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The happiness wars

By Victoria Fryer 

A recent article at Parenting.com talks about a survey finding that the childfree and childless are happier than people with children. There have been a number of similar surveys, along with articles by both parents and the childfree trying to determine once and for all: who’s happier?

In fact, if you go to Google and begin typing in “are childfree…” the first option that comes up is “are childfree couples happier?” (The second is “are childfree couples selfish?” but that’s the topic of another post.)

Though the first article I found reported on a survey that finds the childfree are happier, there are others that report the opposite. A paper that came out in 2012 reported that “parents experience greater levels of happiness and meaning.”

The conclusion drawn by many of these surveys and articles and think-pieces that report non-parents are happier is that parenting is very hard. It introduces new stressors, new expenses, and new conflicts among couples. For some of us, of course, the answer is yes—but there are no sweeping generalizations to be made here. So, is having an “easier” life as a childfree person the recipe for happiness? The opposing findings point to the great rewards that come from having children, and as I’ve written about before, finding meaning in life can be a struggle for some childfree.

But in the end, I believe that happiness comes from determining a course of action and following that action to its conclusion. It seems to me that this argument over who’s happier than whom is not only a huge waste of time, it misses the very point of happiness. Having children or not having children is not going to automatically make you happy, just like going to college or not going to college is not going to automatically make you more money, and going to church or not going to church is not going to automatically make you more spiritual.

Everyone has to choose the right decision for themselves and the things they want. I’m sure we all know what a tough decision that can be sometimes, and surely there are some people who make the wrong one in life.

I am happier without children than I would be with them. I know a lot of parents who are happier with their children than they were without them. It seems to me that what would actually make us all happier is if we stopped the happiness wars and redirected that energy into doing the things that make us personally happy.

Victoria Fryer is a 31-year-old writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

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