Abruptly, the dream had come to an end, leaving a nightmare in its wake. New York magazine contributor Jennifer Senior felt deep down that things were not supposed to be this way; parenthood should have been like something out of a Hollywood picture in which love, honor, and tranquility conquered all. What she was experiencing, though, was more akin to that which might be expected to take place during a particularly nasty breakup between two passionate romantic partners. The male in the picture picked up a splintery piece of wood and, in a fit of anger bordering on rage, hurled it at her head. Seeing that the debris had not hit its target, he reached for a screwdriver to finish the job.
Then it was time for bed, though not without a stern, but one-sided, discussion on the rules of the house. Promptly after, Ms. Senior made a beeline for the liquor cabinet as she pondered what her once adoringly innocent two-and-a-half-year-old son had done. A while later, she sat down and began to write a lengthy article on why having children can be, to the shock and repulsion of many, a joyless and bitter endeavor.
While many would indeed perceive the option of refraining from parenthood to be controversial in the extreme, it is an increasingly attractive one for Americans from coast to coast. The reasons for this are numerous and, needless to say, vary greatly based upon the individual, or set of individuals, in question. Nonetheless, as a great deal of researchers have found, one’s happiness is most certainly not assured by membership in the baby boom. As a matter of fact, such a thing can actually result in one becoming a considerably angrier person, lending credence, like nothing else possibly could, to the argument that being a mother or a father simply is not for everybody. With the childless craze receiving perhaps its most notable press yet in a cover story of TIME magazine earlier this year, there can be no denying that the once spat-upon status of child-free is engaging in some serious upwards mobility.
To understand exactly why this is, though, one must examine the facts on the ground closely . When coming home from a long day of work, generally speaking, what any given person almost definitely wants is a period of respite, something that is a faint wish if children are present. While such a thing has been common knowledge for ages, a 2004 study conducted by Robin W. Simon and Leda E. Nath, researchers from the University of Florida and University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, respectively, found that parents sharing a home with their offspring felt, on average, far less calm than their contemporaries whose places of residence were devoid of youths.
This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, however. Roughly one year later, Simon collaborated with Vanderbilt University sociologist Ranae Evenson to settle the question of whether or not raising children actually causes depression. Both came to the resounding conclusion that it assuredly does, and even went so far as to assess the very meaning of modern parenthood in American society. In addition to these developments, they also discovered that with every additional child comes an increased degree of personal depression.
Considering this, it should come as no surprise that the vast majority of parents, in the words of psychologists Richard Eibach and Steven Mock, tend to idealize, “the emotional rewards of parenting….to rationalize the financial costs of raising children.” Their study on the subject matter, which recently appeared in the journal, Psychological Science, proved decisively that mothers and fathers alike delude themselves into believing that the pitfalls of child rearing outweigh the pinnacles. Such a startling conclusion was arrived at after two groups of parents were given different sets of information about raising minors; the first group was informed only of the negative attributes, while the second was given a comprehensive analysis of the financial necessities of parenthood. Ultimately, the former group compensated for the inconveniences of children with romanticized visions of happiness derived from their offspring, while the latter acknowledged that a childfree life was, essentially, a more personally beneficial one. In order to confirm their findings, Eibach and Mock recruited a group of non-parents and repeated their experiment, this time adding the question of whether or not time spent with children brought joy to the individuals in question. Their finding would most definitely be considered disturbing by a great deal; those with a well-rounded perspective of parenthood ranked the time spent with children on any given day as, in comparison to other activities, unsatisfying.