Are Parents Addicts?
I am not an addict.
Really, I can quit anytime.
But I can’t.
No, honestly, I can’t. She’s my kid, and I am her dad.
Shankar Vedantam, writing for Slate, starts with a perfectly logical question—“If parenthood sucks, why do we love it?”—and comes to the conclusion that parents are junkies, addicted to the high they (only occasionally) get from their kids.
Maybe he’s onto something. After all, there is no logical reason to have children, what with the loss of everything from sleep to free time to one’s sense of control. And, as Vedantam points out, studies show that parenthood decreases people’s happiness, even as every parent talks about how wonderful it is—which pretty much defines addiction right there.
But is it really all about that rush when Junior snuggles up for a hug, stars in the school play, or makes you a present at school? I, for one, would like to think there’s more to it, and not just because I need another high and can’t live without it.
Maybe the problem comes down to the focus on “happiness.” Yes, we as a society are obsessed with it, but is it really the best gauge of all we do? Aside from being vague and open to interpretation, there is plenty in life that gives me fulfillment, satisfaction, meaning, strength, energy, and any number of other wonderful things without giving me the “happiness” that might be defined by the (fleeting) joy of an evening out and a full night’s sleep. And if you argue that “happiness” means more than that—that it is the fulfillment, satisfaction, etc., that I mentioned, rather than the fleeting joys—than I’d argue right back that parenthood does provide that to any parent, if not every minute and every day, than overall. That’s why we parents are always talking about how much we love it, despite the dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and intense tantrums.
And maybe all of this is beside the point. There is one word that doesn’t appear even once in the body of Vedantam’s essay: Love.
Photo is of the object of my addiction… um, I mean, happiness… my four-year-old, Adira.Add a Comment