Friday, January 20, 2012

Parenting and happiness (or lack thereof)

This is a very interesting article in NY Mag about whether kids make one happier or not, and I like this analysis of the article on the Golden Notebooks blog as well. As the article mentions, I sometimes worry that I'm not spending enough "quality time" with Anton. Because, these days, he spends a lot of time either in his ridiculously festooned "activity center" or his Jolly Jumper. He seems to enjoy them, but I feel guilty sometimes for not coming up with bonding/educational activities all day long. Yet, he seems content, stopping every few minutes to look up at me and grin.

Does he make me happier? That's a complicated question. I've heard people say that if you don't have kids, you'll never know how much you could love someone. I think that's true. My love for Anton is a different kind of love than I've ever experienced. But it's also scary sometimes, to love someone so tiny and vulnerable. It causes me a lot of worry.

I certainly have moments of joy with him - many of them, every day. I like taking walks with him, giving him baths, snuggling in the morning, etc. In this way, ours is one of the most rewarding relationships I've ever had. But I don't so much like trying to figure out why he's fussy, trying to get him to sleep, and having him cry while I'm attempting to cook dinner.

But then, isn't that always the way, with someone or something you love? I think about my relationship to theater. There were certainly times when I was so busy and stressed and disappointed in others' behavior, and disappointed in my own results that it seemed absurd that this was something I was choosing to do, for very little (or no) money. Yet, I adore theater. I miss it, when I'm not involved. I would never quit theater for good.

I think the article's focus on the importance of useful, productive activity is a good point. I disagree with the idea that children's lives should be all play and fun. I like the idea of working on something with Anton someday, like a theater project...teaching him "the trade" and all that. His father feels the same way about getting him interested in science, I think.

And, interestingly, having Anton gives me more moments of feeling accomplished, simply because doing anything while caring for a baby feels like an achievement. So when I manage to write a revised chapter for my novel, cook a fabulous dinner, complete a workout DVD, etc., I feel pretty damn good about myself. In less busy times of my life, I often wasted all day online or whatever and didn't get anything of substance done, and that made me depressed. Having too much free time can be dangerous. Knowing you only have an hour or so before the baby wakes from a nap can be an excellent motivator.

So, am I happier overall? I know I'm happy not to be pregnant anymore. I know I'm happy to be married. And, while I don't always feel that I "have it all" (who does?), I know that I can't even imagine my life without Anton, now that he's here.

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