As i was browsing through SMH (Sydney Morning Herald) this morning, this article caught my eyes … This is basically along the same line as stated in a book that I bought for Nicolas’ last birthday ‘Becoming Us – the Essential Relationship Guide for Parents’.
I cannot help but wondering, so why are people (including me!!) making babies if they often make us less happy? And why is every parent telling me that it’s all worth it?
And baby makes … trouble
MOST couples assume having children will make them happier. But time and again researchers find parents are no happier than childless couples. More often children seem to bring unhappiness.
Whether measuring life satisfaction, marital satisfaction, mental health or happiness levels, parents often rate worse than non-parents. New research shows it does not have to be that way. The secret to parental happiness lies in a spirit of generosity towards one’s partner, according to a study from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, called When Baby Makes Three.
How often partners express affection for each other, their willingness to forgive each other’s faults, the small acts of service, such as making a cup of tea or giving a back rub, appear crucial in sustaining a couple through the shoals of parenthood.
Based on a representative sample of 1400 married couples, the latest research again found parenthood was typically associated with lower levels of marital happiness. But a significant minority of the couples – 35 per cent – were bucking the odds. What was their secret?
Husbands and wives both ”benefit when they embrace an ethic of marital generosity that puts the welfare of their spouse first,” write the researchers Elizabeth Marquardt and W. Bradford Wilcox in the Atlantic magazine. Those couples that scored highest on the generosity scale and made a regular effort to serve their spouse in small ways were more likely to report being “very happy”.
Other elements, such as good sex, shared housework and religious faith and commitment, also seemed to boost chances of successfully combining marriage and parenting, according to the report. But making the effort to be affectionate and generous to each other was a crucial ingredient.
Eric Hudson, vice-president of the Australian Association of Relationship Counsellors and a counsellor for 25 years, said the birth of the first child often brought a massive change in a couple’s relationship and lifestyle and sometimes less satisfaction. “Couples might not be having as much sex and the attention is focused on the child and then the children,” he said.
“Parents living busy lives can overlook the importance of kindness to each other.”
He said women were still expected to play the role in the marriage of the giving, generous one. And men often felt constrained about showing their softer and loving natures.
“The bunch of flowers sounds cliched but it’s really powerful.”
Robert Cummins, professor of psychology at Deakin University, said money and social support affected couples’ happiness.
Ten years of tracking wellbeing through the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index showed that, whether or not they had children, the happiest couples were secure financially and felt emotionally supported by their partners and a wider network of friends and family.
“What’s tragic is the low wellbeing of many sole parents,” he said. “They rate well below the normal range and that’s very much tied to low income. As soon as income is up to $60,000, their wellbeing is the same as other parents.”
Is happiness the right word to describe what children bring to their parents? The American researchers found married parents, especially women, were more likely to report that their “life had an important purpose” compared to peers who did not have children.