Happy or not happy, that is the question

Finnish press is now touting a study that having kids makes you less happy than not having any. This debate originates an old study, published back in 2004 in Science, and as usual in science, been subject to some hefty debate. Some people are taking it really personally, which is interesting. When a scientific study says that on the average, people behave this way, the outliers pop up and tell the world that "Well, I never..." And then the choir goes "so much for science."

I'm finding this puzzling. I mean, I understand that people don't like it when someone comes in and tells you that you did the wrong choice by having your children, which do give a lot of joy and fun as well. But it's not the wrong choice, and it's totally a mistake to read the studies like that. There is nothing wrong in not trying to maximize your personal happiness, as there is nothing wrong in trying to maximize it either. For some, duty and honor are above all else. Others find other causes for their life. Some find none (which is sad, I think).

You see, I just don't buy that "well, you wouldn't serve your country in the army if it didn't give you a personal bliss" -line. If we were only hedonistic pleasure-seeking missiles, I don't think the humanity would ever have bothered to invent stuff much beyond the fire and farming.

To me the great problem with these articles isn't that they somehow break down the existing belief that having kids makes you insta-happy (a stupid notion: having to clean up poo isn't somehow magically more fun than not having to clean it up.) - it's the fact that people read them as if the pursuit of happiness was the most important thing, and they're somehow failing it. It's not, and you're not.

Parents of the world: you're keeping humanity alive. You're doing what defines life as we know it: procreation. That's something to be proud of, even if you have to waddle through lakes of pee to get there. And you will be sufficiently happy doing it. Some of you will enjoy it immensely, some of you won't. Duh.

And on that note, we at Team BUNT would like to present a new member of the human race. And yeah, I'm happy, really happy about it. For me, parenting is an experience. I'm not a thrill seeker, but doing things for the sake of doing things is what makes me tick, and this is one of those experiences that I know I would regret missing on my deathbed. :-)

P.S. There's a nice writeup on this topic at The New York Magazine as well. It e.g. talks about how strong welfare systems like in the Nordics actually makes parents a lot happier, as you have less to fret about.

P.P.S. And yeah, let's not overdo the procreation part anymore. Way too many people on this planet.




Comments

He looks just like you! Congrats!!!

--Mikko Särelä, 11-Dec-2010


Thanks, but I'm not sure that's a nice thing to say to a girl... ;-)

--JanneJalkanen, 11-Dec-2010


I think oftentimes the problem with science news is the press. They have to create interest, simplify and write shortly. A recipe for (publicity) disaster, especially with anything with a whiff of the social sciences in it. Or instant doom. Or both. Remember the large hadron collider black hole issue last year? Potent stuff this science thing, and everyone and their mother's can be a critic, since someone's best friend's uncle's mate said...

--Taika, 11-Dec-2010


Add comment.
More info...     Comments?   Back to weblog
"Main_blogentry_101210_1" last changed on 10-Dec-2010 22:41:43 EET by JanneJalkanen.

My latest photos

www.flickr.com