Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Lenten Thoughts

This time last year, on Ash Wednesday, I remembered that I am dust.

This year I am still remembering, but I am also getting back to normal. I am dealing with the ordinary, everyday, beautiful frustrations of work and family and life. Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling any kind of negative emotions about my obligations, when I think about how desperately I missed my ordinary life when I was away from it.

It was in this frame of mind that I read this article, which reports on a new study that found that parents exaggerate how rewarding parenthood is. Apparently many studies show that non-parents are happier by most measures. And yet, parents talk about parenting as the best thing in their lives. In this study, parents who were given entirely negative information about parenting to read reported higher levels of satisfaction with their lives than those who read positive information. John Cloud writes:
"Why? For the same reason you keep spending money to fix up an old car when it just doesn't work — or keep investing in the same company when it's failing. Humans throw good money after bad all the time. When we have invested a lot in a choice that turns out to be bad, we're really inept at admitting that it didn't make rational sense. Other research has shown that we romanticize our relationships with spouses and partners significantly more when we believe we have sacrificed for them. We like TVs that we've spent a lot to buy even though our satisfaction is no lower when we watch a cheaper television set."
In other words, parents really are not as happy as non-parents, but they can't accept this; they have to pretend they are happy so that they won't feel bad about the foolish choice they have made to have children.

Cloud makes it quite obvious in the article how he feels about this, as does the title of the article: "Does Having Kids Make Parents Delusional?" But could it simply be that God has wired us to be happy when we are sacrificing ourselves? Since we are dust, and since the only lasting importance is found in God and in the human soul, is it possible that investing in our children, and our families, and our friends, and people in general, is the best way to be happy long-term? Even if in the process there is pain and irritation sometimes? Cloud says: "All parents know that having kids is a blessing — except when it's a nightmare of screaming fits, diapers, runny noses, wars over bedtimes and homework and clothes." Yes, I had a war with my son last night over bedtime, but I don't believe I am fooling myself when I say that having kids is a blessing. My life would be quieter, and cleaner, and less complicated, if I had no contact with other people, my children included, but it would also be infinitely poorer.

I am dust. Everything I have could be gone in a moment. All that matters is God and human beings.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

I have heard a lot about this article (or one similar?) but this is the best articulation I've read of why it is worth it. "God wired us to be happier when we are sacrificing ourselves." YES.