It seems as though there are more and more people these days who are making the conscious decision to not have children. Hearing a man or woman explain that they’re “too selfish” for kids is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why they’re opting out of traditional family life — between the high costs, stress and the fact that most couples can now only exist with a double income, having kids can often mean zero time leftover for you.
So it should also come as no great shock that when it comes to happiness, a report out of the University of Texas has shown that in countries like the U.S. people who don’t have children are happier than those who do.
But hold on — that’s not the only thing the study showed. And this is the part that might surprise you. We’ll quote the brief directly:
“The negative effects of parenthood on happiness were entirely explained by the presence or absence of social policies allowing parents to better combine paid work with family obligations. And this was true for both mothers and fathers.” Emphasis theirs, both times.
Basically how that breaks down is that in countries where adequate parental leave is granted to new parents, vacation time and sick days are doled out and the overall cost of childcare is less, parents are shown to be just as happy as non-parents. It’s when you start adding in all the extra costs, the inability to take time off as a new mom or dad and the stress of trying to “do it all” that people become less happy.
Interestingly enough, in countries where social policies had been built in, child-free folk were also slightly happier than their peers in, shall we say, less progressive countries. It just goes to show you that everyone could use a vacation day now and then.
Oh, and when it comes to monthly grants or allowances that the government sets aside for parents? Well, according to the study, those don’t make a ton of difference in the long term of happy parents either. The theory is that giving moms and dads the tools they need is more important in the long run, kind of like that old “teach a man to fish” adage. Just throwing money at the problem doesn’t exactly help with overall coping strategies.
Of course, the study looked at only 22 countries and came to some pretty strong conclusions, but any information about how social programs affect us is always helpful.
In the meantime, we suppose there’s something to the saying that children bring you joy. We just have to make sure that we have all the tools in place to be able to appreciate that joy.
WATCH: On a lighter note, here’s a look at some of the weirdest advice new parents get