Is Being a Good Parent Bad for You?

A new study says your parenting style could be damaging your health.

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Is being a good parent bad for your health? It sure looks that way!

A team from Northwestern University looked at the hidden costs of parental empathy and found that while the children of empathetic parents fare better both physically and emotionally, experiencing higher self-esteem and sense of life purpose, the parents... not so much.

In fact, the study revealed that exercising empathy and relating to your kids' concerns and hardships can actually take a biological toll on mom and dad.


Researchers at Northwestern surveyed 247 pairs of parents and their kids, asking how often and to what degree the parents understood their children's feelings and responded with appropriate concern. They also took blood samples.

Here's what they found: The children of empathetic parents were better off psychologically and showed lower levels of inflammatory markers. For their parents, however, the outlook was pretty bleak. Their cells revealed chronic low-grade systemic inflammation, as well as elevated stress-hormone production.

In short, basically that means being a good parent comes at a cost. So, now what? Erika M. Manczak, the study's lead author, said the trick to diminishing these potential negative health impacts is not to turn into Mommy Dearest, but to simply be more mindful of self-care.

"Things like getting enough sleep, exercising, and reducing stress are all related to these types of immune processes," she said. "It's not selfish for parents to make time for those things—it's actually critical for their own mental and physical health."

Finally... an excuse to take a mid-day nap! Wake me up in two hours, 'kay?

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website for more, and follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.

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