Monday, July 12, 2010
(Baby Razor laughs at your Science.)
Of course on the morning that I want to write about how being a parent is not as miserable a prospect as the American media seem determined to make it out as, my daughter decides to be a total shit. She's teething, but does she want to chew on the many sanitary, environmentally sound, developmentally appropriate teethers we have for her? No. She wants to chew on the germ-hotbed remote control.
So look, I was going to compile a bunch of articles whose main thesis is Modern parenthood is so awful it will make those years where you were broke, perpetually hungover and living in an apartment where the heat didn't work so you had to sleep in your bathrobe look AWESOME, but I have no idea how long the mini-tyrant is going to nap. So just read this New York Magazine feature, which is the latest and scariest version of the meme that if you want to lead a happy life, you should probably avoid even speaking to children, never mind raising them.
The gist of the article is that the majority of studies show that despite what parents tell you, and even what they themselves believe, science proves that you're less happy after you have a kid than you were before.
I'm not going to call bullshit outright on these studies, but after a lifetime of "Caffeine is bad for you! No good for you! No bad for you!" and "Get mammograms after 40! No don't! No do!" I will admit that I am deeply suspicious of scientific research as reported by the mainstream media.
I mean, I read that whole article and never figured out how the studies defined "happiness," nor how they measured it. Those are things I would have liked to have known, because if you ask me, "Comparing motherhood to your last job, are you more or less happy now?" the answer would be very different compared to if you ask me, "How happy are you right now on a scale of 1 to 10?"
Because as far as I'm concerned, a shrieking, non-verbal boss who regularly poops her pants is preferable to one who calls me by the wrong name for an entire year or stares at my boobs when talking to me or spends six months passive-aggressively ruining my concentration because she wants me to quit so she can hire a friend of hers. And as a stay-at-home-mom I feel like the walls are closing in on me sometimes, sure, but I also felt that way when my days were spent in a six-by-six cubicle in a room with no windows. Actually, I felt that way a lot more in the windowless room.
So is parenthood the best job in the world? No. Anyone who tells you that is either bullshitting or in denial. (For the record, this is the best job in the world.) Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes the kid bites you, or destroys the couch, or bursts into tears and makes you take her to Dairy Queen after she nearly hits a jogger and fails her driver's test (sorry, Mom).
But I finished that New York article and wondered if I'm demonstrably less happy now than I was as a non-parent, should I act more miserable? Should my seemingly-happy friends with children act more miserable? Because we all really like being parents, and we like our kids too. (I took a poll. Very scientific.) Maybe there's a difference between liking your life and being happy. I don't know. All I know is that if you asked me if I was happy being a mother, I would say yes. And if, after rigorous scientific research of my life, you proved that I was not, in fact, as happy as I said I was, I wouldn't be like, "Oh, well, in that case I'd better start telling people I'm actually unhappy! Thank you, Science!"
Sometimes it's okay to believe you're happy and tell science and the media to go screw themselves. I think this is one of those times.