Are you a Happy Parent?

I read an interesting article in a recent Psychologies Magazine, written by Emily L Baker, which made me question something I’ve never really felt the need to question before, at least not to great extent. It was entitled “Do Children Make Us Happy?” The basis of the article is that the reason modern mothers may find themselves unhappy is that there are more and more pressures being put upon us to do our job perfectly, or a certain way. We put unnecessary strains on ourselves for fear of doing something a friend or a family member, or indeed society itself may look down on.

When a mother admits that she isn’t necessarily happy, it is seen as a failing, that somehow this means she is an awful, incompetent mother. “It’s not considered normal to be unhappy if you have kids” writes Emily, and its true. We as parents are expected to revel in the challenge, the rewards, the fact that no matter how many tantrums your child has, one hug or one smile can make it all worth it. Perhaps this is the reason why many mothers suffering from post natal depression find it so difficult to reach out for help.

Having children brings all sorts of problems to ones life: financial and relationship strains, less free time, work/life balance upsets, anxieties about safety and prospects, household duties, and amongst it all is the pressure society puts on mothers by expecting them to spend every spare minute with their children. If a mother so much as chooses to leave her offspring with a family member so she can have time to herself, she is seen as selfish, putting her needs before that of her children. According to research published by Dr Oriel Sullivan, parents now spend three times as much time with their children compared to a generation ago. We put pressure on ourselves to be perfect parents and to do the right thing for our children at every moment, and a very fitting quote from the article is “If we can revise our expectations of parenthood, we lessen the risk of feeling like failures.”

So, am I a happy parent? To be perfectly honest, I have little idea of what it is like not to have a child, having had mine at the age of 17, and I suppose this means I do not have the same longing for a previous way of life which older parents may feel. Perhaps it is a case of ignorance is bliss. Im not always happy, being a parent brings huge strains, and sometimes I do need a really good break. Its often difficult to justify putting my own needs before that of my child, but knowing that it is ok to have some time out is a huge step towards being happy and content in parenthood.

As Emily writes, “Children bring us fulfilment on a grand scale, but at a very high price of daily frustration. Ultimately, perhaps we all need to be just a little more selfish”.

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8 Responses to Are you a Happy Parent?

  1. TheMadHouse says:

    I think that I am happy most of the time, but then the same could be said of the opposite

  2. Very interesting topic. I agree there are many more pressures put on parents in society today. Too much conflicting advice, too many choices, too many decisions to make about what ‘kind of parent’ you want to be.

    I’ve found the easiest way for me is to surrender to the process and try and be as honest as possible. But sometimes when I’m honest about having a bad week I get what I’ve entitled the ‘pity face’ staring back at me or some sort of advice I don’t need and it’s at that moment I realise why so many parents lie about ‘everything being fine, all the time’.

    I think more people need to acknowledge that parenting is hard sometimes and that it’s okay to say so and it’s okay to have some ‘time out’.

  3. Lucy Quick says:

    Excellent post 🙂

    I’m not *always* happy – but I don’t really think that anyone is! I totally relate to the difficulty of putting your own needs ahead of your children – but I feel that it is important to take some time for yourself every now and then; I think ultimately it makes you better able to cope with the day to day frustrations parenting can bring 🙂

  4. That’s interesting. I guess, yes, I am happy. I am not happier than I was before, but I have been very happy before having a baby as well. Maybe some of the mothers that are unhappy today have been unhappy before they became mothers?
    Having had little L fairly late (at almost 32), I felt like I did everything I ever wanted to do with my life before I had her. Now, the good thing for you is, if you should ever have the wish to have time for yourself, go out, get wasted, do stupid stuff… you can still do it. Because by the time you’ll be my age, your son will be able able to look after himself. 🙂

    • I do have a lot to look forward to. The most worrying aspect of the research though was that even after children have grown up, parents were still more unhappy that those who have never had children. Simply having more time is the one thing I wish for.

  5. Pingback: This Month in the Blogosphere – August 2010 | Lucy's blog

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