Life is a series of ups and downs that cannot always be controlled, and, apparently, parenthood is actually making couples miserable, so it’s moving from the ‘ups’ column to the ‘downers’. This one might do some damage.
Researchers Rachel Margolis and Mikko Myrskylä have conducted a study that might be met with quite a lot of controversy due to tackling the taboo subject of real life happiness level of new parents. It’s clearly not the Hallmark experience of joy, first smiles, first words and firsts everything. At least not for the most part.
However, before rethinking future plans you may have for life, there is a silver lining at the end.
The study followed over 2,000 Germans who were childless at the beginning of the study and followed their happiness levels at least two years before they started having babies. The reason behind the survey was rooted in the longstanding acclaimed fact that people often want two children, but inevitably end up with just one.
After 40 years of statements and excitement expressed at the thought of having at least two babies, the national average has remained as 1.5 per woman, which has piqued the curiosity of scientists that dug into a very sensitive subject. The conclusion might be difficult to swallow as it goes against any Hollywood-like image of what having children is like.
Throughout the years, participants in the study were asked to rate their level of happiness between 0 (completely dissatisfied) and 10 (completely satisfied) in a bit of an admittedly vague parameter of ‘general life satisfaction’.
Asking the blunter question of ‘how has a child affected their happiness’ might’ve provided untruthful answers due to parents unlikely to admit to the negative impacts of parenthood. So, a bit of blurring along the lines was understandably required.
Around 30% of the participants reported themselves to be just as happy as they were before having children. However, the numbers grew grimmer from there. Among new mothers and fathers alike, 37% reported a drop of 1 unit in happiness, 19% a drop of 2 units, and 17% admitted to a worrying drop of 3 units.
The average percentage among parents was then set at a 1.4 unit drop in their happiness after having a child. Considering similar studies for other life impacting events, the results are unexpectedly drastic and worrying. On the same scale, statistics have shown people to have a 0.6 unit drop after divorce, and a 1 point drop for unemployment or the death of a spouse.
Gender did not seem to pose as a differentiating factor, and study has uncovered three possible reasons why parents discard the idea of having the previously expressed want for a second child: the physical discomfort of mothers, the fathers’ worries for their partner’s well being, and the couple’s general exhaustion.
It should be noted that the study was conducted among parents with children below the age of 2 years old, and it has been previously discussed that the first year of parenting will always be the hardest.
So, having a child will likely make you more miserable than you believed possible. At least at first.
However, the promised silver lining is that a different study of 16,000 parents have reported a much bigger overall satisfaction with their lives later on. A child will drop you to your lowest low, but they will also lift you to your highest high.
Image source: theatlantic.com