Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman, parents and creators of the parenting site, babble.com, have an interesting talk on TED about the taboos of parenting. The talk about four parenting taboos:
1) You can’t say you didn’t fall in love with your baby in the first minute (this is a very funny part of the talk), 2) You can’t talk about how lonely having a baby can be, 3) You can’t talk about your miscarriage, and the fourth especially got my attention:
4) You can’t say your average happiness has declined (since becoming parents). You’re supposed to say your life has never been better, so rich and full, yada yada.
When in reality the mom is lonely, and as the Today Show quotes from the Journal of Happiness, the effect of children on the life satisfaction of married individuals is small, often negative, when the babies come along. It’s taboo to talk about the real and actual sentiment of discontent.
Parents also can’t talk about the ambivalence that psychiatrist Gail Saltz says has been inevitable for every generation.
The reason for the unhappiness? Griscom and Volkman say it’s because parents walk in with the wrong expectations, and having realistic expectations makes for a happier parenting experience. You need to walk in knowing you will be trading a certain level of happiness for the transcendent moments with your kids.
Saltz adds to this–that if people could talk about the inevitable ambivalence more openly, parents would have a happier parenting experience. She also points to how the experience of parenting has fundamentally changed. In today’s child-centered universe, parenting has become a “competitive sport” and the stress that comes with this is bound to affect people’s levels of happiness.
Griscom and Volkman say that candor is critical to collectively being good parents. This is all good, but they are talking about doing this after they have kids. What if it wasn’t taboo to talk more about these and other realities of parenthood before people became parents?
Many would start the parenting process more honestly and conceivably have a happier experience, during the experience, not just in hindsight. Realistic expectations would make for a happier experience.
But if we allowed the raw realistic expectations to be more fully out there, would this influence more people to say no to parenthood altogether? Would throwing away the rose colored glasses pre-parenthood make for more acceptace of the choice to opt out of the experience?
For some, I think they will have kids no matter what. For others, nixing the taboos could make for smarter decisions to become parents in the first place.
What do you think?