Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Will we be happier with a child?

Having children is a life changing event. Suddenly, there will be this new person in our family. My husband asked me to take a moment to stop and really think about if I truly want a child, or if I am just getting mission-orientated.

Julie addressed the question of "is it worth it?", and one commenter wrote:
This one is tough for me, too. And it's tough because, as much as I truly, madly, deeply love my children, I now realize how much of my own life--a life I really loved--I gave up in being a parent. I miss that life. And I sometimes think that if I didn't get the diagnosis "Infertile," if it had felt like a free choice and not a need to prove something to myself (I'm classic overachiever; having children was the one thing I couldn't 'get right'), maybe I would have made the decision to be childless. And maybe I would have been equally happy, or even happier. That's a hard truth to face.

So I am taking a few days to line up the pros and the cons of bringing a child into our family. Here are the most commonly cited reasons for having children or being childfree:

Reasons to have childrenReasons to be childfree
An additional way to express love for spouseLess global overpopulation
Increased closeness with friends with childrenMore energy and fewer illnesses
More fulfillment and meaning to lifeMore freedom and spontaneity
The experience of parenthoodMore money
The opportunity to provide and receive loveMore privacy
The pleasure and pride of raising childrenMore sleep
To develop personally by interacting with childrenMore time for hobbies
To have a relationship with childrenMore time to develop career
To transmit ones own ideals and beliefsMore time with adult friends
More time with spouse
No problems associated with children

I also ploughed through the literature on happiness, marital satisfaction, and freedom in parents, the involuntary childless, and the voluntarily childfree. It appears that parents and voluntarily childfree couples are as happy as each other, and are both happier than the involuntary childless. Some studies suggest that marital satisfaction may be slightly lower for parents than for voluntarily childfree couples. Mothers state that they have less relaxation, independence, and freedom than voluntary childfree couples.

OutcomeSexParentsInvoluntarily childlessVoluntarily childfreeRef
Well-beingM47.8not included 45.01
Life satisfaction bothnot included 3.52
Global well-being (1-9) F 6.44 6.28 7.06 3
My life is disappointing (1) to rewarding (7) F 5.42 4.68 5.18 3
Satisfaction with personal success (1-9) F 5.94 5.50 6.37 3
Life satisfaction both 23.7 not included 25.2 4
Happiness both 0 (a) -0.17 -0.14 5
-0.18 (b)
Depression both 0 (a)
0.05 (b)
0.09 0.07 5
Life satisfaction both 0 (a)
-0.30 (b)
-0.46 -0.22 5
Depression F 1.68 1.73 not included 6
Life satisfaction F 3.18 2.89 not included 6
Marital satisfaction M 33.0 not included 31.7 1
Marital satisfaction both 5.95 not included 6.00 7
Positive marital interactions both 3.49 not included 4.32 7
Unhappy with marriage both 7.4% not included 0% 8
Marital satisfaction (1-5.7) both 4.50 not included 4.75 2
Satisfaction with marriage (1-9) F 6.96 7.84 7.37 3
Marital satisfaction both 91.9 not included 93.6 4
Marital satisfaction (6-45) F 38.2 not included 40.0 9
Marital satisfaction (6-45) M 37.6 not included 38.8 9
Amount of relaxation in life (1-9) F 4.26 5.81 5.28 3
Amount of independence and freedom (1-9) F 4.90 6.69 6.46 3
Amount of friendship and love in life (1-9) F 6.72 7.43 6.90 3
Satisfied with childbearing decision both 3.87 not included 3.73 2
(a) = close ties to their adult children (standardized to 0)
(b) = distant ties to their adult children

1. Magarick, RH & Brown, RA. 1981. Social and emotional aspects of voluntary childlessness in vasectomized childless men. J. biosoc. Sci.13, 157-167
2. Burman, B & de Anda, D. 1986. Parenthood or Nonparenthood: A Comparison of Intentional Families. Lifestyles: A Journal of Changing Patterns. 8, 2, pp. 69-84
3. Callan, VJ. 1987. The Personal and Marital Adjustment of Mothers and of Voluntarily and Involuntarily Childless Wives. Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 49, No. 4, pp. 847-856
4. Somers, MD. 1993. A Comparison of Voluntarily Childfree Adults and Parents. Journal of Marriage and Family, 55, pp. 643-650
5. Connidis, Arnet I., McMullin, JA. 1993. To have or have not: Parent status and the subjective well-being of older men and women. The Gerontologist; 33, 5; pp. 630-640
6. Schwerdtfeger, Kami L. and Shreffler, Karina M.(2009) 'Trauma of Pregnancy Loss and Infertility Among Mothers and Involuntarily Childless Women in the United States', Journal of Loss and Trauma, 14: 3, 211 — 227
7. Feldman, H. 1981. A Comparison of Intentional Parents and Intentionally Childless Couples Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 43, No. 3, pp. 593-600
8. Ramu, GN. 1984. Family Background and Perceived Marital Happiness: A Comparison of Voluntary Childless Couples and Parents The Canadian Journal of Sociology / Cahiers canadiens de sociologie, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 47-67
9. Lawrence, E, Rothman, AD, Cobb, RJ, Rothman, MT, Bradbury, TN
2008. Marital satisfaction across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Family Psychology. Vol 22(1), Feb 2008, 41-50.


  1. Interesting. There are a lot of pros to being childess when you list them out like that. Hopefully we won't regret the decision to parent years down the road! There will certainly be some rough times and decisions and stress involved in raising a child. Let's just hope it's all worth it!
    Good for you and Mr Dandle for taking the time to really think things out again. It's easy to just keep pursuing the dream simply because it's something you can't have and you've achieved everything else in your life that you set out to get.

  2. Me again - just nominated you for an award. I thought you should know your blog's appreciated!