When is the most joyful period in a parent's life? A new study from the London School of Economics and the University of Western Ontario claims that for most of us the year immediately preceding and the year following a baby's birth see us at our most ecstatic.
For many parents, by the time the third or fourth child rolls around, the novelty of kids has all but worn off. And we are then destined to return to whatever happiness levels we had pre-children.
“The first two children contribute to happiness strongly, whereas the third does not," said the study's lead author, LSE's professor of demography Mikko Myrskylä. "And the timing of fertility is critical in influencing the experience of parenthood.”
According to data from Germany and the United Kingdom, those who generally experience the highest highs are moms and dads over the age of 35 and those with higher levels of education. Makes perfect sense, assuming those individuals feel most ready to make the leap into parenthood. Least enamoured were the teens, but of course this could be in part due to unplanned pregnancies.
Myrskylä cited financial stresses as a potential cause of declining happiness in subsequent children. I'm thinking the toll of less sleep and added stress could also have something to do with it. Interestingly, cultural differences between Germany and the UK bore no impact on the findings.
The sheer elation of welcoming your first child into your life is unforgettable. But would I describe the first year of my son's life as my happiest? I remember a haze of exhaution and colicky screams punctuated by amazement. What about the year before that? Certainly I was lucky to have a pregnancy that clinicians tend to describe as 'uneventful.' They were certainly some of my most memorable, emotional months, yet I'm not convinced that either year would qualify as the happiest of my life.
Contrary to popular belief, having kids isn't a key component to happiness. Starting a family no doubt adds to life's "rich pageant," yet ultimately it seems we are only destined to be as happy as we ever were.
You tell me: Does this study ring true for you?