Why is parenting so fulfilling

Sleepless

© dpa picture alliance Clear announcement on a Viennese house facade

If you really want to mess around with parents, you should let go of how beautiful and fulfilling a life without children can be. Maybe at the birthday brunch. Or while drinking coffee. Only as a test balloon. Have fun! That creates a good mood and serenity, and you also learn how useful unspectacular statements are for the ideologically charged debate. Everyone can say something about this: We parents were once childless and have an opinion on it. And the childless know examples of children from their own families, which may be repulsive. Whatever the case, the debate meets all the criteria of a black and white view, and in the end it only says: Are you for or against children?

We all ask ourselves the question of whether we want children at some point in life. Teenagers often have an opinion on this (“yes, I'll be sure later!”), While students between 20 and 30 tend to have the impression that they shy away from the topic; at least it sometimes seems to be miles away from the reality of life for young adults, especially in urban academic settings. According to reports, children in the Berlin-Neukölln pubs and in front of the “Späti” in Kreuzberg are only a marginal topic, but definitely a topic that is still being discussed with some distance. At the latest by the age of 30, there is no more escape when the first children of the same age start families - and one is asked more or less clearly in conversations to show one's colors. “Do you really want children?” Is a frequently asked question to which it is better to think about a good answer, otherwise you will find yourself in all sorts of stomping loops of justification.

Around the same time, the friends' groups split a bit into wheat and chaff - those who stay at the parties until the dolls and those who go to bed earlier because the child is on the mat at seven the next morning. For those who stay longer at the party, the case is clear: children destroy private life. But is it really like that? Even at an age when one has just outgrown student life more or less, one can be more differentiated: children may "destroy" (better: impair) part of their previous private life, but they also create a new one. They help to develop further. Whether children make people happy, on the other hand, is controversial: studies show that they do not necessarily do this. Others argue that parents get happier again after 40, probably because most couples have children out of the woods.

Depending on whether you belong to the party of the committed childless or the family fans, you will weight and accentuate one or the other aspect more strongly. However, the only meaningful life plan is neither. Just as some interpret Islam or Catholicism as the only true religion, the representatives of these two civil religions - parent fanatics and child rejecters - seem to be celebrating their masses no less resolutely. Children have advantages and disadvantages that you should be aware of. Just like childlessness. But nothing more: in the end, your gut feeling has to be right if you decide to have children. A few considerations can help:

What speaks for children

  • Children create many wonderful moments in family life, please parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and create a nice atmosphere.
  • Children let you see things that you have completely forgotten as an adult. How nice it can be, for example, to retrace the flight of a butterfly without thinking about the extinction of species.
  • Children preserve their own inheritance, and above all the shared experiences, the family history, perhaps the names.
  • Children can be used to make new contacts, with other parents and families.
  • Children bring child benefit - and the opportunity to take parental leave.

What speaks against children

  • Children cost money. There are a number of bills for this: If you take current consumer spending, the costs up to the age of 18 amount to around 130,000 euros. Then it goes on lively: Apartment, studies, gifts of money.
  • Children are nerve-racking. They are exhausting, require their own timing, and cause a lack of sleep.
  • Children can hinder career prospects. Part-time is still considered a career killer, despite all the assurances, parental leave is not always and everywhere conducive to promotion.
  • Children make social contact with people without children more difficult.

The debate is of course only for people who have the luxury of making decisions. Those who inadvertently remain childless will either see children through rose-colored glasses or condemn them straight away. On the other hand, anyone who unwillingly becomes a mother or father may wish for the freedom of childlessness back. But if we take the cases of free decisions, then both paths have something for themselves - and are perhaps even socially desirable, especially since they require mutual understanding, i.e. empathy, and in the best case generate them. That can only do good. Here are a few considerations:

  • If you want to stay childless, you can put your energy and money into other projects. This does not necessarily have to be selfish, as parents like to assume childless people like (parties and backpacking trips), but can also be an honorary position or the care of the parents. But it doesn't have to. Anyone who has traveled a long way and has not spent their time in the bouncy castle paradise is just as valuable to a society.
  • Anyone who has children needs an understanding of childless friends. It is just not the case that the toddler sleeps longer in the morning if you put him to bed later in the evening. If you travel with a child the next day, you need more time to pack - and maybe you don't have a nerve for a beer the night before. That's a long way from being “narrow-minded” (the general accusation of some childless towards parents).
  • Parents also find parents annoying who only define themselves through their children. Anyone who permanently only presents their children as a profile picture on Whatsapp or Facebook or who only describes themselves as "mom" could have too little of their own. Kitchen psychology? Maybe. And experience!
  • The other way round also applies: Anyone who writes on birthday invitations that the children are to be left at home and not wanted, accepts the split between their own acquaintance and friends. In any case, I wouldn't want to go there anymore. Not because I just want to drag the child to a smoky party, but I have no desire for people who enact such rules - nor those who litigate against children's playgrounds in the neighborhood or only go to child-free hotels. I just don't like them.

Perhaps it would be helpful to get away from the attribution of functions: children are not there for anything; they don't have to make sense of their parents, nor carry on their inheritance, nor take away their fear of death (they do all of that, but it's not their point!). Children also do not make you a better person who does something special for society by having children. This is what you have to tell parents when they claim that childless people cannot judge what is related to family. The sentence “there is a blind person talking about color” is the first stage of the aberration, after which some come up with the absurd idea that a childless person cannot become a family minister. Grotesque - or does a Minister of Labor and Social Affairs have to have moved into Hartz IV beforehand to know what he is talking about? It is especially good when someone (at first glance) provides an occasional change of perspective. In this respect, there is no need to take an ideological look at having children: the birthday brunch is saved when everyone understands how enriching the prospects for children are and are childless people.

Keywords: family happiness, happiness through children, childlessness, desire for children
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(Not) a child makes you happy!

By Martin Benninghoff

Do children ensure a more fulfilling life - or do they just make dirt, cost money and annoying? A couple of suggestions for disarming the sometimes harsh debate.

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