The Happiness Gap

What is the Happiness Gap and how does it affect parents? Read to find out! | Mom but not a Mom

According to an article in Time Magazine, The Happiness Gap is the difference between how happy adults with children feel as compared to those without. In many countries, parents report feeling happier than nonparents. Some countries rate about the same for both groups. In the US, however, The Happiness Gap is significantly skewed so that adults who do not have children are significantly happier than adults who have children. In fact, out of the 22 countries in which this research took place, the US reported the biggest Happiness Gap.

Why is this?

Here’s a quick story:

There was a mom whose two beautiful children were enrolled at the daycare I worked at. But whenever one of the children got sick, a few days later the other one would inevitably catch what the first one had. This frequently led to her having to take off a couple days to nurse the first one back to health, and then another day or two for the second one.

I’ll never forget the day she came in crying because her boss threatened to fire her if she continued taking time off for her children. She became put in the difficult position of being forced to choose between providing for her children financially, and being there for her children when they were ill. That’s not a choice any parent should have to make.

Research has found that the two main reasons parents in the United States are less happy than parents in other countries are

  • The high cost of childcare in the US
  • The low number of permitted sick/vacation days

The High Cost of Childcare in the US

I know firsthand how expensive daycare can be. This is not the fault of the daycares – although it may seem that way when you as a parent are being faced with an enormous childcare bill.

Unlike schools, where there may be 20 or 30 kids to a teacher, daycares have teacher to child ratios that they have to maintain in order to keep their license. This means that daycares require a higher amount of teachers to a lower amount of children. Daycare workers don’t make a lot. But once the parents have paid their tuition and the teachers are given their salary, there isn’t much left over.

The Low Number of Sick/Vacation Days

Like the woman in my story, many parents in the US are faced with the dilemma of trying to provide for their family while also being able to actually invest and spend time with the family they work so hard to support.

Here is the reality: The United States is not set up to nurture family life.

We have an absurdly high divorce rate. Adults with children are unhappy. What does this say about how our culture prioritizes family?

My husband got a job straight out of college, which we were excited about because it seemed like a good opportunity. We were momentarily put off by the significant amount of hours he was expected to work (55+ per week), and his long commute through city traffic. But he decided to give it a shot anyways.

After the first week, he discovered that he was also expected to stay late on Thursday evenings for “team bonding” until 9 or 10 pm.

After the second week, he discovered that he was also expected to spend half of each month away on business trips.

And through all of these discoveries, he kept meeting people who said “Yeah, I’m divorced. My wife thought I spent too much time at work and not enough time with her.”

He quit on the third week, because he decided to value his family over any potential the job could offer (which also wasn’t panning out to be much, if we’re honest).

 Why I Won’t Raise My Children in the U.S.

I want to have children someday. When I have the money to move to another country and raise them in a different environment.

I don’t want to be a victim of The Happiness Gap. I don’t want to be an unhappy parent.

I want to live somewhere where I feel that my family life is supported by mine or my husband’s job, not quelled by it.


What about you? Do you recognize the signs of The Happiness Gap in your family?


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