Our topic on WKYB this morning.
The conventional wisdom was that kids made parents less happy than non-parents.
However, a new study is upending that conclusion. First, they distinguished parents with young children at home from people who had ever had children - the latter being a much more mixed group.
Second, they noted that, since the 1990s, the happiness of non-parents had gone down, whereas the happiness of parents had held steadier. A higher percentage of parents with kids at home started saying they were "very happy", compared to the percentage of non-parents who were very happy.
I read this evidence this way:
Parents generally think that raising kids is meaningful, though hard.
Thinking that what we do is meaningful is a big part of being happy.
Parenting is a specific kind of project, which focuses the mind on what we need to do and to have.
This explains one interesting tidbit of this new study: parents were more confident that they had the financial resources to be happy than were the non-parents. I think this is not because parents had more money, but because they had a better idea of what money they needed. Within the vast and varied group of non-parents are many people who do not have as specific a project for their lives, so they don't know what kind of resources they will need. They can imagine all kinds of scary contingencies - and against our anxieties, no amount of money can ever be enough.
It makes sense to me that people raising kids are happier because they have a better idea of what they are trying to do - and they believe that doing that is, on the whole, happy-making.