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Sometimes people with children might say things to you like "think of all the money you'll save!", "I envy you – my kids are such a pain", or "at least you don't have to go through the pains of pregnancy and childbirth". These comments are meant to make you feel better, but they can come across as shallow, and often make you feel worse.
Even though "look on the bright side" advice isn't helpful, it is undeniable that there are some advantages to having no (or fewer) children. There is some research into the relationship between happiness and raising children. Some studies claim that parents are angrier and more depressed than their child-free counterparts (article), and they grow angrier and more depressed with each additional child (article). Others conclude that, in general, parenthood has a negative impact on overall well-being (article) and marital satisfaction (article). The financial burden of raising a family takes a heavy toll, and is mentioned in several of these studies.
It should be noted that some of these findings are contested, so they should be taken with a grain of salt. My personal view is that there is so much variation from person to person that we shouldn't read too deeply into results that summarize groups as a whole. However, this does reinforce the message from the previous page: you may feel like you will never be happy if you don't conceive, but there is evidence to the contrary.
Gary and Sandra are in their late-60's. After they met in their early 20's they moved to South Africa for an adventure. They ended up staying longer than expected, and by the time they were ready to settle down they were both in their 30's. In the 1970's reproductive technology was not as developed as it is today, so their options were limited. They tried to conceive naturally for a number of years. After several devastating miscarriages, they eventually accepted that it was not going to happen for them.
I spoke to Gary and Sandra about their lives. On one hand, they still struggle from time to time. Sometimes Sandra tears up when she sees a newborn, as she thinks about the life that could have been. However, both Gary and Sandra are very quick to point out that they've lived a life that would not have been possible with children. For one thing, they have never stopped travelling – they spend Northern Hemisphere winters in the Southern Hemisphere every year. Furthermore, they've been able to take risks with their finances that they wouldn't have otherwise. They started their own business and invested in property. Also, there are still children in their life. Over the years they have formed very close bonds with their nieces and nephews. "You don't always get what you want in life", said Gary. "That doesn't mean it's all over. We live a life many people only dream of."
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