American Parents Are Miserable — But Not Because They're Parents



Are you a parent? Do you feel unhappy?

Do you feel constantly stressed? Are you pulled in a million directions and feel like you’re unable to give you best to anyone in your life? Do you wish you could take a breather without worrying that you'd be losing pay or potentially losing your job? Is childcare eating up more of your income than any other expense?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be an American parent!


Everyone knows there are some built-in elements of discontent when you have kids. There’s nothing easy about making other people your primary focus in your life, with all the stress and worry that goes with loving small people so much that your heart feels likes it’s bursting out of your chest.

There are rewards to parenting, but there are also drawbacks. The effects of those drawbacks on how people perceive their own happiness has been well documented: basically, having kids can make you unhappy.

However, it turns out that the unhappiness associated with parenting varies by nation. If you live in a country that offers good family leave, strong sick and vacation policies, and subsidized childcare, you might be feeling pretty darn good about your work/life balance.

Such is the case in countries like Sweden, France, Finland, and Norway, where parents report feeling happier than their counterparts without kids. But if you cross the pond to the good old U.S. of A.? Well, things are different here.

As the only developed nation with no law requiring paid parental leave (your company has to save your job for six weeks after the birth or adoption of a child, but they don’t have to pay you for the time off), haphazard sick and family-care leave policies, and childcare that can cost more than college tuition, things kind of suck for parents.

In fact, American parents report feeling 13% less happy than childless people.

That’s the largest happiness gap among parents in wealthy nations.

So why are American parents so miserable?

Researchers at Wake Forest University and Baylor University have examined the happiness gaps between parents and non-parents around the world and say that social policies are the only explanation for the difference, saying “the negative effects of parenthood on happiness were entirely explained by the presence or absence of social policies allowing parents to better combine paid work with family obligations.”

It’s long past time America reexamined our family support policies. A nation of kids being raised by sad, stressed-out adults isn’t good parenting — and it’s definitely not good policy.

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