How can parents be happy during the pandemic? | Opinion
To say that parenting during the pandemic was difficult underestimates the challenge: struggling to get your kids to pay attention to the lessons on screen. Juggle a seemingly endless array of work-related and childcare tasks around the home. Arguing with your partner over who should do what. And, most importantly, worry about what COVID-19 might do for you, your family, and especially your children.
There is no doubt that parenting over the past 18 months has been difficult. But the message that many media outlets sent about parenting during the pandemic makes it seem like most parents are miserable and have had it worse than childless ones.
Take this headline from The Atlantic: “Parents Disagree. In the words of author Dan Sinker: “We’re supposed to send our kids into God knows what, work our work and live our lives like nothing has happened, and hold it all together for months and can. – to be now for years without ever seeing a way out. It’s not good. Nothing is right. No parent is doing well, and I don’t know how we’re going to get out of it. “
A recent Slate article painted an equally grim picture with the headline “I’ve been alone and without friends since becoming a parent.” The author, a father writing for Slate’s parenting advice column, complained that as his family emerges from the darkest days of COVID-19, they have “had a really, really tough time restoring social ties now that we have kids in the mix “.
Stories like these suggest parenting has been a trap amid COVID, leaving us fathers and mothers miserable and alone.
These COVID-era articles add to a more sustained anti-natalist message that parenthood makes us miserable and could torpedo your marriage or even the environment. “American parents are unhappy: Moms and dads face a huge ‘happiness gap’,” Salon said, highlighting a recent sociological study. NBC News contributed the following article: “Science proves children are bad for the earth. Morality suggests that we stop having them. Not to be outdone, the Washington Post headlined, “Why Having Children Is Bad For Your Marriage.”
There is only one problem with this manipulation: it no longer matches the data.
While it is true that parents were once more likely to report that they were less happy than their childless peers, today it is most certainly. not true. Recent research by Chris Herbst and James McQuivey suggests that the wave of happiness has turned to parents, especially those who are married.
This conclusion is also evident in a new YouGov survey, conducted this summer by the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution. Investigation shows that following COVID-19, childless Americans are now more likely to report that their life is lonely and less likely to report that they are meaningful and happy. A clear majority of men and women (almost 60%) between the ages of 18 and 55 who do not have children say they are alone some, most or all of the time.
Only a minority of their peers with children, 45%, report this kind of loneliness.
Parents are also more likely to say their life is meaningful. A large majority of parents aged 18 to 55 (83%) who have children report that their life is meaningful some, most or all of the time. The share is slightly lower for men and women without children (75%).
Additionally, this survey provides more evidence, even during a pandemic, that parents are generally happier than non-parents. The survey reveals that 82% of parents are “very happy” or “somewhat happy” against 68% of childless. In fact, men and women without children are also more likely than parents to say their life is sad most or all of the time.
Finally, the survey indicates that married parents performed better than their childless peers who are married for most of these results. For example, 84% of married parents are very or somewhat happy, compared to only 72% of their married peers without children.
Parenthood itself is also linked to greater happiness, regardless of the parents’ marital status. Even among single adults between the ages of 18 and 55, those who have children seem happier than those who don’t.
Previous research using data from the early 2000s showed that parenthood in the United States was negatively associated with happiness. Fast forward to 2021, and what we are seeing is that in the midst of a pandemic, that pattern appears to have reversed. In other words, today, men and women in their prime who have children, especially those who are married and have children, report the greatest happiness and the most meaning in their lives. life.
Katherine, a married mother of two in Virginia, tells us why this is the case. On the one hand, she admits that she had more free time and more opportunities to do fun things – from window shopping and going out to “fancier restaurants” to her favorite bloggers – when she had no children. Today her “life is more difficult now that I have children.” A crying baby, a dirty kitchen, or a toddler’s temper tantrums regularly disrupt their day. Concerns about the safety of her children were also emotionally draining. The care and attention that her two young children need every day has forced her to “truly die to myself and become selfless.”
But, she insists, this self-death has given way to a more recent and fuller life.
“I find a lot of purpose and meaning in everyday life (family activities), as well as in the most exciting times when my kids go through certain milestones or when you have a great time with one of them. Observed Katherine, who is also a teacher. Compared to herself, she is less alone and has fewer “moments of sadness”.
Her happiness in life is “more complete because it is shared with my husband and children,” as well as with other friends and family. His bond with his own parents and in-laws has deepened as they are “able to speak, communicate and bond with children.”
Finally, motherhood allowed her to connect with a group of mothers in her local church, which made her feel more connected to her religious community. For Katherine, it is true that the transition to motherhood has required sacrifices and stress. So far, our culture’s narrative follows its experience.
But motherhood has too made her more compassionate, charitable and connected. “I think there is a deeper fulfillment there,” she said. This is where today’s dominant narrative falls apart. And judging from the YouGov survey, Katherine is not out of the question in declaring more happiness today as a 30-year-old mother than she would have as a young adult without children.
His comments also reflect research on the new happiness gap between parents and the childless. Not only do parents, especially newlyweds, often enjoy a greater sense of meaning and togetherness in their home, but they also seem to form deeper bonds with other people outside the home, especially in a world where so many of our social ties have shrunk. in the face of antisocial blocks, polarization, and enticing electronic alternatives to in-person activities.
Indeed, researcher Chris Herbst believes that “the constant erosion of social and civic ties among Americans” has been weakest for mothers and fathers. Today everything from church youth groups to soccer trips to PTOs seem more likely to link parents to other real people in real life. Considering how important these connections are to our social and emotional health, not to mention the sense of togetherness and meaning found in many, if not all, families, it’s no surprise that parents like Katherine report higher levels of happiness.
In 1947, Winston Churchill declared in Parliament: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. The same could be said of family life today. The struggles, stress and grief of being married and raising children can make family life feel like the “worst form” of life. But, at least compared to peers living outside of families, Americans in families are significantly less lonely and lead more meaningful and joyful lives.
Brad Wilcox is director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, a senior fellow of the Institute for Family Studies and a contributor to Deseret News. Wendy Wang is Research Director at the Institute for Family Studies.