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So Dads are Happier? Why It Doesn't Bother Me

LoveI spend a lot of time mining the small moments of motherhood.

On my blog, My 3 Little Birds, I ask my readers (who are primarily mothers and grandmothers) to shine the spotlight on themselves a little bit each day. 

I believe there’s value in gaining insight into how the motherhood journey shapes us as people.

But.

There’s no denying that in between all those moments of butterfly kisses and lessons learned, there’s a lot of stress. It’s messy. There are slammed doors and bee stings and not just a small amount of worry.

My husband jokes that mothers are hard-wired for all this worry. His theory is that it’s instinctive. It’s protective, and serves to perpetuate the species.

I’ll be honest. When I wake in the night in a cold sweat over my fears for a boy who was bullied at school, or I can’t stop thinking about what could go wrong during my toddler’s routine medical procedure, I don’t exactly feel like I’m helping humanity.

Most of the women I know are like me. They push worry off into the margins of their days, when the house is quiet and the bellies are full. They confess to their husbands in a worried whisper that they just can’t stop the dread, can’t turn off the fear, can’t make the heart that aches stop hurting for their little ones at times.

Most of their husbands are like mine. Less afraid, somehow. More able to tell themselves that it does no good to worry about those things in life we can’t control.

It begs the question: do men have it easier? And in short order, are they happier?

The research says yes.

When I read Christine Carter’s analysis on The Huffington Post of a study that revealed that parents report higher levels of positive emotion than non parents, I was intrigued by a critical detail explaining why: fathers are driving the averages up. In other words, when women become mothers, they don’t become happier, but when men become fathers they do.

Fascinating stuff, right?

It leaves me wondering if there’s a connection between the (anecdotal) lack of worry among fathers and their (evidentiary) happiness as it compares to mothers.

I like to think I know myself pretty well, and one thing I know for sure is this: as long as I’m a mother I’ll worry. I’ll worry about bad drivers and boogey men, rogue bullets and riptides. I’ll worry about dives into the deep end and strange rashes that dot the skin. I’ll worry if I tell them too little. I’ll worry if they know too much.

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

But I also know this: that the flip side of worry is a love so strong that it, too, wakes me in the night. If all this means that mothers experience more “negative emotions” than fathers, I’m willing to bet that the flip side of their worry is the same depth of love.

I, for one, wouldn’t trade an ounce of it to be able to report that I’m “happier.” Would you?

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