Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Tim ReidyJuly 22, 2010

This New York cover story is worth a read if you didn't catch it earlier this month. Jennifer Senior sets out to explore the various reasons why, in study after study, young American parents have been shown to be unhappy with their lives. As a new (happy) parent, I was puzzled by this idea, but I also found myself resonating with many of the concerns raised by young parents. Yes, raising a kid is hard, especially when both parents work. If you have children at a later age, like many couples do, you will inevitably miss the creature comforts you enjoyed in your 20s. And can't we do a better job as a nation providing for quality affordable child care?

But I think the article neglects one key aspect of family life that provides great joy to many parents: growing old with your children. Bringing up a child is physically and emotionally exhausting, but in time the rewards can be great. Watching your children mature into adulthood, seeing them have children of their own, enjoying the comfort of their company as you grow frail--these fruits of parenthood are discernible only if you take the long view. Of course, healthy relationships with adult children are, sadly, not always the norm. But parenthood is a far more rich and varied experience than potty training and rides to soccer practice.

Tim Reidy


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Michael Cremin
13 years 10 months ago
I have a two year old and a four and a half year old. Many days I feel like I should have stayed in the military where it was safe. The stress, anxiety, guilt, frustration, and misery can be overwhelming. I was just watching an episode of HBO's ''The Pacific,'' and I saw in the haunted faces of the marines a shadow of myself at 3AM, holding a screaming baby, knowing I had to go to work in three hours, exhausted, depleted, literally screaming into a pillow with helplessness and asking myself over and over and over again, why, why, why did we do this? Why?

Tonight, I was rocking my little one to sleep, and she was looking up into my eyes, babbling along about Dora the Explorer, our kiddie pool, and something that sounded like 'blue beats.' If I have ever loved anyone any more than I did my baby girl at that moment (or her sister at similar times), I don't know when it was.

Children create love. One minute they aren't there, then they are, and you love them so much. They are like little nuclear love bombs. It's worth it. All of it is worth it. It's not easy, but love is worth it.
13 years 10 months ago
"enjoying the comfort of their company as you grow frail"-

This is is a forgone conclusion in the minds of many parents; however, life has many twists and turns. How one treats ones children is often how parents are ulimtately treated at the end of the road. As a social worker of many years, trust me: it aint necessarily so.
James Lindsay
13 years 10 months ago
Western culture's biggest challenge is making parenthood "pay" again.  As development spreads to all corners of the globe, it is a matter of species survival to find a way to meet the zeroeth commandment - be fruitful and multiply.  This is an area where Catholicism has much perspective to offer.

As to parental angst, I find it comes from several quarters.  One is revisiting ones own childhood and finding yourself repeating the mistakes of your parents.  The other thing that weighs heavily is the sense of obligation you have, at least if you are healthy, which forces you to be responsible and put your own desires on hold.  Having a child later in life somewhat ads to that, since by the time you escape, you are old.  When 20 somethings have kid, by age 45 or 50 they are gone.  Have a kid when you are in your early 40s and or late 30s and you find yourself busy with them until retirement age.  The prospect of never seeing grandkids becomes very real, as is never having that freedom to soar that 50 somethings have when no longer burdened by the responsibility for children and teenagers.
13 years 10 months ago
I was born into a fabulous, close, loving family.  My siblings are my closest confidantes; my parents were, additionally, our sages.  Having kids for me was partially a matter of perpetuating that incredible bond of people.  I've had close friends come and go; but my family has always been there.  Bringing up the young-uns requires some self-sacrifice, but it is an investment well-made.  Now the sages, my wife and I are providing to our children a strong sense of family, and, hopefully, are instilling between our children the gift of strong bonds to one another that has been so important to me even to this day.

I think my perspective -much as my views on the Church- is an old-fashioned one.  Parents today seem to be more temporary guardians preparing their chicks for flight, looking forward to end that phase so that they can get on with their own lives.
Winifred Holloway
13 years 10 months ago
When we were raising our six children, I thought more than once that I wouldn't live through it.  The exhaustion, stress and anxiety could be overwhelming.  We learned not to count on good days, just good moments and there was the persistent feeling that we were inadequate to the task- just not good enough, patient enough, sensitive enough.  My husband and I each grew up with one sister, a decade older than us, so the noise, constant activity and never-ending demands that a houseful of children bring were unfamiliar. In all of that, we still had love, fun and were often in awe of the unique persons that each of these kids were. Children keep you humble and unless one is a control freak, the experience of parenting opens you up to humanity. They are grown now and I am happy and grateful to say that they are a joy to us. Our best times are when we all are together.  And they would say the same.

The latest from america

An important international conference in Rome on May 21 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in China. Here’s what you need to know.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 20, 2024
During an audience with a delegation from Loyola University Chicago at the Vatican on May 20, Pope Francis said, “Education happens on three levels: the head, the heart and the hands.”
Pope FrancisMay 20, 2024
The proclamation comes just two weeks after the Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Joe Biden.
People pick through discarded produce at the central market for fruit and vegetables in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, May 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Argentina has been in a state of economic upheaval for years with two constants—a continuous increase in poverty and corresponding efforts by the Catholic Church to respond to that need.
Lucien ChauvinMay 20, 2024