The Case Against Kids

The Case Against Kids

I’m a huge New Yorker fan (my parents bring me a big stack of back issues every time they visit, so I am always a few months or even years behind) but I don’t think anything I’ve ever read in the New Yorker has ever made me cry, let alone enabled me to enjoy one of those delicious JewishMOM cries I love so much…until I read this letter to the editor below.

This letter is a response to Elizabeth Kolbert’s recent article “The Case Against Kids,” which discusses recently published books promoting the advantages of childlessness (or, as they prefer to call it, the “child-free” lifestyle.)

Dan Mayer of Berlin, Germany writes:

Elizabeth Kolbert mentions “research [that] shows that people who have children are no more satisfied with their lives than people who don’t” as a factor in [the] overall case that people should reconsider procreation.

But what does self-reported happiness really measure?

Consider two hypothetical Sundays: one spent sitting on the sofa, and another spent climbing a mountain. It is safe to assume that the couch sitter would report higher levels of hour-by-hour happiness than the climber, as he would encounter none of the fatigue and pain experienced by the latter.

But the climber would be able to report a sense of accomplishment, and would have banked a memorable experience.

Put simply, happiness involves two dimensions: [pleasure] and achievement. When some researchers purport to be measuring “happiness,” I think they are really measuring [pleasure].

As the parent of a small child, I can attest to the fact that parenting at this stage is mainly an achievement activity, in that every day feels great, but often not until I’m sitting on the sofa with a glass of wine at the end of it.

Image courtesy of user Bloomsberries


  1. You were kidding about that glass of wine, no?

    I found this comforting. Thanks.

  2. Chaya H., I did get that between-the-lines wink … I think!

  3. Anonymous

    Does the day actually end? What about nights where kids wake up?!

  4. Excellent! Thanks again for bringing such great content!

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