Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Joy in Parenthood

Husband and I heard Jennifer Senior, the author of All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, interviewed on a public radio show, Fresh Air, a few months back. It was such an informative show, (here's the link to it and I'd really like to read her book. Senior talked about how there have been studies indicating that people did not enjoy the tasks of parenting, and these studies have been used as proof in various, popular articles that state that people are not as happy when they have kids. I have encountered a few of these studies and articles and found them to be very frustrating, even before we had our daughter. They seemed like a direct attack on the culture of life, and of course they backed up with studies, so they must be true.

Now that we are parents, I find claims that our happiness is decreased simply to be laughable. Not to brag, but I don't think we've ever been as happy as we are right now.

Senior explained how one of the most frequently-cited studies arrived at its findings, which it turns out I am not the only person to disagree with. Apparently the person who created the study asked people to indicate their happiness level when doing certain tasks, like vacuuming, changing a diaper, watching a funny movie, and so forth. Changing a diaper did not rate very high, nor did a lot of other discreet tasks in parenting. However, things like watching a funny movie did get rated highly. It sounds like people weren't being asked to compare their happiness in parenting to other things, but rather to rate concrete childcare acts. This resulted in the entirety of parenting being given a happiness rating lower than watching Dumb and Dumber.

The author went on to explain that she has found that, as the title of her book indicates, parenthood isn't necessarily "fun" but it is absolutely "joyful." I loved the example she gave, that hearing your child laugh is way better and deeper than any cheap thrill, giving you real joy. She's so right! Getting up for the 5th time in one night to care for my child is not fun, but I'll be darned if any and every act of love and service I do for her doesn't result in my sincere happiness.



  1. Yes--that distinction between *joy* and "fun" or even "happiness" is so important!

  2. I knew there was something sketchy about those studies! Thanks for the clarification. How sneaky of them to only rate happiness while doing tasks!

  3. I agree with Kat - you can't rate happiness just while doing tasks! Of course there wouldn't be a high rating - but playing and loving your child -- the charts would be off the roof!! :-)

  4. I think a lot of it has to do with our attitude approaching the tasks as well. I challenge the engaged couples I work with (and myself!) to view household chores as "acts of service to your family" rather than as awful things to *have* to do. It comes from St. Josemaria Escriva's reflections on family and sanctification through daily life and the question "Do you view all aspects of your life as holy?" When I remember to approach a task, say laundry, with this point of view rather than as a menial task, it becomes more fun and joyful.