Psychological Concerns Of Having A Kid

Kids Won’t Make You Happy

If you thought that having kids would be mostly a joy with some stressful moments, you have it backwards. There is an abundance of research showing that parents are less happy than their childless peers. The Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman surveyed almost 1000 working Texas mothers and found that they enjoy parenting just about as much as housework, exercise, and preparing food. On a day to day basis, mothers aren’t happy taking care of their children. They are stressed and tired, and fathers aren’t faring much better.

Generally, mothers are unhappy because they have no time for themselves and are overloaded with chores. And fathers are unhappy because they feel neglected by their wives, sex-starved, pressured to make more money, and guilty that they don’t get to spend enough time with their kids. Consequently, marriages suffer because of disagreements over the kids as well as the endless responsibility, worry, fatigue, and financial strain of having dependents. Every time I read another article depicting the crushing reality of parenting, I wonder why all my friends with kids are encouraging me to join the club. Are these parents truly happy or does misery love company?

One explanation is that having a kid makes you delusional. You will hardly ever hear a parent admit they regret having kids because their mind is protecting them from thinking it. This is called cognitive dissonance, which often happens when a person makes a choice that conflicts with his belief about himself or the world. To reconcile that conflict, his mind finds a way to rationalize that choice.

For an example, say I decide to buy an $800 pair of Christian Louboutins, but the shoes turn out to be too painful to walk in and gives me blisters. Instead of accepting that I made a costly mistake and that all the praise for Louboutin shoes is just hype, I glorify the shoes, justifying to myself and others that the shoes are stylish and sexy, and totally worth the pain, blisters, and credit card debt. I’ve convinced myself so thoroughly, that I go and buy another pair, even though I probably won’t really enjoy wearing them.

The same goes for parenting. Study after study reveals that parenting makes people drained, angry, stressed, even depressed, but so many parents swear that it’s the best decision they ever made. Cognitive dissonance is at play here, according to psychologists Richard Eibach and Steven Mock, who conducted two studies revealing that “parents idealize the rewards of parenting to rationalize the costs of parenting.” Having kids is a choice from which there’s no turning back. So even if it’s less rewarding than we expected, we have to make the best of it. Thank god our minds help us out with this.

Your Kid Will Not Be Everything You Hoped

When we fantasize about having children, we like to imagine our kids growing up to be smarter, fitter, more attractive versions of ourselves. We daydream that our kids will go to Ivy League schools and become NBA players, movie stars, lawyers, doctors, inventors, or in my fantasy, a principal dancer at a major ballet company.

However, it is highly unlikely that your kid will become an exceptional person. In fact, you should be happy if your kid turns out to be average because the reality is that most people are actually below average. And if you try to force your kid to become an outlier (think tiger parenting), or try to pave the way for your kid’s success by managing their lives (think helicopter parenting), then your kid will probably end up resenting you or worse, disowning you.

Your Marriage May Not Survive

It’s probably not news to you that children are hard on a marriage. Even if a couple seems solid and in sync before a baby, the strain of having kids makes it harder to keep the passion, compassion, generosity, and affection alive. Children become the priority, and the quality time you used to spend together as a couple gets sacrificed.

Lack of time is not the only strain parenting puts on a marriage. Having kids is transformative and can change a person in fundamental and unexpected ways. Sometimes that means that couples that were once compatible grow apart or battle over issues that weren’t on their radar before becoming a parent. And when the kids finally leave the nest, many couples realize they no longer have much in common. 

Continue reading “What To Consider Before Having A Kid, Part 5.”

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