Happiness and Children

 

I’ve been searching for ten minutes in which to respond to James P’s thoughtful posts about happiness and children – and here they are. I’ve always thought that studies on whether children make you happy were bogus. Happiness and even contentment are things of the moment. Sex, steak, a check in the mail, a glass of malt – those things make you happy – just as stubbing your toe or getting fired make you unhappy. The goal of life, though, is to live – to live abundantly as our old friend Uncle Jesus liked to say – and if having children doesn’t add to your abundance of life, you’re not doing it right. Abundance of life exists through grief and joy and I doubt any study can measure it. Indeed I doubt the people who measure things even know it’s there to be measured. My wife and I have an in-house expression used to welcome children, pets, friends, charities and other annoyances: “More love – more life.” The reverse is also true: Mark Steyn sees societies dying through depopulation and he’s right – but I would submit that a society that loses the urge to bring children into the world is already dead and just doesn’t know it yet. More precisely, such a society is alive without living. Children may not be the only cure for that but they’re a sure one.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @NickStuart

    I concur with Andrew.

    My wife & I have 5 children. Homeschooled them all K-12. They’re all adults. One is disabled, the other 4 have all been in the military. Three of them are currently active-duty Army.

    Since becoming an empty-nester, one of my projects has been digitizing and putting in one place all the family photos from day 1 (basically, baby pictures of my parents from the early 1900s on forward). The photo-show of thousands of photos plays on my desktop (and our digital photo frame among other places). I refer to watching it as “reviewing my investment portfolio.”

    Because in addition to kids making life abundant, they are also God’s way of making sure you never have any money to spare, including retirement savings.

    Which takes us to Steyn (and other’s) “depopulation” argument. My wife & I bear, raise, and educate at our own expense productive, tax-paying, patriotic citizens. In return our reward from conservative punditocracy is being berated for not having retirement savings, and (whilst I was unemployed for a couple years) being improvident shiftless dregs for not carrying our own medical insurance

    (continued)

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    @NickStuart

    Sorry about the Ricochet conniption that resulted in the double post (a delete post function would be nifty), now where was I??

    Oh yes, the cost of a $10k deductible “catastrophic” policy was $7,200/yr (we shopped around, save me the counter-posts, I know the market for people our age with our pre-existing conditions), we had to make a choice between not paying our property taxes (ensuring certain disposession) or going naked and taking our chances with no medical insurance.

    Now personally, I thought going naked and having no medical insurance was a better deal than what we’ve got with Obamacare. For that matter, if I could just have back the present value of what I paid into Social Security and Medicare for 40 years, I’d be happy to exit the system and go my own way. Throw in what my employers paid and I go away smiling big time.

    But unless you have at least four children yourselves, conservative pundits, spare us the disquisitions on depopulation, and improvident people not saving for their retirement.

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    @NickStuart

    And Drew, your remarks on the podcast a couple weeks ago about conservatives not creating anything.

    Spread the tent a little to include things like technological creativity like creating the basic technology that powers an i-Pod.

    The only art form I know much about is visual art (being a watercolorist myself now that the kids are grown and I have the time. I’m no Hopper or Wyeth, but not everyone who might want an original watercolor painting can afford a Hopper or Wyeth, they can buy one from me). So not every artist is a lunatic left wack job (just seems that way).

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    @Cindy

    Interesting commentary on this subject in the WSJ on Saturday.

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    @PeterRobinson

    Well, here I sit in a hotel room in Providence, Rhode Island, jet-lagged, exhausted, grouchy, and behind in my work on day four of taking my oldest boy to a series of football camps at various New England colleges. The first day I got a sunburn and a backache watching him get hit over and over again by boys who have sixty pounds on him. Then, while he slept, I drove three hours to the next location. And I’ve done that three days in a row now. (The first day went to traveling here from California. Our flight was delayed for four hours because of some obscure mechanical problem before United remembered we were still on the tarmac and ordered up a new plane.) Now here’s the thing: I’ve seldom felt more miserable–and never enjoyed myself more. I thought I’d just keep that to myself because nobody would understand it. But Drew does. God bless him, Drew does.

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    @PeterRobinson

    May I also just add that this is a sentence so gorgeous that it’ll keep me going for a whole day?

    “The goal of life, though, is to live – to live abundantly as our old friend Uncle Jesus liked to say – and if having children doesn’t add to your abundance of life, you’re not doing it right.”

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    @PeterRobinson

    And–final note–that although I’ve never met Nick Stuart, I can tell you right now that I love the guy?

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    @UrsulaHennessey
    Peter Robinson: I’ve seldom felt more miserable–and never enjoyed myself more. · Jun 29 at 7:59am

    Oh, Peter, I understand completely! I grump and whine and complain in my head all day long doing housework and prying sweaty children off each other, but then, just before falling asleep, I am grateful for the opportunity to be this much a part of their lives.

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    @Karen

    I love that word “abundance.” I love to see what parenthood does to people. I seems to make them more themselves. It scrubs away the veneer we put up to protect ourselves from discomfort and anxiety. Parenthood is all about discomfort and anxiety, but sometimes we need to confront those things to become more caring people. I look at the huge transformation in my husband in the 5 years since becoming a father. The first infant he held was the child of guest at our baby shower. He described the experience as “wrestling a wet octopus.” At the time, babies intimidated him, but the stuff that came out of babies terrified him. The other day, suspecting our 2 year old had a dirty diaper, my husband picked him up and held his bottom to his face, the “smell test” we call it. It’s a small thing and a little gross, I know, but it illustrates how children can challenge us to be better than we want to be, a kind of perpetual self-confrontation seminar. And I think the net gain from the parenting experience is happiness, but ask me again when they’re teenagers.

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    @Caryn

    Peter, Ursula, Drew, Karen,Nick, Can I say that at this moment I love you all and envy you mightily? My husband and I have been unable to have children and, having recently passed 50, do not look likely ever to have any. So, we have cats that I baby, a garden for same, and many friends with children. Being part of a highly fertile religious community keeps me busy knitting baby sweaters and blankets and enjoying parenthood vicariously.

    While I disagree with nothing that’s been said here about parenthood, those of us denied its joys can nonetheless live well and abundantly and with much joy. Being creative helps, I think, as parenthood is the ultimate human act of creation, but there are other lesser forms. My husband is a portrait painter (yes, my photo is his work) and his works are a kind of children for him. I have the cats and a fig tree I’ve raised from a twig and I cook and share the output. But we are certainly missing out by not being parents. No question.

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    @DuaneOyen

    Having kids is a drastic shock to a marriage, and changes it completely. Nothing is ever the same again- no footloose, fancy-free, spontaneous living. Always hassles with baby-sitters, exhaustion, messy floors, and laundry. To misquote Lord Chesterfield when he was describing something else (the topic is somewhat related), “the expense is damnable”……

    And no sane parent would ever want to go back to the way it was before. My daughters have enriched my life immeasurably and made me both a better person and a better husband- because nothing on earth is a more sure cure for self-absorption and narcissism than offspring.

    Thirty years ago I had a decision to spend one day each weekend playing golf or staying home with our kids. I still can’t break 130. And who cares.

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    @NickStuart
    Peter Robinson: I thought I’d just keep that to myself because nobody would understand it. · Jun 29 at 7:59am

    Peter, Ursula, Drew et al. Be sure to take plenty of pictures. Digital photography makes it cheap and unbelievably easy. Pictures of everyday life, no special occasion (take the special occasions too). 20-30 years from now you’ll look back and say to yourself “I remember that expression” “I remember that t-shirt” “I remember when we did that”

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