What do you make of articles like this one that point out how studies show that non-parents are happier than parents? They say that parents are more susceptible to depression and anxiety and that they're more likely to experience negative emotions than non-parents. What do you think?
I guess for me... I don't determine the success of my life based on how satisfied I've managed to make myself. I think that we probably put too much emphasis on the idea of personal fulfillment. We've kind of twisted the concept to mean that everybody is entitled to everything they want. I don't believe that. I believe that everybody is entitled to have the things they deserve.
If you have children, and so you can't become an archaeologist, like you've always wanted, you're suddenly unfulfilled. We treat ourselves and our lives the same way we treat acquiring possessions. We don't have to work for the things we want, anymore. It's unheard of to save and work and save and work until we have actual money to buy a new refrigerator, or whatever. We just decide we want something and we buy it. We can worry about how we're going to pay for it later. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, even, to be able to finance the things we want to have. I just think that, as a culture, we believe that we're entitled to things that we aren't.
The point of my life isn't to feel good. I like to feel good. I try to engineer myself to feel as good as possible. But the point of my life is to be good. To do good.
Some people don't, but I waned when I was left up to my own devices. The strongest feelings I had pertained to myself, and I used myself up. When I had my first child, I stopped living a masturbatory, self-inspecting existence, and started putting in time and work to be something really, honestly, amazingly good for somebody else. I had a reason to do good and to be a force of positivity in the world. Every day. I didn't care about whether or not I was an honest and positive force in my own life before, but I care a ridiculous amount about being a force of light in the lives of my kids. I'm making them. Whether or not every moment of feeding, cleaning, guiding, bathing, protecting them is fun, I'm spending my life making people. At the end of my life, I won't be responsible for my own fulfillment; I'll be responsible for theirs. If both of my girls are grown and happy and well-adjusted, I could care less whether or not I ever got to act out my personal goals. Hopefully I will, and I'll keep trying at them... but everything else, happily and honestly, is secondary to my kids.
Since we evaluate our sense of happiness based on a principle of instant gratification, (get what you want and work out deserving it, later)... parenting feels like a sorry choice for a lot of people. There is no longer termed endeavor than raising children. The ways I manage my choices and treat myself aren't necessarily apparent in them, now. They're babies. But, when they're grown and they have the opportunity to exert themselves onto the world, I'll find out how I did. I'll find out whether these long days of working and saving and working and saving were worth it. I have not always harbored a secret desire to scrape poop off of diapers. That isn't going to make me fulfilled in my every day life. But, my kids are happy. They feel safe. They feel important and invincible. I'll scrape poop all day for the rest of my life to be able to say, "I made these beautiful, invincible girls. They love themselves because of me."
It totally does cross my mind that this is all just biology. Maybe articles like this one are right, and parents are fools who have been tricked into living a life they don't want because of an urge to propagate the species. I've said this before, but I'm willing to accept that. I'm willing to accept that the way i love my kids with focused and intent ferociousness is a tool of evolution. The babies born to mothers who didn't love them like the sky was falling down didn't thrive. I am totally willing to believe that my love was scientifically engineered, and that all the love and loss I've ever experienced can be connected back to the fact that I'm human. I'm an animal and I mated.
But, I contend that there is magic in that biologically engineered love. Because I'm a fool for science, I can stare at my sleeping daughter and feel complete. I can hug my three year old and feel firmly rooted to the ground. I can feel the entire human experience in my blood, the primordial ooze welling up between my toes. I feel like I might not ever achieve the things I've dreamed for my personality, for my surface self. I might not ever be something impressive. I'll keep trying, but maybe I'll just be me. At least I can hold my daughter's hand and I'm holding the hand of god.
A lot of people find the idea of a science based faith to be sad or empty. They think that love means less if you're able to say, "Love is only science." The whole world is science, though. The reason why I cried when my baby was born, isn't important. The only thing that matters is that, upon hearing her first cry, I was flooded with a sense of understanding about myself and about the way life works. I felt, "Yes. I was meant to be here. I have been waiting all my life to hear your voice." Maybe I won't ever be an archaeologist. Maybe I won't ever own a boat or live on the beach. Maybe I won't even be a real writer. Maybe I won't travel or be self-sustaining. I might not ever be one of the things we consider, as a culture, to be fulfilling, but I've got science on my side, and as long as I have my girls... poop scraping and nose blowing and butt wiping and sleep deprived and poor and everything... I'm the thing I was meant to be.