The Parent Trap

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The Joy of Parenthood: Worth the Price?


Maybe kids aren’t such bundles of joy after all. A new study from the University of Waterloo has found that parents exaggerate the joys of raising children to justify their economic cost. With the average kid costing nearly $200.000 by the age of 18, and most children no longer earning their keep by helping out on the family farm, the economic value of having kids has diminished. In that sense, say researchers, the myth of parental joy is a modern psychological phenomenon used to justify the high cost. Can that really be true?

The idea that kids don’t make us happier is strongly resisted, say experts, but it makes total sense. A species that was easily persuaded of the misery of parenting would stop wanting to reproduce. So, from a scientific  standpoint, we should be hardwired to think that having children makes life more meaningful, even in reality, kids make life harder.

“The way we idealize parenthood is an example of a phenomenon known as ‘cognitive dissonance’, ” says journalist Laura Carroll. it’s defined as ” a psychological defense we create to justify our choices and beliefs, ” and it’s not only used to justify having kids. we also do this when we idealize the cars we buy, and explain away why we stay with lousy boyfriends. It’s just that with parenting, there’s no going back.

Not everyone agrees. ” If we’re all exaggerating the joys of parents, we aren’t aware of it, ” says journalist Monica Bielanko at Babble. A 2008 study found that nearly 90 percent of news mothers listed ” joy” as their reason  for having kids.  And, as one parent says, ” While parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done too, even if it costs a million bucks and my children don’t take care of me when I’m old.”


*Adapted from an article appearing on http;//, 3/10/11


What Say You?


5 thoughts on “The Parent Trap

  1. Last sentence is striking. We will all need somebody esp no brothers or sister or extended family. I have two 30ish kids. I don’t think they’re capable. My parents moved in with me 2002. Mother passed 2012 , father 93, still with me.


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