The Real Reason You’re an Unhappy Parent

If you’re a parent in America, you rank as one of the unhappiest in the world according to a recent study.


Because parents in the United States have the least amount of societal support.

Parenting in the U.S. means you pay a “happiness penalty,” so give yourself a break. There’s a reason you’re an unhappy parent, and it’s not your kids’ fault.

In a study by the Council of Contemporary Families, with the support of the National Science Foundation, researchers found that out of 22 English-speaking and European countries, American parents are the unhappiest.

According to authors Jennifer Glass, Robin Simon and Matthew Andersson:

“What we found was astonishing. The negative effects of parenthood on happiness were entirely explained by the presence or absence of social policies allowing parents to better combine paid work with family obligations. And this was true for both mothers and fathers. Countries with better family policy ‘packages’ had no happiness gap between parents and non-parents.”

Everyone says it. You hear it all the time.

“It takes a village.”

It’s a saying for a reason. It’s true.

Babies weren’t meant to be raised by two people with two full-time jobs. It’s hard! New parents need help!

Newborns and infants are demanding, and they’re supposed to be. They’re born early. Their brains are still developing. Their stomachs are the size of peas. They need constant closeness, care, and attention.

How are new parents supposed to give that to their kids while they’re also working, cooking, cleaning, shopping, doing laundry, and managing life in the modern age?

If you’re an unhappy parent in America, here’s what this research means for you:
  • It’s not that your spouse isn’t doing enough. The fact is, it takes more than just you and your spouse to raise a baby…even if only one of you is working!
  • It’s not that you have a horrible boss or a horrible job. It’s that you shouldn’t have to be working at all during Baby’s first year. You should be able to just focus on Baby.
  • It’s not that you have too much to do in too little time. It’s that you should have a “village,” or some sort of societal support, to help you with cooking, cleaning, and watching the baby so you have time to rest, relax, and recharge.
The way it should be:

You should have paid maternity leave (for both parents!). You should have subsidized, high-quality childcare if you need it. You should have more vacation and sick days available to you if you’re working, or at least some work flexibility to care for your kids when they inevitably catch a cold or go through sleep changes.

The United States’ failure in caring for its new parents is embarrassing, and every family is paying the price. Many babies aren’t getting the attention and care they deserve. Many mothers and fathers are suffering from depression and anxiety while trying to carry a burden they were never meant to bear alone.

“In other words, the weak government policies in place to support U.S. families have everything to do with the lack of happiness Americans experience once they have children.” //

And the simple benefits the U.S. could implement wouldn’t extend only to parents:

“The policies that helped parents the most were policies that also improved the happiness of everyone in that country, whether they had children or not. Policies such as guaranteed minimum paid sick and vacation days make everyone happier, but they had an extra happiness bonus for parents of minor children.” (source)

So if you’re a parent in the U.S. not living with several extended family members, give yourself a break. You’re doing the absolute best you can.

If you feel like you’re an unhappy parent, now you know why.


First published at

Featured image source:

Add a Comment