The cost of raising a child in American for the average middle-class family is around $250,000 (and that’s before college tuition is accounted for). The teenage years can be brutal, although maybe not as brutal as the ages between 3 and 4 if you have twins (GOD HELP ME, I’M LOSING). There’s uncertainty and worrying that will last your entire life, you have to pack lunches every day and there is almost nothing worse than losing an entire morning searching for a pair of goddamn socks that match.
But that is nothing compared to the first year of parenting, which — according to a recent study — can apparently be the worst year of your life. Divorce? Child’s play. Unemployment? That’s nothing! The death of a spouse? Still not as bad as the first year of parenting.
That’s right! The 2000+ study respondents in Germany were more unhappy during their first year of child-rearing than they were during the first year after a divorce or losing a partner to death.
On average, new parenthood led to a 1.4 unit drop in happiness. That’s considered very severe.
To put things in perspective, previous studies have quantified the impact of other major life events on the same happiness scale in this way: divorce, the equivalent of a 0.6 “happiness unit” drop; unemployment, a one-unit drop; and the death of a partner a one-unit drop.
I can’t imagine how that could ever be true for me, but that first year is rough: There’s no sleep, there’s no going out; you miss your friends; you lose much of your freedom; you have less money to spend on yourself; and there’s less time to go to the movies or exercise or eat a decent goddamn meal. Even going to the beach, it takes an hour of prep time for every half hour you actually spend at the beach, and when you’re there, all you do is freak out because the blob of flesh in your arms might get a sunburn.
“We’re leaving, honey? Already? I just got the stupid beach tent set up!”
And the amount of laundry! And the diaper changes, and the sick days, and the vomit, and turning your house into a play ground.
It’s a wonder humanity hasn’t gone extinct — in fact, the study was actually trying to determine why the birth rate had dropped so low in Germany, and why so many people with designs on two kids quit after having their first.
But it’s totally worth it … is what parents say, which is absolutely true for some of us. But, I would never judge someone for opting out.
(And yes, the American Sniper fake baby is now my go-to photo on parenting articles.)