But let's face the facts: Study after study has shown that parents, compared to adults without kids, experience lower emotional well-being -- fewer positive feelings and more negative ones -- and have unhappier marriages and suffer more from depression.Reading that didn't make me too happy. Or should I write that I had more negative feelings. Maybe I should stick to pets, proven to have positive health effects on people. I admit that I have my share of bad parental days. How that compares to my life before kids is a difficult question. I readily acknowledge that I have given up many of my favorite activities to help raise our children. Is that okay? It depends on the day. After our recent snowpocalypse, I helped the twins make their own igloos (really snow caves cut out of the cement-like snow piled up from the plowed road). That was joyous. In fact, it was a rare moment in which I didn't spend any time stepping out of the experience to analyze it. That is rare for me.
But really, I have given up sleeping well. I have fallen behind or dropped many of the life practices I think are important (exercise, paying bills, home and car maintenance). As painful as it has been giving up some of the things I love and some important life practices, I can rationalize my cognitive dissonance as well as the next parent.
Being a parent has helped me to simplify my life. I spend less money and time on frivolous things. In fact, I spend less time coveting frivolous things and activities as well. I spend more time doing what I think is important, which is spending time with human beings and participating in creative acts (that only small children can create -- imagine Calvinball explained through nonsense-speak). I think more about the future, not just in a global-the-world-needs-love kind of way, but in a very practical, local, what kind of life do I want to lead and to give my children.
Herbert writes about an earlier time when children were valued more for their economic contributions to the family and less for the emotional relationships they had with their parents. Herbert also writes about the ways parents rationalize their choices. I suspect I am doing that here, too. In my pre-parent life I would never have been staying up late to write. I would do that during normal business hours. Now, I am sacrificing more sleep so I can have some semblance of a writing life and spend time during the day with my children -- something I think is vital and priceless. I refuse to be an absentee parent. I refuse to be an absentee parent (yes, I wrote that twice: once for you and once for me). Over the last two days I have gotten very little work done (which is painful for a workaholic like me), but I've had two snow days and I chose to spend it with my kids. We've had a great time that can never be replaced. I hope we talk about the snow of 2011 for years to come.
Being a parent is also a lot more expensive than not having children. Herbert claims that raising kids to 18 costs approximately $190k. For me that means $270k. I don't know where Herbert and the government gets that number, but ouch! What would I spend that 270k on? Electronic gadgets? Travel? Tools? What are those things worth?
So for me, ultimately it isn't about parenting being a joy or not. Sure, I could write about the joyous moments of parenting, of seeing amazing leaps my children make, seeing their faces light up and the unconditional love-hugs I get on a daily basis. But my response to Herbert's piece isn't about my positive or negative feelings, and it isn't about financial security. It's about parenting helping me be the person I've always thought I should be. There are days that it sucks, days that I wish I could hop a plane to Belize and fish for bonefish in the sun. But I believe I'm on the right path and I have my kids to thank for that.