First, it may be reasonable to assume that the transient and fleeting occasions of joy and meaning (read: feelings of the sublime) that we parents derive from our children are not adequately captured by the measures of happiness and positive emotions that researchers typically use. In the words of one article on the topic, the “one minute when your child comes running to greet you with a smile and a hug may be worth a hundred minutes of cleaning up after them.” In other words, because happiness is not merely the sum of positive experiences, evidence suggesting that caring for a child is just slightly more enjoyable than commuting and vacuuming does not necessarily mean that parents are not happier than non-parents in a more profound, deeper, more substantial way. For example, it’s possible that although parenting may not make people “happy” in a hedonic sense, it may promote a sense of meaning and purpose that may be just as significant to happiness as are fleeting positive moods. The fact that the loss of a child is considered in almost all cultures to be the worst tragedy that can befall an individual lends further support to the notion that researchers’ measures that only ask people how “satisfied” they are and how often they experience joy, interest, and enthusiasm are somehow failing to tap certain essential elements of a happy life and a “good” life. Second, besides fostering greater meaning in life – and perhaps a more intensely – felt sense of meaning – having children can also provide us with many other valuable and important resources that contribute to our happiness and a life well-lived. However, . For example, children bestow us parents with a legacy – that is, a contribution to society that will persist beyond our own lifetimes. Becoming a parent is also closely tied to our identities. Indeed, most people across cultures expect, desire, and actually do have children. Regardless of how much happiness is actually derived from children, being a parent is strongly aligned with most cultures’ prescribed goals and dreams for us – the goals and dreams that most (though not all) of us envision for our lives. Moreover, the experience of raising children contributes to the story that we tell about our lives. Life stories rarely are simply about recounting one pleasure after another; instead, people typically incorporate both their ordeals and triumphs into their “life narratives.” As such, life stories that involve children can add to our purpose in life and cultivate a sense of flourishing and fulfillment.
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