Parenting Does Not Make You Happy

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This is a big topic.  There's no way I can summarize it with just one blog post.  But I'll try anyway. Full disclosure, I have raised two children, my 13 year-old daughter and my 19 year-old son, and while it's possible I could have more under the right conditions, it's unlikely.

-By Caleb Jones

Here's the bottom line on whether or not having kids makes you happier, that no one will tell you:

For the majority of people in the modern western world, having kids makes you unhappier on the overall.  There have been numerous, numerous studies over the years backing this up, about how people's happiness levels decrease when they start having babies, then they increase again once the last kid finally moves out of the house.

I said the majority of people.  There are some oddballs out there who truly are happier having children.  But these people are rare; I'd put them at less than 15% of the population.  (And as always, I'm talking about the western world, not places like India or Africa).  If you live in the western world, it is highly unlikely you are one of those people. Virtually NO PARENT will EVER openly admit that having kids made them less happy, because they incorrectly believe that's the same as admitting you don't love your children.  Having your life less happy because you have kids does NOT mean you love your kids ANY less.  One has nothing to do with the other.

If more people understood that, more people would admit the truth...that having kids makes you less happy.  I love my two children more than anyone else in this world.  That includes women I love or have loved, my parents, and even me.  I love them more than anyone and I miss them when they're not with me.

Yet I'm honest enough to admit that when I had both my kids living with me full-time, I was a little less happy on the overall.  I wasn't miserable, I just wasn't as happy as when I was free to live my life and be myself.  And no, that unhappiness wasn't somehow "worth it"; i.e. I would have been happier had I never had children in the first place.

Most importantly, I can tell you for a fact this is exactly the same for the vast majority of parents out there.  The only difference is I have the courage to admit it.  They don't.  (Or a minimum, they won't until they're well into their 50's when the kids have all grown and left the house, when they feel they can finally admit it without hurting anyone's feelings.)

Virtually no one realizes the financial and emotional toll and insane time commitment it takes to have kids until they actually have some and it's too late to put them back in the womb.  Even with things like marriage, a lot of not-yet-married people realize that being married will kinda suck.  But with childless people, they think having kids is a consistently wonderful thing.  People have no idea what they're getting into.

Even if people were to start admitting this unpleasant reality, women would still have kids.  That's what women are biologically wired to do.  Even in our prosperous, modern, technological, secular age, the vast, vast majority of women still crank out a baby or two before they hit age 45, no matter how "evolved" or "liberated" or "informed" they become.  I could say the same thing about most modern men as well.

So bottom line, having kids makes you less happy.  But no one will tell you that.  Except me. But you don't care.  You'll still have kids.  🙂

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  • notebeams 2011-03-13 08:48:17

    My sister had her first kid about 5 months ago. Home on the holidays (kid two months old at that point) I asked her a little sarcastically, "So, are you sooooo happy all the time now that you have a kid?" She said, "Well, you know, they say that your life isn't necessarily happier with kids, but that it's more fulfilling." Man, fuck that.

  • Blackdragon 2011-03-13 12:39:47

    English translation from womanese: "My biology forces me to have children whether I know it will make me happy or unhappy, and I can't admit to you that choice made me unhappy." The rational response you could make to her statement is: "So the only way to make your life more fulfilling is to do something that makes you less happy? Couldn't you have thought of a few ways to make your life both more fulfilling and more happy? I certainly could come up with a few." Of course, saying that would simply make her angry and defensive, since we're talking about biology and not logic or happiness, so it would be a waste of time to say. But it does really make you think.

  • jordanbrianjason 2012-04-08 20:39:25

    Pursuing my freedom is much more important to me than having kids. So at the age of 31 (a year ago) I had a visectomy. I've never had kids so I had to talk the doc into it. Truth is I can have it reversed if I change my mind or I could just adopt. I was a little nervous about it but after going though with it I feel great about my decision. I see all these worn down parents out in public, tired, trapped, angry, spent. Not me. Other than the 9-5 I'm working to escape I'm a free man. No ring no kids nearly no worries.

  • Blackdragon 2012-04-09 10:05:29

    That was a brave decision. My hat's off to you. I haven't gotten one myself yet but at one point I was close.

  • Jake 2012-09-11 06:22:14

    What is it that you think makes you happy long-term? It seems like you are saying there is a way to derive long-term happiness but I view it as nothing makes you happy, ultimately. Everything is just something that gives you momentary joy that must then be filled by something else soon after. Just like eating makes you full, having a kid or buying a car, or donating money or banging, all trigger a sense of temporary fulfillment that will very soon turn to hunger. Are you viewing it differently?

  • Blackdragon 2012-09-11 09:12:57

    That is a huge topic and my book will go into it in detail. The specific answer is that it depends on the person, since what makes me happy may not make you happy. I don't agree with your premise but assuming I did, and you could never be ultimately happy, there would definitely still be life situations you could get yourself into that would make you more consistently UNhappy for very long periods of time, as in years or decades. (i.e. staying married to the wrong person, a divorce that forces you to pay huge amounts of alimony or child support for 20 years, having kids when you really didn't want them, sticking with a boring job, living in a city or country you hate, etc). If one wanted to stay "not unhappy", one would have to learn to avoid these things.

  • P 2013-10-28 02:28:37

    I've started to explore the land of the free man 2.0 and it's good. Abrasive, sarcastic, cynical yet truthful... Sometimes full of contradictions well side- stepped or put aside on the account of experience and old age. A bit guru to my liking, but then again, that's why you're here for, to give advice and expose the theories you have made out of your way of life so it was to be expected. But I'm liking it, it's a different outlook on life. Regarding children and women, you mention several times in what I've read so far biological imperatives, for good reason obviously, and I've laughed at your reader's comment on his sisters life being finally fulfilled. I hear that A LOT, though I think it' sad people need to depend on others - whether it be children or a monogamous, "meaningful textbook relationship" to make them whole. Children are messy, complicated and a lot of responsibility. People should realize that, and your post goes in the right direction in that respect. Ever heard a woman describe childbirth? She will most likely tell you it was worth it, which is strange, because if someone tried to rip my vagina in half to make it into the next level of humanity, you'd think one would be cured of having any more right? Yet when you listen, they rarely mention anything such as excruciating pain, horrible weeks after or the awful transformations your body goes through during the whole process of growing and birthing a child. In a much recent post, you said something like fuck society, it doesn't need you to care for it and you were partly right. It can take care of itself, society has nothing on biology and endorphins. Men have a great advantage on women regarding children and biology, and it carries through society : while it's perfectly acceptable not to have children for a man, a woman will get frowned upon, as if she's not pulling her weight to keep the human race going. People will tend to regard them as half complete,as if they were missing the key factor of their existence, they're outcasted by their peers who cannot fathom why a woman, biologically wired to reproduce, would not play her part in the humanity equation.

  • Kevin Velasco 2013-11-21 17:43:20

    This post reminds me of a TIME article ... The Childfree Life - When having it all means not having children:,9171,2148636,00.html

  • Nars-ass-sis bolox 2015-10-06 14:09:26

    I'm approaching 30 and i still have no desire to have kids, never have done and i don't think I ever will. I still feel like I got a lot of my life to live so its never crossed my mind. Thing is some of my friends are starting to have kids and get married and i look at how boring their life is and its not making me feel any different.

  • Elkay Mann 2015-10-19 04:27:53

    I just wanted to point out that (from my point of view) happiness as a life objetive, or as the end of life, is just another Disney thought. I strongly believe, and have proven myself, that the very meaning of my life is learning/evolving/growing smarter-stronger/"maturing", that I'm here in this world to get as much knowledge (not just information, REAL knowledge) as I can. Does this mean being happy is not important/something you should give a crap about? Nope. It means you should focus on achieving a higher state of wisdom (as opposed to being a walking enciclopedia, like the universities want you to be...) Happiness is a consequence of acting wisely. Unless you are stupid/ignorant and don't care about living a better life, of course, then you can be happy with a sad, shallow, poor life, it's REALLY easy when you know nothing! "Ignorance is bliss"... but, if you aim higher and higher, then happiness alone isn't going to take you anywhere. It doesn't push you to go further, cause you already reached your goal!... Knowledge is going to make you keep going, wisdom actually. Happiness is just one of the benefits of getting wiser. It will motivate you to get even wiser, because being happy while being a mature (= with your emotions under control), educated, proactive, assertive man is a way more intense experience than being happy while not being anything like that. And there are a lot more reasons to grow wise than just happiness, although self-created happiness is probably one of the strongest motivators there can be. Cheers!

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