Friday, June 5, 2009

Spouse vs. parent

The comment from SS on my last post got me thinking about whether, in fact, I would have been happier having had a child with the wrong person than having no children with the right partner. In some ways, I suppose it is moot to consider this, given that I can't go back and do anything over.

But coincidentally, a friend who is in grad school posed the following question for a paper he is writing. Which role has brought you more happiness: spouse or parent?

In helping out my friend, I emailed several of my friends who are parents to get their responses. Some of the responses were just what I would've expected. For example, two friends who are divorced parents answered that the "parent" role has brought them more happiness. A few people were unable to choose, usually citing the interplay between the relationships of "parent" and "spouse," or saying that they couldn't choose between the two.

Interestingly, though several married friends unequivocally chose "parent." These are all friends who have been married some time--from 12 to 25 years--who have more than one child. To my knowledge, they are all happily married.

Not one of my friends unequivocally responded that the role of "spouse" had brought him/her greater happiness.

So I suppose I can infer from this that, if I am like my friends, the happiness I would (will?) experience from being a parent will be equal to, or more than, the happiness I've experienced as MM's wife. Which just confirms my thought that, had I had a child earlier in life, even with the wrong partner, I likely would have derived more happiness from that experience than from marrying MM.

Hmmm. Kinda makes me wish I'd known this at, say, 23. But then again, at 23, I still thought I'd be super-fertile well into my 30s. So I probably still would've waited to TTC.

Interesting thing to consider. . . .


  1. Well, that's rather interesting. I have a few points to make, although I am not a parent so I can't say for sure. I am someone's child, though, and my mother was involved in my life to the point of being smothering and trying to run my life. She would have chosen her kids over her spouse without a second thought, but of course we eventually grew up and the codependence she has fostered is really unhealthy.

    I also think that the answer to the question about which relationship makes you happier probably depends on how long you've been with your spouse and how old your kids are.

  2. S- this post really mkaes me think. And of course makes me hope for an opportunity to learn how it feels to look at one's child with that unconditional love. In my personal life, my mom drives me completely and uttterly bonkers in about 5 seconds. but i inkow that all she really wants to do is make me happy. and that usually is enough to make me bite my tongue (i am surprised i still have one) you ave had some thought provoking posts this week :)

  3. While I am not a parent, this poses a very interesting question. I think if I had a child at 23, clearly with the wrong person - since I didn't even start dating R until I was 23.8- then being a single, struggling parent would have brought me less joy than being a spouse to the right person. I don't think having a child with the wrong person would let me be 100% happy because of the added stress of dealing with the father who I would no longer be with. I guess, if I can't have it all, I'd rather be happily married than to struggle as a single parent. Because, if I'd had a child at 23, then I likely wouldn't have met R, and I would have missed out on so much as a wife.

  4. Hi- glad to see my comment sparked some research. In my view, I think that being married to the wrong person just would never make me as happy as being married to the right one. It wouldn't be that you didn't love your child as much as or more than your husband, just that being in a relationship with the wrong person just to have a child earlier would produce less overall happiness than being in the relationship with the right person and not having a child. Interesting information.


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