Have a gander at the latest issue of Newsweek and you’ll come across an article exploring research from several sources revealing that most Americans describe themselves as happier when they are childless. Americans with children, feel that their children make them more unhappy.
Contrary to popular belief, parents are not declaring their undying happiness derived from their bundles of joy. They feel a greater sense of purpose, but not happiness. How tragic. This is really sad. But I truly beleive it is a product of the modern North American model or living and parenting.
Basically, tell me how a family of four, in our culture is supposed to live. Mom and dad get up, get the kids ready, shuffle them to school, go to their jobs, work all day, run errands at lunch, pick the kids up, get dinner, cook dinner, clean, help kids with homework, take kids to play dates, sport practice, bla bla bla, watch TV and pass out in bed. This is a horrendous way to live everyday.
Now not all families live this way, and some days, of course, are going to unfold like this but I really think that life is very different in Europe for families and for three main reasons:
1) VACATION: Europeans have 5-6 weeks vacation. In addition to this, many have flexi time, they have time off for doctors appointments, they have schedules that allow them to wait at home for the repairperson to fix the fridge. How do families live in America with only two weeks vacation? Ten days to spend outside of work a year? This is insane. Families don’t have anytime to devote to each other. And then, when you go home, all you have to face are chores and responsibilities and never a good time. Most of the Euro families I know take off for a full month every year. They go to the beach, they go camping, they go see relatives. The whole family, together. Now trust me, this quality time keeps families closer, teens out of trouble, couples having sex. And I can’t understand why North Americans only receive two weeks vacation. Show me people working on a Friday afternoon. Just show them to me. Instead, many Europeans actually work all week long so that they can get everything done for their vacations.
2) SUBURBIA, no offense to the many of you who live in American suburbia, but when life revolves around driving to big boxes, you can’t possibly feel very happy. Now big boxes exist in Europe, but the majority of people live in centres so that they can walk, bike or take a train everywhere they go. Walk to the local butcher, grab a bouquet of flowers from the street vendor, pick up a fresh pie and a baguette at the baker. This is so much more desirable to fighting the masses at Costco so that you can fill the freezer with pre-made dinners no? If I had to spend two-three of my free hours everyday in traffic or line-ups that smell like ketchup, I would be pretty miserable as well. It’s pretty fantastic when you can really live off everything in your own community.
3) CRAZY PARENTING: child-centred parenting is just that. And when you make your whole life revolve solely around your child, something is going to give and your own happiness is likely. Parents forget they need to enjoy their lives and wether it is doing family activities that everyone can enjoy or having nights off for dates and for fun and relaxation: it’s necessary.
How insane is it that most parents describe their children as a source of unhappiness? One survey found that parents were happier grocery shopping or sleeping than they were spending time with their kids. Ouch.
Doesn’t this raise some red flags that things need to change. No one wants a life that revolves around chores or 100% sacrifice to keep up with play dates. So why are parents making themselves so unhappy? It’s time to look at how they are living their lives and what are some of the underlying problems. Because while I am sure parenting is not always easy and can take a lot of time and stress, shouldn’t it be enjoyable to have children? Seriously.