Controversunday: That New York Times Article

I have a love/hate thing with parenting articles. On the one hand, I think they’re often more divisive than informative. They imply that someone is doing it RIGHT and the other guys are doing it WRONG.

On the other hand, I also watch America’s Next Top Model from time to time. So I read it, this article in the New York Times about how Parents Hate Parenting and then I read a bazillion blog posts about the article and then it was Controversunday, which is a Sunday meme where people can write about the same topic and IT was about the article so I thought I’d run my mouth off a bit.

Look, it’s a badge. It came from here and the hostess of Controversunday is Our Lady of Perpetual Breadcrumbs and I first discovered this meme through A moment to think and is that it? Am I done crediting people? I don’t know what I”m doing here. Halp!


The New York Times Article talks to a bunch of people about their experiences parenting, reporting that parenting is not as rosy and glowy as we would believe. It sounded to me like she was saying, “What are we doing wrong, that we’re not enjoying this wonderful experience?”

Which left me wondering – Who said it was a wonderful experience? Like, a wholesale, wonderful experience without warts? I don’t expect to completely enjoy any experience, let alone something as complicated as creating, bearing, and raising another human being.

We struggle, in our house, with our happiness. Because often, the children get in the way of what we want. What we want:

1. quiet
2. time

Every time we practice expressing our disappointment, getting over it, having a good day anyway, we grow. We become better versions of ourselves. We become more patient, more kind, more knowledgeable. Every day we survive as parents makes us better people. Not better people than you. Better people than we were yesterday.

Parenthood isn’t about happiness from chocolate cake. It’s about happiness from personal growth.

The article makes it sound like there are people who decide to have a child based on whether they think that a child would…bring them this happiness? Like the waiter brings you your food? Naturally, those people are disappointed when the child brings chaos instead.

(That’s not what I ordered! Should I have had the Harvey Wallbanger instead of the Sidecar? Would I be happier?)

The thing about any external change to a situation is: it’s external. It can neither bring, nor deny you happiness. If you were happy before, you will strive for happiness despite the change.* If you were unhappy before, you will continue to be unhappy, despite the change. Much as a Big Frouffy Wedding! will not change the fact that you don’t love your partner, a Big Beautiful Baby! will not change the fact that you don’t like your life.

* with an exception made for post partum depression and other mental illnesses

Children are not a mirror. They are a magnifying glass. They make everything bigger; louder, messier, funnier, weirder, more stressful, more exciting. And so, they bring your issues into sharp relief. They make you face your shit.

Is that going to make you happier?
Is it going to make you happier, right now, to know that you have some shit you’ve not been facing?
Is it going to make you happier, right now, to look at that shit, up close and very large?

No, no, and no.

But when you’ve dealt with, faced, and moved on from your shit, you will be happier. You will understand your anger or your fear or your pain, at the root, you will have looked at these demons, at their teeth and claws and warts and you will know you have met them where they live. You will be happier for having done the work, whether or not you are a parent.

I am still doing this work. Every day. That is what sucks about parenting. It’s work. (and it’s every day) But it’s work that, if you do it right, makes you a better person. That’s what I want from my life; it might not be what everyone else in the world wants. So I would say yes, I am happy to be a parent and I am happy to work at parenting every day, and I am happy I got the kids I got, but being their parent doesn’t make me happy.

Being me makes me happy. My kids have their own jobs to do.

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