Are Parents Addicts?

The object of my supposed addiction

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.

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Tags: | Categories: GoodyBlog, Your Child, Your Life

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  1. by Chris Jeub

    On November 16, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    You hit the nail on the head, Kress. Love is the most excellent way.

  2. by Jeremy Schultz

    On November 17, 2010 at 10:01 am

    My wife is burnt out from watching our 2-year-old son and puts him in front of the TV more and more. But she refuses to put him in daycare or even put him in the YMCA nursery a couple hours. It might be obsession but but I think it’s more about feeling obligated.

  3. by Rebecca@RootsAndWingsCo

    On November 17, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Hook, line, and sinker, I am totally addicted to my kids! I don’t think that’s bad, nor am I embarrassed by this. However, I am careful and make sure they have independence. Sure, I’d love my kids to always live with me (see I told you I was addicted, I really mean this)! However, I know that for them, I want them to move out and go conquer the world! I make sure to let them go on trips without me, etc. My kids will never know that they are ripping my heart out when they move out on their own! Because really, I am most happy when they are. So, I am raising them to be happy, successful people. Though I will be sad to see them go, I will also be just as much proud, happy, and excited for them. I will mean it when I tell them I am happy for them!

  4. by A Stepmom

    On November 17, 2010 at 10:29 am

    I’m definitely addicted to the love…the smiles….the hugs….the laughter and most of all….the kisses!