini-me, it doesn’t qualify as selfless, they are an extension of yourself. And I bet you would put your own child in front of anyone else’s child every time. To be selfless would be to adopt a child already here not create one from your own DNA. The world is in such a mess because people only care mainly about their own family, they don’t even care about their spouse since divorce is so high, just trade them in for someone else, who cares right? I don’t think I will ever understand parents.

      Reply
      • Vivi

        I really agree with every single word you are writing here 100 percent! I’m glad I am not the only who thinks this way. Thank you!

        Reply
      • Vivi

        Fiona’s comment describes 100 percent what I also feel. Why are you so concerned about aging and loneliness when the best time of your life you are paralyzed taking care of kids. The future is uncertain plus I gladly trade 5 years of being cared for for 20 years of sleep, travel, and fun.
        Plus the selfishness , great approach Fiona! Love it!

        Reply
        • Tatyana

          I totally support. I am a nurse, working in a nursing home. Every day I see those miserable parents who raised kids and then those kids dumped their elderly parents in nursing homes. So what are the kids for then???? If they are even unable to take care of their elderly parents the way parents took care of them when they were babies?! One more observation: there are 2 patients in a share room. One elderly lady is childless and has no picture frames on her bedside table. The lady on the other bed in the same room is a mother of 8 children. There are more than 15 picture frames of her family members on the bedside table. And so what???? Bother these ladies found themselves in a nursing home! I would understand that the childless lady expected this end of life…. but what about the one who raised 8 kids? Did she expect or pan this for herself? The result is the same. They just use you and dump you in a nursing home. I am a single mother who was hurt by her estranged son

          Reply
    • Ann

      Oh my, sounds like you’re the one that’s regretful, bitter and unhappy. Geez.

      Reply
    • Karen

      Sweetie you can have kids and still be bitter and alone. I know several people like this. You need to get that out of your head. What is it with people who say “well who will take care of you when you get older”. That is a terrible mentality to have.

      Reply
      • Mike P

        Yep shouldn’t have kids to take care of you. It’s not anyone’s burden but your own.

        Reply
    • Romina

      I have a kid AND Gucci sunglasses. So there! Lol ;). I remember being “anti-child” once. And if my daughter wants to hang out with me (or care for me) when I’m old that would be awesome but it is not her obligation.

      Reply
  38. eschultz

    Lexi sounds like someone who is afraid of pain and change and either hasn’t had much life experience or has had horrible life experiences. She has the right to be selfish. Only Lexi can live her life for her.
    As a single mother who is the survivor of a relationship frought with abuse and a survivor of past mental and physical abuse, I cannot expect anyone to understand why I chose to have my daughter. My strength however benefits her. Whatever lessons I have learned in life I can pass to her. Having kids is not for everyone. Being honest about it is being true to themselves. Choosing to have kids is the buisness of those who have them and neither side needs to point fingers. I am glad we are all different people.

    Reply
    • Adamska

      “Having kids is not for everyone. Being honest about it is being true to themselves. Choosing to have kids is the buisness of those who have them and neither side needs to point fingers.”
      Well said. I don’t understand why some think that everybody arbitrarily needs to have kids. It’s not for everyone. People that don’t want kids aren’t going to make great parents anyway!

      Reply
  39. Candice

    Wow thank you for this. My last friend just had her second child. She has lost her figure (she still looks 6 months pregnant), her money, her sanity, all her friends and her marriage is ruined. My husband and I are retired YOUNG with lots of money, health, ability to travel, be intimate, sleep in, etc. I can no longer be around breeders. They scare me and remind me too much of the bullet I just dodged. Whewwwwww

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      I suppose you didn’t read much past the title Candice. 🙂

      Reply
    • Tom

      I wish I made the choices you made. I live in a child filled hell. I can’t do anything besides try to conserve what little money we have while my wife spends 15 bucks a pound on steak for a 3 year old. I want to die more everyday.

      Reply
  40. CarlZurri

    People have societal pressure to breed, pressure from family to breed, and internalized self pressure to breed. They are sheeple and afraid they won’t be regarded as “normal” if they don’t breed. So they make kids and hope for the best. It’s pretty common nowadays to have kids who fail to launch, and kids to create their own kids who then get dumped on their patents, who now are stuck primarily or secondarily at the least, raising their grandchildren. For people who say ‘it’s just an 18 year commitment’, think again.

    Reply
  41. Todd Narruhn

    I love my child and as a single parent, my happiest moments are with her. It’s better than all the things I have done under the sun. I think the author needs to go back to school and/ or study the dynamics of empathy and love because the only thing I saw as being miserable is a myopic view of parenthood. Seriously, stop blogging and start thinking.

    Reply
    • Jonathan

      If you the most you’ve accomplished in life is popping out a kid then you haven’t done anything different from any other animal. I think YOU should go back to school and learn how to read and stop being terminally mediocre. Actually try to achieve something meaningful in life not just reproducing. Extremely pathetic!

      Reply
      • CarlZurri

        Completely agree with you Jonathan

        Reply
        • Todd Narruhn

          Well, you can go through life being an opinionated, selfish asshole or you can teach your kids not to be like you. Not everything is about you and that is why you shouldn’t have children.

          Reply
          • Michael Jenkins

            Todd, you write about empathy and love. About love – woman often claim to be a mystery but in fact their mystery has only the one solution – pregnancy.
            Love, thus to the common woman, is provision of a roof. But there are rare women who truly seek the companionship of men, and their ego upon the man rather than upon the “family”, and further to treat man as a child, as men are inherently child-like. They must be greatly valued by men who cannot overcome the burdening of female instinct and societal pressure to give up on yourself and defer your efforts to a child.
            Men (and some rare woman) are in fact the more complex and mysterious ones, not the common women – who’s destination of mystery has only one cause – family. The solution for women comprehending the mysteriousness of men – it is to see that men seek not family but to be a child, but rarely reach such a condition of mind and society attempts to pacify them to comply with the common women’s single destination.

      • Vivi

        Love your comment Jonathan! So true!!

        Reply
      • Diana

        I agree with you Jonathan. Todd’s comment was just plain stupid. Being with your child is the happiest you’ve been & better than all things you’ve done under the sun??!! Geez Todd, If that’s your thinking, what on earth have you even done under the sun?! Re-evaluate your life my friend.

        Reply
    • CarlZurri

      And of course what YOU experience is how everybody should also think and feel. Gtfo.

      Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      Thanks for the advice Todd, except your comment proves you did not read the article.

      Reply
      • Todd Narruhn

        Actually, I did read your article. I read it three times. I don’t think you read my comment. I got better advice from a crackerjack box. Becoming a father has made me young again. Seeing the world through my daughter’s eyes brings me joy. I get to take a break from the day-to-day struggles and realize I don’t have to be some self-centered blogger who thinks he has all the answers.

        Reply
        • Charlie

          Tod, our are very keen to convince everyone that being a parent made you happy. If that is so why do you sound so angry? Reading through all the comments you stand out as someone who is about to lose it and is in need of therapy. You are someone who I categorise as ‘deeply unhappy’ without self awareness.

          Reply
  42. Jasmine North

    I never wanted children…..I prefer dogs, cats, horses and generally all non human animals. And after observing a sibling who ended up with an incredibly unintelligent, stunted adult child, I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t travel down that road.

    Reply
  43. Lexi

    I would rather chose happiness at the end of the day over meaning. What’s the point in having any kind of meaning in your life if it just makes you miserable? sort of unrelated but on the topic of happiness; unlike most people, I will actually admit to enjoy short bursts of gratification instead of waiting to achieve something long term. In other words, I would much rather have that flashy sports car right here and now instead of waiting 20 plus years to see if I raised a good child or not. I am not ashamed to admit this nor should others be. HAte me if you will, but throughout my life no one looked out for my happiness so I had to learn to find it myself.
    There are also many negatives when it comes to raising children that I don’t think I would be able to cope with if it happened to me:
    1. Giving up everything in life to raise a child who ends up hating you. I’ve personally seen this happen to a family friend, who is an AMAZING woman by the way who did nothing to deserve this treatment. The daughter even addresses the mother by her first name and she is over 20 years old. Sometimes I have a habit of calling my mom mother and she insists that I call her mom!
    2. Being a single mother to more than one child I did not even want. Oh sure, it’s so easy for a man to be a father every other weekend and enjoy his time off, but could you imagine doing all the hard stuff on your own? Trying to get the kids ready for school every day when they do not want to go, getting their lunch ready and probably sacrificing the time to make your own lunch, only to have the children complain about everything you packed for them? Oh, and how about getting home after work to cook dinner for everyone, and “helping” them with their homework after or anything else teachers tell parents what to do for their children that needs to be completed by such and such dates. Such as sience fair projects or costumes for school plays. It’s easy for the father to take the kid to the freaken park for chrissake!
    3. On a somewhat unrelated topic as well I also stay out of relationships in case I “fall in love” which is just dopamine chemicals produced from the brain, by the way and fades over time. Only to have him emotinally blackmail me with children after marriage. I most likely will have more money than any man who is interested in me, and if he refuses to sign a prenup and I agree to marry him anyway, it is my bigges tfear that he will blackmail me into doing anything I want for him (such as having children I do not want) otherwise he will divorce me and take me for everything I’ve got. I could never imagine being a single mother with more than one job only to support myself and a family that I never wanted. As I said before, it’s easy for the single father to bring the children to the park and back home again.
    4. Mommy and me clubs. Do I really need to barf? I will save you from that discussion as you probably know how horrible it is if you are forced to hang out with other mothers you do not like because you have to hang out with the parents of your child’s friends or your partner’s friends.
    Tell me that you are glad that I am not having any children and I will agree with you.

    Reply
    • Roberto Calderon

      @Lexi
      1) Yes I am very happy you are not having children because you would make a horribly selfish mother who in short order would be a manic mess who couldn’t even get out of bed let alone take care of a child.
      2) You clearly have trust issues that require some serious soul searching or therapy. You say things that make me think you have had some pretty crappy men in your life, and thus you are just broken now when it comes to trusting people.
      3) You also mention raising a child alone over and over as if you know in advance your marriage would fall apart and this man would then turn into a vindictive predator….. this speaks to a deeper issue….. you don’t know how to be happy alone…. so you can’t be happy with other people.
      4) You should be alone forever tell you learn how to love more than just yourself.

      Reply
    • Not negative but realist

      So true, but when I was growing up in the 1960’s, getting married & having Children was like some kind of a goal & we were going to do it right by God & NOT make the same mistakes our Parents did. We of course didn’t understand all the dynamics behind having a Family. You learn that as you go along as if everyone knew what those dynamics were, essentially nobody in their right mind would do it. And it is cradle to the grave unless your Children end up to be successful financially. Even working a steady job is no longer the answer as the cost of living is so high for most so you end up helping them financially. Not everyone is cut out ending up with all the skills it takes to become financially independent or maybe they’re lazy so it’s hit or miss. Having a Family is indeed a tremendous sacrifice. I was a legal guardian of my Husband’s 4 younger Brothers & Sisters at age 19 as my Mother & Father-in-Law died prematurely. I though I was doing a good deed until things went South—my Husband ended up to be an alcoholic just like his Father & that complicated any & all problems. So I don’t have a relationship with those kids anymore after sacrificing like 10 years of my life so if I only knew then what I now know. It’s just not worth it although other folks do have happy endings to their stories despite the problems everyone has in life. But that, too is hit or miss as to whether or not that will actually happen & one won’t know until they go through it themselves if they choose to which very often young people will as they have alot of strength & hope which diminishes as you age because of the realities of life haven’t kicked in. So that’s why we continue to have Children (and now it’s not taboo to be single to have them). Ignorance truly is bliss!

      Reply
  44. Lindsay Miller

    “How about thinking of others first instead of ourselves? Raising children is actually not hard if you don’t think the sun revolves around you.”
    I’m in tears. I live with moderate to severe chronic pain & illnesses. This began bothering me when I hit my late 30’s. I wish I had been allowed the choice. I “live” with a my caregiver & was recently diagnosed late in life with autism spectrum disorder. I’ve been in poverty my entire life. Even though I put myself through college. I have to accept being dependant on others with no career nor raising a child. Not by my choice; I’m estranged from my birth family. I volunteer when I can. I don’t get the choice to have or raise a baby. It really hurts to hear I’m being selfish?! I have to do little things that help others in other ways. I have to be okay with focusing on my health, participating in activism, & quality of life. I know of past friends who are raising children bc they simply have the money & support to it. As I said I’m crying as I write this. Forgive me if I make a few mistakes in this comment. I’m not that lucky. If you had any idea what abuse I’ve had gone through & how difficult each hour is for me; maybe you’d not say it’s easy to have a baby nor raise 1 & say someone like me is selfish? It’s quite obvious you are lucky. However; clueless & cruel to say that. Not everyone gets to choose or born into a good situation with support. Nor does everyone get out of poverty or avoid chronic illness most their life. Actually our species has about 12 years to slow down the warming of our planet. Cites are running out of water like Cape Town. Overpopulation is a very significant part of it. I have a friend who’s going to speak on it for a local group I organize events/speakers for. I could argue that having babies is selfish. It hurts you think I’m being selfish. By responsibly trying to help those here? By not adding to our climate crisis? By volunteering my time to bring awareness to others. Bc I do get to choose to be better educated. It’s disheartening how many people are selfishly only caring about their family. It breaks my heart that I’m frowned upon by individuals who think like you. Learn how to keep our planet survivable for the next generations.

    Reply
    • CarlZurri

      The p.o.s.who said that obviously is a misogynist who thinks women are just for fun and breeding and raising his spawn.

      Reply
  45. kyo

    I hate kids. never cared for them or to have any. people who don’t have kids live longer and happier. I see many people including some family members with kids who messed up their lives once they brought kids into the world. theyre miserable. some even got divorces. wedding was kinda too pointless then wasnt it?

    Reply
    • Mike P

      I want my money back from that wedding lol !!!!

      Reply
  46. Andrea

    John? Will you be my boyfriend ?because I think I’m in love. You are a smart guy. A curse really to be so intelligent in a deluge of stupidity.

    Reply
  47. Chloe :))

    i am screeching!john i love your comment XD

    Reply
  48. Mcolisi

    From a biblical point of view “Be fruitfull & multiply” as the words admonish show that God desired for the continuation of mankind.The ability for mankind to procreate is the blessing,not necessarily the offsprings themselves,I would say.Children are only a blessing if they will not bring reproach,heartache,useless strain,stress & strife to their parents.Let’s assume parent X births a disfigured,physically impaired l,mentally retarded & otherwise unrully,wayward child who struggles with school then later on abuses alcohol,drugs thereafter becoming a deadbeat parent themselves.Can we honestly say this child X was a blessing?.TO WHOM??Children are only a blessing if they have positive psychology.One should only have children if they want them ,not because of some vague call for ‘meaning’ one seeks to find,whilst the truth behind the births of such is just simply unprotected sex.A majority of children result from unplanned pregnancies after which some are forced to be parents.People should be fruitful & multiply,as supported by the bible,intentionally.Then their supposed call for ‘meaning’ would be genuine & not just a cover up for accidental pregnancies

    Reply
  49. Byron

    How about thinking of others first instead of ourselves? Raising children is actually not hard if you don’t think the sun revolves around you.

    Reply
    • Anna

      Thinking of others first instead of yourself? having children is extremely selfish. like the article said over and over, we have children because we think it will make US happy, did you not read any of the content?

      Reply
    • Lisa

      If you truly were thinking of others first instead of yourself you would have realized that when people have a baby they are willing to give the world to it. When you do give the world to 1 child you can no longer give your all to so many other things…world social issues, your job, your friends, your partner, elderly family members, etc. Sometimes people dont have a child because they are already giving to the world in some other profound way and they may even be doing it through a career! Without the people working in business you wouldnt have a stroller to buy for your child…you would have to build one yourself. Your argument that people dont have children because they think the world revolves around them is very ignorant. There are multiple ways that people make a social contribution outside of raising kids. The truth is …people have kids because they want to. Having a baby to care for appeals to them. You dont get to wear a badge of honor for being less selfish than ALL others just because you had a baby. There are numerous “less selfish” people that dont have babies. The selfish argument is really nonsense and its used way too much.

      Reply
    • John

      There are some really stupid ideas surrounding having kids. Your life is YOURS, the goal is to accomplish great things and to be happy both, but having kids to fulfill “personal meaning” is just mediocrity. It’s an acknowledgement that you really can’t contribute much else to the world, no great achievements, no great innovations, no great art, so you’re just content to pop out some offspring and kick the ball down the field. It’s also a ludicrous idea that you’re somehow this little martyr for having kids and “sacrificing” your chance at The Good Life out of some duty to society. Society, by the way, doesn’t even exist in any meaningful sense. It’s just a collection of individuals with their own goals and dreams, and each individual either somehow benefits your quest for happiness or hinders it. There is no reason for anyone to “serve” society. We are not slaves, society is not our master, you are master of your own self and your domain and as a thinking person have a responsibility to make the best logical decisions you can. Having kids is completely illogical on every level from an individual standpoint. Nature is just lucky some people are so stupid they have kids accidentally and are stuck with a miserable life.

      Reply
      • Allie B

        John, this might be the best comment on this subject I have ever read. Hahaha brilliant.

        Reply
      • Max

        Absolutely brilliant ?

        Reply
    • Corgnificent

      Have you (YOU – not your wife or baby momma) actually raised any children? If you thought it wasn’t that hard, you must not have put much effort in.

      Reply
  50. Leela

    Generation after generation have been conditioned to believe that meaning in life is a type of happiness and if one has no meaning then one has no happiness. As a caribbean woman on east indian decent i can tell you that we are pressured into believing such. I am almost 30 and unmarried with no children. I have been asked questions like what are you waiting for (as if it’s a matter of choice when you meet someone); and what are you living for etc….I have had so much pressure from women especially on this subject and been lectured on how happy and fulfilling such a life is etc but then come the complaints of such a life…as you say the paradox. I think people should choose what makes them happy and not assume that happiness and fulfillment has the same benchmark source for everyone else…

    Reply
  51. Emerson

    For me, pareting is strongly associated with the release of oxytocin, which is a type of happiness hormone, in addition to agreeing with colleagues about the meaning and value attached to pareting influencing the positive emotions felt. In any case, if somehow the parenting behaviors were not rewarded by our mammalian brain, our species probably would not have survived to this day.

    Reply
  52. Amadrio Joyce Opio

    This is so interesting! But what matters most is the value one attaches to what makes up happiness. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  53. nick

    Children are a blessing! No pain, no gain!

    Reply
  54. Noel

    To me a while ago I would say I agree with not having kids but now that I have them I can say that they give me so much joy and happiness that I did not experience before as they are a bless, I would say, but not everything is joy all the time there are ups and downs on trying to find or understand how to raise them. Happiness to me is a state that you build by yourself and not everyone is made to enjoy loneliness that is one of the reasons why many people get married and have children. I do see the beuty of both sides but just trying to be happy with what I have day by day.

    Reply
  55. Terry Branick

    I don’t like the name of your article. It caught me quite off guard. I have 5 kids and eight grandkids and they bring me much happiness, much pain, sorrow, love, and laughter. We need to take the bad with the good. If we weren’t so selfish, we would be happier in the first place. Momma used to say when I was down, “I’m going out to eat worms. I’m going out to eat worms. A great big fat one, an itty bitty skinny one, I’m going out to eat worms.” So people eat your freakin worms and enjoy it. “Suck it up,” as my husband would say. Life only happens once. Giving your life to others is the most wonderful Godly thing you can do. You were made by God, so give back to him what he deserves. That’s what’s wrong with this world. You left God out! Without God, you have nothing. With God,you have everything.

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      So people can’t give without believing in God? That’s just a false, dogmatic statement. I’m doing quite alright without any top-down explanatory systems to comfort me, thank you 🙂

      Reply
      • grace tse

        can’t agree more! And I think God is not a top-down system. God is in all of us and we don’t need to give anything back to him. To love is what we are born to do, but love inherently bring us pain and suffering (we grief for our loved ones, feel pain when people we love are in pain). Therefore the paradox is in life itself not just with parenthood. And feeling unhappy has got nothing to do with being selfish. Seph, thanks for a great article to offer a fresh perspective and points out this human condition which most people are struggling with and feel confused about.

        Reply
    • Charlie

      It doesn’t sound like you are living your life. You are living for God. I would be interested to find out if your children enjoy your company. Since you are so devoted to the Man.

      Reply
  56. Margaret Bennett

    Hi Seph and other Readers, it is refreshing to find some writing on this subject – a matter that I have had plenty of time to ponder. I am now 50 years of age and made the decision not to bring children into this world in my 20’s. I guess that I believed I had a choice, due to the example of my sister, who became a Catholic nun when I was 12 (she the only Catholic in our family). So I am on ‘the flip side’. For my high school peers, in the 1980s’, my impression was that as an adult getting married and having children seemed to be ‘the thing to do’. Sorry, but it wasn’t for me! I admire those who have chosen to parent greatly, and loved my own parents dearly (now departed). I enjoy being with children too, but have never felt the need to have my own – in my family this role has fallen to my big brother and his lovely wife, who now have grandchildren. My hope is that other women who have made this choice find their voices in coming decades, and that we hear more from academics and researchers about the outcomes and experiences of this ‘alternative’ group, who used to be called Maiden Aunts.

    Reply
  57. Lynette

    My husband and I decided not to have children, due to our age. He died 6 years after we got married. I never regretted not having children. Happiness is a choice that you make.

    Reply
  58. Johan

    I am 57 no wife and no kids, heeehhhaaaa I am an extremely happy person, and all knows me say the same. Do I want kids ? no definitely not, do I want a wife ? no no no no no no. Been there done it never again as long as I live
    why? then I will never be as happy as i am n now. I do not have drama, baggage, moaning and groaning and complaining, screaming, shouting. In laws that is more of a pain rather the pleasure. I do want I want, when I want, I eat what I want, I do not need to report to anyone. With kids, no way, love them was Godfather of 9.

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      To each his own Johan!
      There are plenty of other sources in life to draw meaning from, causes to spend your time and energy on and fulfilling activities.
      Research shows that especially people who are higher educated have less trouble finding other sources (than kids) to dedicate themselves to.

      Reply
  59. Rimi

    I’m 36 and still not sure if I want kids. We clearly have an overpopulation problem so not sure I want to contribute to that, and it seems like having kids is the “easy way out” to find meaning and purpose. No disrespect to existing parents here, just want to share a real perspective… Also seems like the desire to have kids is mostly ego-based and I wonder if the confusion around finding happiness is mixing the voice of the soul with that of the ego?

    Reply
    • kyo

      agree with all you said!

      Reply
  60. Didier

    Life is a paradox… Happiness is a paradox… and sure parenthood as well!!!
    I have 2 children but what a joy it’s to share Life with them like relatives, friends or even colleagues… ok sometimes it’s a mess and so???
    Enjoy life doing your best.

    Reply
  61. Dirk Le Roux

    Thanks, Seph. I agree 100%, but would like to ask the following 2 questions: One of the happiness peaks is “between the departure of the last child from home and the death of one’s spouse”. How would this period of happiness be influenced by the grandchildren when the grandparents live in very close proximity (say in the same house). Would there be a dip in this happiness period? My second question: Do possible future rewards not influence the current happiness?

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      Very interesting questions Dirk. Not sure what the research says about this, but from what I’ve read and seen, grandparents are happier, on average, than parents. Living in the same house with a joint family has advantages and disadvantages. Some of the burdens can be shared among four adults for instance, instead of just two. On the other hand, the financial situation and how well the family members treat each other are very important factors as well. Hard to generalise, which is what I’ve tried not to do in the article as well by sticking to research findings, averages.
      Regarding your second question: that has to do with the cognitive abilities of the individual and the ability to delay gratification for instance. People who have self-control as one of their top strengths (which is rare) will be better able to let future rewards weigh in on the decisions they make in the present.
      Great stuff Dirk

      Reply
  62. sudarshana

    Quite a different thinking.. Good.. I love your writing.. yeah have gone through tough times.. sucks energy and afterall.. confused..? what is life..asking you for..?Parenthood paradox might be a little difficult to digest but I feel its the truth…

    Reply
  63. Ruth

    Brilliant article, thank you. At 70, with 2 children in their forties and now expecting my first grandchild, I can so appreciate the honesty and wonderful dose of reality here. Wish I had had this awareness 45 years ago! An antidote to all the striving for perfection and more, more, more in life. Keep writing!! 🙂

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      Thank you so much for saying that Ruth. It means a lot.

      Reply
  64. Lynette

    This concept may not be applicable in the culture where I come from, infact if anyone speaks about the negative aspects linked to having and raising children they may be scorned and looked down upon.Though with changing lifestyles and careers, marriages and children have taken a backseat. As rightly pointed that it’s not about having children per se that leads to increased stresses but the expectations, the same being true about marriage!!!.

    Reply
  65. Constantinos skouroupati

    Great article!!
    it has multiple applications, and it enable us re-evalute our thoughts when we have doubts about our path in life

    Reply
  66. Sheetal khatri

    Great article Seph sir. For me as a mother of two kids very true. I really like this.

    Reply
  67. Bob Brotchie

    Excellent thought provoking insight, as ever, Seph – thank you.
    Do you think this other perspective might also be part of the equation? The negative impact of sub-optimal upbringing for those once children, now becoming (or not) parents? I recall when my first child arrived, I was devastating and completely distressed, without knowing why at the time. I’d always believed having a child would complete me, I think and of course everyone had said through my young adult life what a great Dad I’d make! I wonder how or if childhood emotional neglect was considered in research?

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      Thanks Bob.
      Interestingly, I notice a lot of people are talking about their own decision to have kids or not in the comments and on Facebook. I understand that, but that’s not what the article is about. It’s about why people are so focused on personal happiness even though they would choose meaning over happiness. The parenthood paradox is an example of this phenomenon. I think it’s interesting to speculate about the reasons for this.
      To your point about sub-optimal upbringing, I find it hard to say anything in general about that. I’ve seen people flourish in spite of or even because of suboptimal upbringing (and I consider myself an example of this), and I’ve seen things turn out badly as a result of it.
      The problem is that people think that they shouldn’t have any problems. If that’s your attitude in life, you’re more prepared to deal with inevitable setbacks. Again, it comes down to people’s expectations and I think our Western societies set the bar way too high. This leads to a variety of negative outcomes through upward comparison, relative deprivation etc.

      Reply
  68. Terry

    Thanks for the article. I had six kids-2 of whom are under 18. I have about 6 years to go. I thought kids would make me happy and for the most part, they did when they were young. No one told me they would grow up and have minds of their own! Just kidding. I’m looking forward to that space between empty nest and end of life. But daily, I remain thankful which makes me happy. I’m a believer!

    Reply
  69. Robyn Walshe

    I’m with Elke! A wonderful mix of well-reasoned commentary on an age-old dilemma.

    Reply
  70. Jodie Cooper

    Great article Seph, yes I certainly wouldn’t have had kids if I sat down and thought too long about it. Thankfully I didn’t, and my two continue to frustrate me…. and bring me immeasurable meaning, joy and love.

    Reply
  71. Sibonelo

    Woooow I am really touched by the insight in this piece of writing. You have just taught me that happiness is not a goal to be aimed at but an experienced to be had where one is currently and as for that line, “it is not what life offers but what we believe it should offer that prevents us from experiencing happiness” it just stands out for me, it is so true I have noticed it many times.Thanks for sharing such, our minds need daily transformation because we are so imprisoned by them.

    Reply
  72. Jenn

    Totally agree. When we stay present and cherish the little things, life with kids is quite fun. When we try to keep up to the ” Jones” when we start to expect to much then it is easy to get frustrated. As a parent of three, one with needs, it is hard to stay in the moment and allow for unrestricted growth. To know that happiness is your choice.

    Reply
  73. Dorothy Farrand

    I found great meaning in this article. It explains what I’ve intuitively known but never quite articulated. Thank you.

    Reply
  74. henry

    From my point of view it would be a mistake if someone thinks having a baby could be a matter of happiness if we have a good understanding of what happiness represents. There is nothing in the world that will bring anybody happiness forever or unhappiness forever. Having a child is not the exception. In fact, having a baby is probably one of the most challenging things in life but not everybody will face it in the same way.

    Reply
  75. Lisa Sansom

    Well done Seph. I’m currently at the bottom of the U curve 🙂 Age, years married, kids’ ages – all right there. So I know it’s all going to get better from here! And for my kids too 🙂

    Reply
  76. sheng Li

    Seph, nice writing.
    It is really a paradox. Just as the path Budhha already taught us, we wish to go to the Moon but we grasp the fingers which lead to the Moon and even consider the fingers as the Moon.

    Reply
  77. Angelique

    The paradoxes of things…Truelly great food for the mind seeking either/ or. Makes me happy
    somehow…thanks (no children at 40…wondering if…)

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      Happy to hear that Angelique!

      Reply
  78. Charles Abrahams

    I really enjoyed the perspective writing. We’ll done Seph

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      Thanks Charles!

      Reply
  79. Bastiaan

    Good writing Seph. For me as a dad of 3 young kids (1yr, 2,5yr and 4yr) very true. Happiness is a mindset, don’t compare, don’t over expect and enjoy the tiny happy moments!

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      Glad to see you got the gist of the article Bastiaan. I realise the title may provoke some strong reactions in people, but I think the moral of the article can in the end be seen as quite uplifting, or even as a relief.

      Reply
  80. Francisca Varas

    I just had a session with a father of new-born twins. the couple also has a 2 year old daughter. He feels awful about being angry and frustrated with his new living situation, not being able to sleep, relax, work, everything seems dark! The session was about The Here and The Now, bringing attention to idealization processes (they don´t have to be the perfect family!), bringing attention to their own needs as real human beings, bringing attention to their own needs and limitations, as well as being the “happy and completely fulfilled family because
    of the birth of a child. The article is perfect and in the right direction!

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      Thanks Francisca. What you say is spot on.

      Reply
  81. Marcio

    I already have problems with all these: time demands, energy demands, sleep deprivation (potentially starting a vicious circle), work-life balance disturbances, financial burden.
    I don’t need a child to increase all those and make my life harder. Also, I would rather deal with problems that I got myself into than dealing with problems someone else got me into.

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      Hey Marcio. If that is the case, it seems wise to sort those issues out before getting children. The point of the article is not too discourage people from having children though. The point is to make people think about their expectations regarding parenthood and about whether they really value happiness (in terms of positive emotions) over meaning. Most do not.

      Reply
  82. CRISTINA

    Thanks Seph, as usual your comments and reflections are very useful, blessings.

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      Thank you so much for saying that Cristina.

      Reply
  83. Melanie McKinnon

    Well this is perfect. Exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you so much for your kind honesty. ❤️

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      Anytime Melanie!

      Reply
  84. Elke

    Love your witty writing style Seph! Thanks for this one.

    Reply
    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      Haha, thanks Elke 🙂 Hope all is going well with you!

      Reply

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