News Flash: Kids Make You Miserable.

by Leslie Morgan Steiner


As Mommy Tracked called out in the uber-time-saving Newsdesk roundup, New York Magazine recently published the smart, juicy “All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting” that dissects research indicating that kids make Americans unhappy. I started laughing before I read past the title. I am on intimate terms with why parents hate parenting. Although we love our kids deeply and desperately, most adults I know raise our kids according to the Chinese water torture method of parenting. We agonize over how long to breastfeed. We watch every television episode the kids watch, from Barney to Friday Night Lights. By the time they are five, we’ve ironed out our alcohol policy. At six, we’ve gotten them into a preschool track to the Ivy League. We read all their emails and text messages. We worry more about their homework than they do.


The most humiliating part: We did this to ourselves. We – not our government, our society, lawyers, our parents or our kids themselves – ruined parenting.


And it started before we even had kids. I remember – vividly – crying in jealousy when I saw a pregnant woman on the Manhattan sidewalk when I was “trying.” The desire to have a baby felt like jonesing for heroin: the high of wanting a baby, dreaming about a baby, the primal pull to procreate. Little did I know my longing had absolutely nothing to do with the reality of raising kids.


“Parents are deluded,” writes Jennifer Senior in the better-than-therapy New York Magazine article. “In the grip of some false consciousness that’s good for mankind but not for men and women in particular… we humans are pretty sorry predictors of what will make us happy… the yearning for children, the literal mother of all aspirations for so many, is a very good case in point—what children really do…is offer moments of transcendence, not an overall improvement in well-being.”


What makes the New York Magazine article so refreshing -- and why I had such a good time talking about it on Michel Martin’s candid, funny NPR show Tell Me More -- finally, information about parenting that actually has to do with parents. Almost all research and everything that's written about parenting focuses exclusively on children. We need information about what it's actually like to be a parent. Not what's the best thing to do for your kids, but what's the better way to parent, because that’s also ultimately what’s best for your kids.