Really? I'll be happier without kids? No kidding...

Come on, look how happy I am with my niece and nephew.
I was on my way to meet good friends the other day, stuck in LA traffic, and this Freakonomics program was on the radio: "The Economists Guide to Parenting." David and I are getting pretty serious about trying to start a family so I gave it a listen. Hey, even though we're not parents yet, I might as well get a head start.

The show had economists applying rational economic theory to child-rearing and family planning. They talked about the investments parents make in their children (piano lessons, soccer camp, organic produce...) even though they are likely to have very little or no return. A couple economists argued that you should be a more chill parent so you and your kids will be happier. All of it was very interesting, but the part that stuck with me as I crawled along Fairfax was the scientific study stating that married couples without kids were much happier than married couples with kids. Really? David and I are happier than all of our married counterparts with kids? Can someone remind me why I want to have kids?

Anyway, I met up with my friends and their almost-two-year-old son. I thought about how happy I was not having to take care of a kid during lunch. I watched little Keanu's parents take turns walking with him, coaxing him to eat, or drink or nap and though I'm pretty sure his parents still had a nice time, it also looked like a lot of work. And still, as I got back into my car by myself, I knew I agreed with those economists. I know it's irrational to want the craziness of being a parent. I can't explain it, but when I talked with David about the story later that evening, we both knew, without a doubt, starting a family is what we both want. So, look at us now, we're pretty happy, but wish us luck. We hope to be less happy very soon.


  1. I'm the oldest of four and a former nanny, and I still go back and forth about whether or not I want children. I adore the kids I nanny'd for, but I got a first hand experience being a (semi) parent and it was often completely exhausting. I also saw the toll it took on the marriage of my employers.

    But when those kids smile when they see me and want to tell me stories about games they play and new things they discover, my WHOLE world is better. A cuddle from them is worth more than most other things. I can't imagine how I'll feel about my own children, if I feel this way about someone else's. I suppose that's truly the scary part.

  2. Thanks, Ashley, for reading and commenting. I too wonder how I'll feel about my own kids... scary indeed.

  3. It's a different type of happiness that only parents understand. I definitely find myself more tired at any given hour of the day than when I didn't have children. And my husband and I no longer have the freedom to be spontaneous. Going to the grocery store without the kids is considered a break, private time for mommy or daddy. But I'm the happiest I've ever been because they bring an unexplainable joy to our lives.

  4. What is the gift that children offer us, and what gift is elicited from us in return? Who do we become in the presence of our children?

    Having kids is my greatest happiness. My sons have enlightened and transformed me.

    Though I gave them birth, they gave me an intangible opening of the heart to both empower and humble me.

    I use this article in my child abuse college classes as an ice breaker.

    To meditate on:
    On Children
    Kahlil Gibran

    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them,
    but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children
    as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might
    that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    so He loves also the bow that is stable.

  5. my wife and i aren't sure if we want kids. of the two of us, i think she wants them a little more than me. then again, some days i'd love to have a son or daughter. and yet, i sometimes fail to see the value, for lack of a better word, in having children.

    any desire i feel for wanting kids comes with a bit of social responsibility...or, i should say, social pressure. i don't know...too much to type out in a comment box.

  6. Thank you Alma and Caren for your thoughts. From two mothers at very different places in the parenting process, it's good to hear...

  7. Hey Mensah, when I was a youngin about your age and newly married, my partner and I figured we'd have kids but it was so distant on the horizon that I wasn't really sure either. It's a decision, however, that I wish people would reflect on more rather than giving into the social pressure that kids are just what you do next.

  8. agreed. the social pressure actually makes me less inclined to have children...which, as far as reasons go, is equally dubious. all in all, we're figuring out what we want...both as individuals and as a married couple. to be continued...

  9. I watched a PBS series "This Emotional Life" with Dan Gilbert (which I highly recommend), and he explains that while couples without children tend to rate themselves as happier, couples with children have longer lasting relationships, so it's more of a choice between what sort of unhappiness/happiness you want to have in your life, but no one avoids it completely!