WHEN WE WANT to describe something as wholesome, we say “it’s as American as motherhood and apple pie.” Parenting may indeed be virtuous. But does it make us happier? The research is mixed.
On average, people with kids say they’re happier. But if you dig into the data, it turns out that having children neither helps nor hurts happiness, and instead the big boost to happiness comes from being married. Indeed, folks who are single—both those raising children and those who aren’t—report being distinctly less happy than those who are married.
Clearly, raising children can involve additional daily stress. But what happens when parents sit back and evaluate their overall lives? As someone who has raised two children and is helping to raise two stepchildren, I believe having kids has made my life richer. But maybe I’m deluding myself. The research has found that, on average, parents evaluate their overall lives no better than those without children.