“It’s great! I love being a Mom. It’s the most important thing I’ll ever do,” I say to my newly engaged cousin. Now, what I said to her is 100% true. It is great and I do love it. It’s without question the most important thing I’ll ever do. At the same time, my conscience is whispering that I am lying by omission. It wanted me to say, “I’m also exhausted. My husband and I bicker. I have no time to myself. This is really, really hard.” I flicked my conscience away because no one likes a complainer.
It turns out, many American parents feel my pain. I read in an article entitled, “The parenting happiness gap is real, new research confirms.” Apparently, of the 22 countries studied, American parents are the least happy as compared to their childless counterparts. A whopping 13% less happy! How can this be? Children are a gift. Becoming a mom opened parts of my heart and brain I didn’t know existed. There is a specific joy that a person cannot experience until they are a parent. No one can dispute this. How can there be a “happiness gap”?
The article explains that in countries like Sweden, where paid leave, vacation leave, and quality subsidized child care are the norm, there is no happiness gap. In fact, some people are (as one might expect) happier than those without children.
Okay, now this is making sense. It’s not that children are making us miserable, it’s the stress of living in the least family-friendly developed country in the world. The cost of housing necessitates two incomes for most Americans. This means both parents are working full time with babies as young as 6 weeks old (because we don’t have paid maternity or paternity leave, just paid disability, but I digress). Then there’s the cost of childcare. The American average cost for infant child care is about $972.00 per month. Sweden has a policy where the cost for childcare is to be 3% of your income or not to exceed $140.00 per month (for your first child).
The article goes on about why anyone should care how happy people are. We should care because many diseases can be first attributed to stress. We should also care because these statistics directly affect fertility rates, which can ultimately affect the national economy. Furthermore, people should care about other people. I know that because my 4 year old said so yesterday at the park.
I certainly will not be moving my family to Sweden any time soon. I may just text my cousin the link to the “Happiness Gap” article with the shrugging emoji to clear my conscience.