I heard a great speaker on MPR — Daniel Gilbert talking about happiness. I highly recommend that you listen to it. A lot of things in the talk struck me and kept me thinking.
In particular, he talks about how married people are happier than unmarried people and that men in particular are much happier when married than when unmarried. He also claims that people with children are unhappier than people without. He is talking about averages based on polling, so individual cases vary wildly, of course. But still, as a married man with children, I found it quite thought provoking.
First of all, I totally understand why married people are happier. As much as we might like to fantasize about being single and alone, being alone gets old. Sharing our lives with a partner is something that is deep in our bones and I’m not surprised that people with a committed, loving partner are happier than those without.
But the kids thing surprised me. Kids bring such strong emotions into our lives. You literally fall in love with your own kids and it is very rewarding and very satisfying, in a way. Yet I totally understand, after thinking about it, why people with kids poll less happy: freedom. Or more accurately, the lack of freedom. Kids steal your freedom and it hurts like a bitch.
Marriage changes your freedom a lot, but we all know where the Emergency Exit is. We choose to be married and we can unchoose it whenever we want. Kids, though, are forever.
I totally love my kids. They are by far the most important people in my life. I wouldn’t unmake them in my unhappiest moments. But I get it, kids hurt.