Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Can you "love your children but hate your life"?

By now, many of you have probably heard about a controversial cover story from New York magazine in which the writer, Jennifer Senior, asserts that she "loves her children but hates her life."

I do not want to go over all of the same ground that everyone else has gone over on this story. I simply want to question the very logic of this statement. Because frankly, I don't think it is possible.

In order for you to love your children and hate your life, you have to define your life as something that does not include children.

If you were to draw a circle that represented your life, and inside that circle draw dots that represent the different parts of your life -- career, hobbies, interests, social life, etc -- you would, in order for Senior's statement to be possible, have to draw the dots that represent your children somewhere outside of that circle.

But does that really make sense? Can we possibly define "life" as something that does not include relationships? If anything, relationships are life. We are social beings - our interactions with others are the very stuff that life is made of. So, if you love your kids - your relationships - is it logically possible to hate your life?

Maybe this analogy will clarify what I mean. If you were lying on the beach enjoying the sun and suddenly a large umbrella was hoisted in front of you, blocking out the sun and casting a shadow on you, would you, in your hatred of the shadow, start scratching at the sand to get rid of it? No. You would rightly “blame” the source of the shadow and move the umbrella. In other words, you can’t separate the shadow from the object that creates it.

In the case of a life that has been “cast into shadow” by children, can you ignore the fact that the children are causing the shadow, thus the sorrow? In other words, if your children are the cause of your "hating your life," can you really love them?

This leaves us with two disturbing possibilities. Either Senior has defined life as something that does not include her children, or, more problematic, she does not actually love her children, but can't bring herself to admit it.

I will not even try to guess at what the answer is, but as a father, I can't imagine telling someone that I hate my life, given that my son is such a central, irreplaceable part of it. That, to me, would be a hurtful -- perhaps hateful -- statement for my son to ever hear. How could I expect him to feel if he knew that after his birth, his father began to hate his life? Could he really brush that off and say, "No big deal. At least he loves me"?

I just ain't buyin' it. Are you?


  1. I think it's possible to be frustrated or unhappy with portions of your life which your children are part of at certain times. Perhaps, hate is too strong of a word. We aren't always happy with our families, spouses or jobs, but we know that they are worth the work in the end -- just like children. Does that mean you are happy all the time with the responsibilities having children entails? No, but most people are able to realize that it is all part of the bigger picture and those responsibilities/challenges won't be forever.

  2. I am glad I read this article. I have felt like I hate my life, but love my wife and kids lately. I miss some of the freedoms I had before they were born, but I definitely would not trade the blessings that God gave me for anything in the world. Watching them grow up has been a joy. However, I think my frustrations are like growing pains. The sibling rivalry drives me crazy. The stubborness to do things their way instead of following the advice of mom, dad, grandparents, uncles, teachers, and coaches makes me toss and turn at nights. Why are they so different from the way I was as a child.

    I do agree with Elaine, it can not be warm and sunny everyday. It needs to rain every once in a while so we can truly appreciate the good days. I don't want to sound like I am going through a prison sentence but, this to shall pass. My parents have told me to enjoy these moments becuase they go by so fast and you can never get them back.

  3. I thought this article was deplorable. As a man with an undergrad in family science, a Masters in marriage and family therapy and doing a Doctorate in family therapy, I can tell you that the context she is giving to the studies she's citing shamefully misrepresents them. I won't get into the details of how some people take specific parts of research and over-generalize what they mean (as the author of that article did) but I can tell you that nearly ALL the research is consistent in showing that in two-parent, committed relationships, children are highly influential in predicting parental and personal happiness scores. However, this depends on the importance the couple gives to parenting responsibilities. If the couple (or individual) reports that the importance of parenting is low, then their happiness that they usually gain from parenting is also low. Reciprocally, if the couple reports that the importance of parenting is high, they usually have higher happiness scores.

    I think it's apparent where the author of that article would rank her importance on parenting.

  4. Make one negative statement about the institution of having (and raising) kids, or mention the possibility that parenting may actually make your life miserable, and out come the "God people". Naturally, as with all other forms of brainwashing, religion makes you believe that you want things that others want for you. And of course, those studies can't possibly be correct...never mind the fact that there isn't a single study that suggests the opposite. Then again, the religious crowd is quite used to creating a blindness of convenience to scientific fact...never mind those who have zealously devoted their careers to such stuff as "family science" or the so-called science of "marriage and family therapy".

    I find it amusing that so many quickly come to blindly defend the choices they've made if only to feel better about and validate their own decisions. Wake up and smell the coffee people: maybe having kids isn't such a great time, and most people do it because they are "supposed to". The majority of professional people work at jobs they don't much like, just because they're supposed to, or because that's the only way they can imagine living. That doesn't make it better...just more standard and safer to contemplate. Those same people do all the other things they're supposed, and that includes having kids. There's also a pretty strong biological urge to do so. But don't assume that overcoming these things won't lead to a better life, just because your mother and father didn't tell you so.

  5. Sorry, not a dad, not even a parent, but "of course you can".

    As a Childfree person I am accessible to parents who are desperate to tell someone that they hate their life but are afraid of judgement from fellow parents. You are not alone in feeling this way, not remotely.

    Sometimes I hate my life but I still love my partner, the situation with children is no different.

  6. "nearly ALL the research is consistent in showing that in two-parent, committed relationships, children are highly influential in predicting parental and personal happiness scores. "

    And yet the facts show that committed relationships WITH children are far more likely to break up than those without children. No-one is denying your love for your children, there is no need to be so vehement about making your somewhat questionable point. What I have stated just now are the facts, they're not up for debate, you can get these straightforward statistics from any Government site and there is no twist or edge to them, just straight forward stats. Having children clearly does push relationships to breaking point and many break down as a result. If that is happiness then I'll stick with my no kids.

  7. Leah - I don't see how your response contradicts anything I wrote. The statistic that you cited merely shows that children put strains on relationships. I agree. My point - an entirely different one - was that if you hate your life BECAUSE of your children, then you don't really love your children. Your stat, if anything, further proves my point.

  8. Of course parents say that they hate their life but wouldn't trade it for the world. That is because society tells them that they are supposed to love their spawn, and look after them no matter what the cost. I am smart enough not to have the huge life changing 'accident' of having kids because I know i'd never be happy with my life revolving around some dependant thing. Life is to be lived not tied down!!

  9. I feel obligated to love and provide for my family at the expense of personnel happiness. Its like I don't have a choice in the matter. Support my family or be happy. All I can say to anyone reading it, unless your absolutely positive you want kids, don't have them


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