Is parenting bliss or hell?

‘The costs of raising children motivate parents to idealize parenthood,’ says a new study published in the journal Psychological Science and reported on MSNBC. 

The study set out to prove that because the economic value of children isn’t what it used to be – they can’t go out and be breadwinners as early as yesteryear and we don’t get them to work on our farms anymore – parents overcompensate by exaggerating their emotional value.

Now, the joy of parenting is not something I think about a lot. What with the endless lunchbox-filling, laundry-folding and argument-mediating, I scarcely have time to reflect on how idyllic my life is now that I have kids.

But it was a topic that occupied my mind a few years back when I had by firstborn. I remember being taken aback by a surprising trend I noticed in modern parenting: moms competing with each other to be the least satisfied with parenting.

Miserable about parenting?

What I observed on becoming a part of the mom club was a surprising amount of moms who felt uncomfortable with their role as mom and who were dissatisfied with their lot. I heard them say things like: ‘I can’t bake a cake without almost burning the house down.’;  ‘I have no idea what to say to those perfect moms at my kid’s school.’; ‘I can’t stand children’s parties. I hope they serve alcohol at this one.’ ; ‘Ugh. Another parent-teacher meeting. Kill me now.’

I became aware that it wasn’t trendy to say that you enjoyed some aspects of parenting. It wasn’t cool to like kids’ parties, or take pleasure in playing snakes and ladders 20 times in a row. Parenting is a slog. We’d much rather be shopping, or getting our nails done.

In contrast, this study says that lately, parents are at pains to say how rewarding having children is and how much emotional satisfaction they get from being parents. ‘When confronted with the real economic costs of having children, most parents will exaggerate their happiness to validate their choice to have children.’

So which side is true? That parenting is unrewarding, or that it’s heavenly?

I’d say it’s somewhere in the middle. Those of us who can’t bake or sew feel ill at ease in the presence of those for whom those things come naturally. Of course none of us truly enjoy sitting through endless school meetings. Infinite school runs and lifts to extra-murals can suck the joy out any day. And I challenge anyone to say that they get a thrill out of telling their 11-year-old to tidy his room every day.

But having children is gratifying. Nothing beats the belly laugh of a child. Nothing comes close to a kiss from a toddler. And you can have all the money in the world for a ‘You’re the best, mom’ from your daughter when you’ve put a chocolate muffin in her lunchbox. If that’s exaggeration, then I say, sue me. I’m a mom and mostly, it’s wonderful.

What do you say about the good and bad of parenting?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.
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