Having children: is it synonymous with happiness?

Having children can be one of the happiest experiences in a person’s life, but this is not necessarily the case 100% of the time. Although in today’s society there is constant pressure to make motherhood seen as a blessing, a wonderful and always positive thing, the truth is that there are media voices that are starting to speak out about children. less idyllic aspects of motherhood, and they tell us that not all that glitters is gold.

recently journalist Samanta Villar raised controversy due to statements in the ABC newspaper where he said that after his recent motherhood he was no happier than before and that having children “lost his quality of life”. The attacks and criticisms on social media for these statements are a clear example of the idealization of motherhood.

But what does science say about the relationship between psychological well-being and motherhood?

    How do children influence the relationship?

    One of the areas that can be most influenced by the birth of a new family member it’s marital satisfaction. The organization of the couple’s system must be reviewed and adjusted, and may even be considered a crisis. It’s because this baby needs all the attention he can get and the relationship is taking a back seat.

    When it’s time to take back the prominence of the romantic relationship, they appear problems such as the couple’s loss of privacy, Which may affect communication and sexual intercourse.

    A meta-analysis conducted by Jean M. Twenge, W. Keith Campbell and Craig A. Foster and published in 2003 in the Journal of Marriage and Family shows that the transition to motherhood or fatherhood can:

    1. Increase stress

    The increase in the number of tasks that the couple has to do after the birth of the baby increases their stress level and generates tension in the relationship. The latter is due to the reduced availability of time for communication.

    2. Interfere in the relationship

    The presence of the new family member may affect companionship of the couple and their sexual relations.

    3. Overload roles

    By increasing the tasks to be performed, parents are forced to take on new roles to the point of being overwhelmed.

    4. Create negative reviews about marriage

    This happens mostly in women with less traditional values.

      What do the studies say?

      The authors claim that there are also cases in which the birth of a baby can have positive effects in marital satisfaction, so they indicate that certain variables may be involved in the relationship.

      The meta-analysis included 97 articles, corresponding to a total sample of 47,692 participants. The results showed that:

      1. Decreases satisfaction with the relationship

      People with children were less satisfied with the couple in 90 of the 97 articles analyzed. 55% of people without children say they are satisfied with their relationship, compared to 45% of people with children.

      2. The more children there are, the less satisfaction there is.

      Couples with the most children report one worse marital satisfaction than couples with fewer children.

      3. It affects women’s satisfaction more

      In women, with the motherhood further decreases satisfaction in the couple compared to the men entering into paternity.

      4. The effect increases with the socio-economic level

      The people of a high socio-economic level shows less satisfaction of torque than those located in the lower levels.

      Consequences for personal happiness

      As for the person’s happiness at the birth of a baby, a recent article by Jennifer Glass, Robin W. Simon and Matthew A. Andersson published in the American Journal of Sociology which analyzes 22 European countries and the United States shows that not all countries bring less happiness when people are parents.

      The United States and Ireland are the countries where parents are least happy, while countries like Finland, Norway, France and In Spain, people with children are happier than people without children.

      The authors of this article argue that the lack of parent-friendly policies that help balance work and family life creates more anxiety and stress for parents, decreasing their happiness. The results may seem surprising if we compare the ease of reconciliation between the Nordic countries and Spain.

        Motherhood is idealized

        As we have seen, having children it can have negative effects on the quality of life of people. Loss of relationship satisfaction, the effect on people’s sex life, stress and anxiety are some of the effects that the arrival of a new family member can have on people.

        So, the idealization of motherhood, silencing all these negative effects, is doing a disservice to people who are suffering emotional distress due to these important changes that occur with the birth of a baby. It can also cause a false feeling that family reconciliation services and aids are sufficient and thus limit the scrutiny of government policies in this regard.

          Bibliographical references:

          • Glass, J., Simon, RW and Andersson, MA (2016). Parenting and Happiness: Effects of Work-Life Balance Policies in 22 OECD Countries. American Journal of Sociology, 122 (3), 886-929.
          • Twenge, JM, Campbell, WK and Foster, California (2003). Parenting and marital satisfaction: a meta-analytical review. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65: 574-583.

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