On average, 57% of American citizens report being happier on Saturdays and 55% report being happier on Sundays than on any other day of the week, but a new study suggests that American parents may not feel the same way about the weekends.
Even parents with the deepest reserves of patience and caring need the occasional reminder that 5 AM feedings, toddler tantrums, and teen eye-rolls will, in the distant future, be affectionately missed when the nest is finally empty.
While child-rearing is filled with moments of unprecedented joy and wonder, there’s another, far less-discussed secret of parenting. And it’s that raising kids can sometimes be a real drag.
The New York Times quotes scholar and UK-based author Nick Powdthavee, who cuts to the chase about what the research has to say.
“Using data sets from Europe and America, numerous scholars have found some evidence that, on aggregate, parents often report statistically significantly lower levels of happiness, life satisfaction, marital satisfaction , and mental well-being compared with non-parents,” Powdthavee writes.
This “happiness gap” has been accepted as an international phenomenon in the past, but a new study has provided some surprising evidence.
A new collaborative study by researchers at the University of Texas, Wake Forest University, and Baylor University finds the size of the gap differs from country to country.
The researchers studied 22 nations, all of which are wealthy countries with similar birth rates. They discovered that American parents are 13% less happy than American non-parents, the largest gap in all the countries surveyed, and one significantly larger than the gap observed in Great Britain and Australia.
When researchers set out to find out exactly why the gap is so large in the United States, they found that it had everything to do with social policies. More specifically, America’s shameful lack of family and parent-support laws.
The lack of these types of laws in the United States has prompted calls for change from the IMF.
On June 22, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), called for the United States to adopt paid family leave so a worker can care for a child or parent.
“The U.S. is the only country among advanced economies without paid maternity leave at the national level and U.S. female labor force participation is 12 percent lower than that for men. Sensible skills-based immigration reform could also raise the labor supply and boost productivity,” she said.
Paid maternity and family leave could not only provide financial security for parents in the United States, it could contribute to a decrease in the ‘happiness gap’ that seems to be plaguing them.