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”.