A recent “life after kids” study busts the myth that parents who are highly focused on their children are sacrificing their own well-being. Instead, a team of psychologists have found that putting your child first can actually make you happier.
Study leader Dr. Claire Ashton–James, from VU University in Amsterdam, states that there’s actually very little research to support the assumption that those investing time in their children are doing so at a personal cost.
Instead, she found that taking the time to invest in others, whether it be financial or emotional resources, leads to greater happiness than investing in yourself. “In short, when it comes to parental well-being, you reap what you sow,” she said.
Dr. Ashton-James collaborated with psychologist colleagues at the University of British Columbia to conduct two studies. Both studies involved 322 parents who had at least one child 18 years or younger.
The first study was meant to gauge their parenting style on a child-centric scale. This was done by getting parents to reveal the degree to which they agreed with statements such as, “The happiness of my children is more important to me than my own happiness.” From this study, researchers found that parents who were more child-centric were significantly more likely to experience happiness and a greater sense of purpose from having children.
The second study then asked parents to retell what they had done the previous day and to share how they felt during each activity. The results of this found that highly-involved parents had greater positive feelings and felt their lives had more meaning during childcare. They also found that the well-being of these parents was not affected negatively throughout their day while not caring for their children.
Published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, the report concluded: “We found a significant positive relationship between child-centrism and the subjective happiness and meaning of life that participants reported deriving from parenting.”
Dr. Ashton-James comments, “From this perspective, the more invested parents are in their children’s well-being – that is, the more ‘child-centric’ parents are –- the more happiness and meaning they will derive from parenting.”