Posted on March 14, 2011 by the mad momma (So those who missed this on because the server crashed, can read and comment here. Come on folks, lets talk!)

I recently came across some studies that say couples who don’t have kids are happier.( Of all the articles on the matter though, this one is my favourite.) 

I find that easy to understand. I do envy people who fly off to Bangkok for a weekend instead of ferrying kids from one birthday party to another. Those who can sleep in till noon without little fingers prying open their eyelids and asking a sibling  “Do you think they are still in there?”

Kids are an additional responsibility. There is no getting away from that. Unless you are as cold as stone you are sure to be  involved with your kids and constantly thinking about them. By that I don’t mean you won’t stop off after work for a martini or give your best to a presentation. But I do mean you will look at your watch at 2 am and say, Damn, I wonder how the kids are, lets go home. Or, pack up the presentation and wonder if you’ve missed seeing them awake today.

Perhaps its not so much that you are happier without kids, but that you have less to worry about. Isn’t there the old line about freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. Similarly, the more you have, the more you worry. If you are single, you have no one to worry about. If you are married you worry about your spouse coming back late at night alone. If you have kids, you worry about them falling down in the park and scraping a knee. It’s a bit of a no-brainer really so I don’t know why so much research went into it.

A friend recently asked me why people have kids. I don’t know. I really don’t; even 6 years after becoming a mother I can come up with no good reason to have kids. Nothing you couldn’t dispute at any rate. For the last 2 months they have had coughs and colds and there is snot on every conceivable surface of our home. They both are on some sort of medication to melt the phlegm that is in their chests and so they run around like urchins while I run behind them just wiping, wiping, wiping. There is skating class to go for, Bean to be dealt with while the Brat skates, homework, baths, dinner and finally I collapse at my desk and wonder if I should work or quickly tap out a post. Work deadlines zoom dangerously near and I can hear them whistle around my ears. Some days are good, some days I am torn between being mother, wife, professional, daughter and friend.

And then tonight as I crawled into bed with the babies after they’d fallen asleep, it struck me. It’s because it lets you get as close to another living creature. Humans are so transparent when they begin life that it is a pleasure to watch the way their brains work. The famed innocence of childhood is something we envy. But it is also a thrill, a high, like a drug, to be able to get into someone’s mind and watch it work. To see them figure out how a lock opens, to hear them pronounce a word, to watch their fingers curl around a fork and wrap noodles around it. Every bit of it is a human being coming into themselves and its like watching a science experiment, except much cuter!

The other cool part, is the ‘surprise factor.’ Do you know what I mean? Kids have the ability to look at something you’ve seen ten times over and make it more fun. How else do you explain the desire to take them to the beach and sit there digging castles when you could be sipping martinis by the pool instead? How else do you explain spending a Sunday at the zoo instead of in bed, changing channels and eating chips?

Whenever I visualise the children in my life I see myself leading them to the top of a mountain, my hands covering their eyes. And we trip and stumble along the way, they clinging to me trustingly. The path is uneven and I keep losing patience and wondering why I bothered at all. And then we reach the top and I remove my fingers and the view takes their breath away and I say Surprise! And they love it. Well, after having kids, my life is one endless series of yelling ‘Surprise!!!!!’ Be it reading Brer Rabbit to them or showing them how to shell peas and pick out the sweeter ones, everyday they learn something new. And everyday I relive the pleasure of it. Sounds like a sweet deal to me.

Edited to add: The kids have gone to Nani-G’pa’s place for ten days and the OA and I came home to a quiet home tonight. I didn’t find it peaceful. I found it empty and sad. Once a home has been touched by a child’s laughter it is very hard to go back to meaningless TV watching and huge chunks of time. We’ve learnt to find our little sneaky moments of romance, to eke out time to read on the pot, to have long chats with friends while rocking a baby to sleep on an arm that has lost sensation and now we’re just really efficient! I am happy that they are enjoying a break with their grand parents. I am happy that the OA and I have this time together. But honestly, in a week, I’m going to be crawling up the wall in agony if my children are not back in my arms.


51 thoughts on “Surprise!

  1. Most of the studies anyways are a waste of time and money in the sense they tell us what we already know or contradict the findings of some other study , hence confusing the common man..

  2. Oh. My. God. I can so relate to this post. I got all teary eyed while reading the last bit. I have a daughter and a son too. Everyday I complain to hubby about how I don’t have time to myself, how busy I am the whole day. I never even wanted a second child. But, in reality, I love it all. I love watching their eyes grow wide in surprise. I love tickling their bellies and hearing them erupt in a giggle-fit. I love seeing them squeal with excitement when they see me or hubby after even a short while. The responsibility that comes with becoming a parents just picks up the person you previously were and turns you upside down. And life without your kids becomes hard to imagine.

  3. Tell me and my wife about it.. One day I convinced my wife to go to Atlantic city ( and stay there overnight.. not for gambling.. you know for what..) while my parents were here to look after the kids…. We drove for 3 hours.. checked in a fantabolous room with sea facing view.. and within 5 minuts were checking out to come back to kids.. with wify laughing all the way.
    The quiteness of the room killed both of us… now whenever I have those thoughts, my wife says to put $250.00 in kids piggy bank 🙂

  4. D-I-T-T-O !!
    I read that article a few days back and I agree completely. I’m still not sure why I went ahead and had kids.Now I have twins and they are double the trouble 😀
    But even two years after having them, I cant stay a single night away from them 😦
    Addicted I am.
    Your post really connects with what I feel but can’t express. Thanks 🙂

  5. Having kids does make you see the world through new and fresh eyes. You can have all the experiences you’ve already had all over again, and they will be like new. Kids have the ability to make everything seem exciting and fun.
    Having kids does, like you say, make you appreciate your own time so much more, and when they aren’t around, life just seems a little.. flatter!

    Then there’s the evolutionary argument to have kids. Your genes have been passed down endless generations, literally since the beginning of life itself – to not reproduce and continue the evolutionary path of your gene pool means millions of years of development gone……..

  6. I know exactly was you mean.
    Am in goa, for work in a super luxurious resort, in one of the best rooms, but it all seems like sawdust to me 😦
    I miss by 8 month old, who might bawl herself to sleep because am not there.
    Kids are seducers (if there is a word like that). A wet kiss, a hand exploring your face, a roll over to your side of the bed to cuddle, that special smile.
    Nothing can compensate their absence.
    Have cried myself all the way, but it was a commitment that i made at work and had to keep it.
    I know there are a lot of sniggers, mean remarks and comments about leaving a young baby and going.
    Its a tough choice and I made mine 😦
    But these 2 days seem like a lifetime

  7. Wow! You said it just the way I feel. I am a mom of 2 kids too and the max I can stay without them in the house if probably 24 hrs, after that, I start to get restless. Lovely post!

  8. As a mother of much older kids, it also fascinating to see how much your kids can teach you about all kinds of thing. I know that for all of the heartache and sleepless nights and the rest of it, kids do enrich your lives tremendously.

    Yes, being that close to another human being is an absolutely amazing experience!

  9. I loved the life I led before having Little Planet – it was a great life full of fun and spontaneity. But I never get these “is life without kids better than life with kids” articles because they’re not comparing like with like.

    All I know is that now Little Planet is in my life I cannot imagine my life without her. Since knowing her, my like is infinitely richer and I am infintely happier than before she entered my life.

    Life was wonderful before her; but now life is more wonderful.

    • i agree. its a very apples to oranges situation. i’ve just put the kids to bed and sung myself hoarse to put them to sleep. it might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but how can someone else say that their life is better than mine?

  10. Its a beautiful post MM.I said beautiful because I cant think of anything else at this moment. I do not have children, but it makes me realize how important they are. How we can relive our childhood with them,live the moments that we probably did not have, get the smothering that we might have missed, face fears in a better way that we didn’t know about, and make it the best possible childhood for them.

    • as someone said on this same post on the other blog that kept crashing, its not necessary to have your own, although its nice to have some of your own. its easy to live these moments through anyone else’s kids. i think part of the reason i blog about kids is because i am so sorry to see the current trend of running down parenthood and children. making it sound like its all about sacrifice, snot and sleepless nights. there is so much else.

      • nice. very nice. i like this comment.
        the fun part of parenthood is just not acknowledged enough- its all about being responsible, virtuous, and sacrifice . . .not the giggles, the growing, and the sheer mad cap fun.

  11. nice , very nice, the one with being able to telephone with kid on one arm even after the arm goes numb-very nice! Every parent can identify with the scenes you have developed.

  12. its like this, you could live life without falling in love, and you’d be okay. when you do, all the mushy songs and poetry make complete sense. but till it happens, you would not get it.

  13. Beautiful 🙂 We don’t have children yet, but I can’t think of life without them. I can so understand your reasons for having children. 🙂

    Kind of reminds me of that song – Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa toh nahi.. tere bina zindagi bhi lekin zindagi toh nahi..

  14. heres yet another mom saying…i know how it is :):) my son is now 7 months almost…and i am still coming to terms with my “loss of freedom” “countless frustrations” “endless miracles” “miniature marvel” n wat not :):)
    read about it at my kiddo’s blog 😉

  15. I cant say that i relate to the study.. at the ripe old age of 14, i decided that different ppl are born for different things, and i was born to be a mother. I worked very hard to be financially independent – so that i cld raise my daughter the way i want, and not the way the patriarchal family wants. (yes, ppl laff when i tell them that was my reason to go to an iim, but its the honest truth).

    God’s revenge? he gave me a son.

  16. Very nice post indeed.. Some of the very questions that pop up into my mind as well – Why kids.. Must say your answer to this question has given me newer perspectives to ponder upon 🙂

  17. Monday morning blues have a completely different meaning for me now. Withdrawal symptoms after the weekend at home with kids and husband.

  18. What about all the happy times that come with being a parent? That article is grossly one-sided.

    I don’t even have kids yet and I can’t imagine how people can possibly choose not to. I respect it, but I’ll never understand it.

    I think it’s amazing that we’re even given the ability to produce life. I mean, it’s not fruits and vegetables, it’s LIFE. I sometimes feel like I spend every waking moment waiting to be a mother.Children also open your eyes to wonders that you could never see as an adult.

    Agreed- many adults who don’t have children spend the first half of their lives happier than parents because they don’t have the responsibilities that comes with parenting.

    But no matter what the article says, I think a lot of the older people I know who choose not to have kids spend a lot of time wondering what their lives would be like if they had chosen otherwise. And as time goes by, the table gets emptier every Christmas, the house gets stiller and life becomes so much less than it could be.

    I know, parents with empty nests may face the same thing, but hey, somewhere out there your grown-up-baby is waltzing about and will come breezing through the door one weekend. That makes all the difference.

    Sorry for the long comment, had to stop lurking and come out for this tirade.

  19. I totally agree that kids are a blessing.
    It is particularly important for the kids to have a balanced upbringing with time from dad as well as mum.

    Seeing their eyeslightup when they receive sole attention is so special. We are trying to have mummy and daddy days wherewe take the girls to do somethng on their own.

    They seem to really appreciate it.

    This is quite workable in Australia, how popular are daddy days in india?

  20. QM: I just want to say that people who don’t have kids are very happy. You may find it hard to believe but they are happy. Seriously. I haven’t met ANY childfree by choice couples who regret it or spend time wondering what if. Similarly those who have only one child instead of the ideal 2, or have seven kids or those who adopt kids instead of having them biologically or parents of kids with Downs or with physical disabilities are also very happy. Bottom line: Kids don’t make you happy or unhappy. You generally are, kids are one more of life’s things that make you happier or unhappier.

    I think you are making a very very common mistake (psychologists call it the focusing illusion) of believing that life does not go on. It does. See Timothy Wilson’s work at Virginia (too much to list here). Lots of things happen – travel, freedom, friends, hobbies, work (of course). If you ask people whether they will be happier winning the Nobel Prize, they say yes. And yet, a year or two later, they are no happier than people who don’t win the prize. That’s because when we think about the future, we don’t think of all the other things that happen in life, we just focus on this one point we’re told to think about.

    And yes, this is from someone who has a two year old and loves being a parent. But I can also really understand the other side.

    Also, just a quick point; I am always surprised when people reject science-based articles which have to do with psychology while all the time accepting scientific evidence on other things such as evolution, climate change etc etc. It is a surprising finding yes, but a consistent one, that kids don’t increase moment-by-moment (or experiential) happiness. However what psychologists are beginning to have a view on is that maybe kids increase satisfaction with life (or retrospective happiness). Think about climbing a mountain. When you are half way there, sweating and every muscle aching and someone pings you to ask how happy you are, you aren’t going to say “Ecstatic”. But later on, you will be much happier when you think about it.

    Sorry for the long comment. I just felt I had to jump in as someone who has had exposure to this field.

    • small point – couples who dont WANT kids might be very happy. those who want and cant have, not so much, I am guessing. specially in india, where your worth is measured by your kids and how well they are doing in life. sigh.

      • Of course. Good point. And even those who really don’t want kids must get harassed enough that its more than a minor inconvenience.


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