Research has found that having children is terrible for quality of life—but the truth about what parenthood means for happiness is a lot more complicated.
Few choices are more important than whether to have children, and psychologists and other social scientists have worked to figure out what having kids means for happiness. Some of the most prominent scholars in the field have argued that if you want to be happy, it’s best to be childless. Others have pushed back, pointing out that a lot depends on who you are and where you live. But a bigger question is also at play: What if the rewards of having children are different from, and deeper than, happiness?
The early research is decisive: Having kids is bad for quality of life. In one study, the psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues asked about 900 employed women to report, at the end of each day, every one of their activities and how happy they were when they did them. They recalled being with their children as less enjoyable than many other activities, such as watching TV, shopping, or preparing food.
Other studies find that when a child is born, parents experience a decrease in happiness that doesn’t go away for a long time, in addition to a drop in marital satisfaction that doesn’t usually recover until the children leave the house. As the Harvard professor Dan Gilbert puts it, “The only symptom of empty nest syndrome is nonstop smiling.”
After all, having children, particularly when they are young, involves financial struggle, sleep deprivation, and stress. For mothers, there is also in many cases the physical strain of pregnancy and breastfeeding. And children can turn a cheerful and loving romantic partnership into a zero-sum battle over who gets to sleep and work and who doesn’t.
As the Atlantic staff writer Jennifer Senior notes in her book, All Joy and No Fun, children provoke a couple’s most frequent arguments—“more than money, more than work, more than in-laws, more than annoying personal habits, communication styles, leisure activities, commitment issues, bothersome friends, sex.” Someone who doesn’t understand this is welcome to spend a full day with an angry 2-year-old (or a sullen 15-year-old); they’ll find out what she means soon enough.
But, as often happens in psychology, although some research provided simple findings—in this case, “having children makes you unhappy”—other efforts arrived at more complicated conclusions. For one, the happiness hit is worse for some people than for others. One study finds that fathers ages 26 to 62 actually get a happiness boost, while young or single parents suffer the greatest loss. And crucially, there are geographic differences.
A 2016 paper looking at the happiness levels of people with and without children in 22 countries found that the extent to which children make you happy is influenced by whether your country has child-care policies such as paid parental leave. Parents from Norway and Hungary, for instance, are happier than childless couples in those countries—but parents from Australia and Great Britain are less happy than their childless peers. The country with the greatest happiness drop after you have children? The United States.
Children make some happy and others miserable; the rest fall somewhere in between—it depends, among other factors, on how old you are, whether you are a mother or a father, and where you live. But a deep puzzle remains: Many people would have had happier lives and marriages had they chosen not to have kids—yet they still describe parenthood as the “best thing they’ve ever done.” Why don’t we regret having children more?
One possibility is a phenomenon called memory distortion. When we think about our past experiences, we tend to remember the peaks and forget the mundane awfulness in between. Senior frames it like this: “Our experiencing selves tell researchers that we prefer doing the dishes—or napping, or shopping, or answering emails—to spending time with our kids … But our remembering selves tell researchers that no one—and nothing—provides us with so much joy as our children.
It may not be the happiness we live day to day, but it’s the happiness we think about, the happiness we summon and remember, the stuff that makes up our life-tales.” These are plausible-enough ideas, and I don’t reject them. But other theories about why people don’t regret parenthood actually have nothing to do with happiness—at least not in a simple sense.
One involves attachment. Most parents love their children, and it would seem terrible to admit that you would be better off if someone you loved didn’t exist. More than that, you genuinely prefer a world with your kids in it. This can put parents in the interesting predicament of desiring a state that doesn’t make them as happy as the alternative. In his book Midlife, the MIT professor Kieran Setiya expands on this point.
Modifying an example from the philosopher Derek Parfit, he asks readers to imagine a situation in which, if you and your partner were to conceive a child before a certain time, the child would have a serious, though not fatal, medical problem, such as chronic joint pain. If you wait, the child will be healthy. For whatever reason, you choose not to wait. You love your child and, though he suffers, he is happy to be alive. Do you regret your decision?
That’s a complicated question. Of course it would have been easier to have a kid without this condition. But if you’d waited, you’d have a different child, and this baby (then boy, then man) whom you love wouldn’t exist. It was a mistake, yes, but perhaps a mistake that you don’t regret. The attachment we have to an individual can supersede an overall decrease in our quality of life, and so the love we usually have toward our children means that our choice to bring them into existence has value above and beyond whatever effect they have on our happiness.
This relates to a second point, which is that there’s more to life than happiness. When I say that raising my sons is the best thing I’ve ever done, I’m not saying that they gave me pleasure in any simple day-to-day sense, and I’m not saying that they were good for my marriage. I’m talking about something deeper, having to do with satisfaction, purpose, and meaning. It’s not just me.
When you ask people about their life’s meaning and purpose, parents say that their lives have more meaning than those of nonparents. A study by the social psychologist Roy Baumeister and his colleagues found that the more time people spent taking care of children, the more meaningful they said their life was—even though they reported that their life was no happier.
Raising children, then, has an uncertain connection to pleasure but may connect to other aspects of a life well lived, satisfying our hunger for attachment, and for meaning and purpose. The writer Zadie Smith puts it better than I ever could, describing having a child as a “strange admixture of terror, pain, and delight.” Smith, echoing the thoughts of everyone else who has seriously considered these issues, points out the risk of close attachments:
“Isn’t it bad enough that the beloved, with whom you have experienced genuine joy, will eventually be lost to you? Why add to this nightmare the child, whose loss, if it ever happened, would mean nothing less than your total annihilation?” But this annihilation reflects the extraordinary value of such attachments; as the author Julian Barnes writes of grief, quoting a friend, “It hurts just as much as it is worth.”
Athletes are always looking for ways to improve performance and take goals to the next level. Efforts for doing just that are often limited to waking hours: nutrition, hydration, recovery protocols, supplement routine and, of course, training itself. And despite all this, research shows that, on average, athletes neglect a critical performance tool: sleep. So how does inadequate sleep affect athletic performance? Interestingly, the oversight of sleep can impact performance, both directly and indirectly, and the effects largely differ by sport.
The impact of sleep quality on overall health
Before moving into the impact of sleep on performance, it is important to understand how sleep affects overall health and wellness. Both the amount and quality of sleep impacts our mood and energy levels, our metabolism, and immune system health. Inadequate quality sleep can be linked to a variety of serious health problems, including an increased risk of depression, obesity, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. It can even increase an individual’s risk for illness and infection.
Athletes as a population do not get adequate sleep, contributing to overtraining syndrome
Adequate rest and recovery are considered key components of improving athletic performance and preventing sleep disturbances commonly reported in overtraining syndrome. Sleep provides the body with an opportunity to rest from both the physiological and cognitive stressors many athletes face throughout the day. However, despite the body of evidence on the benefits of sleep in athletes (and the potential for sleep to alleviate fatigue), sleep duration and quality are often neglected by athletes.
It is well-reported that, on average, athletes do in fact get less than seven hours of sleep per night, often of poor quality. This falls below the recommended eight hours to combat the negative effects of sleep deprivation. Despite some research limitations, the British Journal of Sports Medicine consensus statement on the topic states that sleep deprivation does affect recovery, training, and performance in elite athletes and that these athletes as a population do not get enough sleep.
Athletes are, in general, a highly motivated group—the type of people who may willingly restrict sleep to fit more activities into waking hours. But even if you’re someone who ‘gets by just fine’ on a restricted sleep schedule, such a lifestyle can have immediate detrimental effects; evidence shows that restricting sleep to six hours per night for just four consecutive nights can impair cognitive performance and mood, glucose metabolism, appetite regulation, and immune function.
Effects of sleep deprivation on different types of athletes
Before we jump into the research of the effects of sleep deprivation in athletes, a disclaimer: Despite the recognized importance of sleep in athletes’ routines, the research on sleep in athletic populations is sparse at this time. The available research on this topic has specific limitations, including the underrepresentation of female subjects, inconsistent research methods across studies, and small sample size.
Now, the science. Current research does show a number of potential performance implications of poor sleep that should be considered in both endurance and power sport athletes. Among the subjects that have been studied, individual sport athletes appear to be more susceptible sleep deficiency and had poorer sleep efficiency than their team sport counterparts.
Two main detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on performance in all sport types are cognitive impairments and mood disturbances. Blumert et al. looked at the effects of just 24 hours of sleep deprivation in collegiate weightlifters (so, for a single night’s sleep). While they saw no difference in performance tasks, training load or intensity, there was a significant difference in mood state including fatigue and confusion in the sleep deprived athletes.
There are also observed direct effects of sleep deprivation on physical performance. Oliver et al. studied endurance running performance in a 24 hour sleep deprived state and found that thatsubjects who were sleep deprived ran fewer miles in the same amount of time as well-rested athletes but with the same perception of effort. Athletes should also be mindful of the non-direct consequences of sleep deprivation on their performance including but not limited to metabolism, hormone regulation, immune health, and limiting recovery.
Much like everything related to health, wellness, and performance, each individual will have different sleep requirements. These requirements may also vary depending on phase or training season, sex, training volume, intensity, and type of sport.
Biomarkers related to sleep and performance in athletes
Adequate sleep helps to regulate cortisol levels, and inadequate sleep can cause cortisol levels to rise above optimized levels. Cortisol is a catabolic steroid hormone that breaks down muscle, so chronically-elevated cortisol can directly combat progress to become stronger or faster in our athletic performance.
Sleep also helps to regulate testosterone levels. This hormone is anabolic, meaning it helps build muscle (the opposite of cortisol). But, as you might have guessed, insufficient sleep can reduce testosterone levels.
Research shows that sleep deprivation can also cause chronic inflammation, as indicated by high hsCRP levels. As athletes, inflammation and muscle damage are to be expected with any sort of training—after all, we need to cause slight damage to our muscles to make them stronger. But chronic inflammation, the kind that’s caused by overtraining or insufficient rest, can leave an athlete prone to poor performance, illness, and injury.
Actions for athletes to take to improve sleep
While the benefits of adequate sleep are well-documented in healthy individuals, the research specific to athletes and different athlete types continues to emerge. That being said, there are well-established actions you can take right now to improve your sleep. Here are some actions to optimize your sleep habits:
. If you have trouble getting the recommended amount of sleep at night, consider taking regular naps.
. Begin tracking your sleep with a wearable activity tracker. While research has displayed varying accuracy of these devices for sleep management, they can help you establish a healthy and regular bedtime routine.
. Work on implementing good sleep habits or a bedtime routine that reduces stress and promotes a good sleeping environment.
. Consider adjusting your exercise routine and incorporate more rest and active recovery in times of sleep deprivation or high life stress to help support your overall health and prevent injury or illness.
Millennials. They’re back at it again with their whining and laziness. This time, they’re daring to quit their jobs due to burnout. Don’t they understand the financial ramifications of quitting or “lying flat,” even for a brief stint? Aren’t they rather young to be burned out?
Millennials, of which I am one, and Xennials, the cohort born from the late 1970s to early 1980s, are indeed leading the charge when it comes to the Great Resignation, or the recent increase in people quitting their jobs, according to an analysis by Visier into U.S. Bureau and Labor Statistics data. More than 6 million people quit their jobs between January and August 2021, according to the BLS’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. That was a quit rate of 2.9%, a series high.
But this shift can’t be entirely chalked up to generational stereotypes. Rather than laziness, it seems like part of what we’re seeing is a fundamental change in how people value work.
After 18 months of pandemic uncertainty altering how we work, it makes sense we’d return to the questions of why we work, and how our jobs affect our quality of life. Is there perhaps another way to earn an income that better aligns with our overall goals? Couldn’t we create a future of no longer using a career as the primary or sole basis of our identity and self-satisfaction? Shouldn’t this be a moment to consider how to work to live instead of live to work?
Granted, many recent resignations have stemmed from need as opposed to choice. For example, women are more likely to have to quit their jobs to be primary caregivers due to shuttered childcare and in-person schooling during COVID. There is also a great deal of stress around returning to work amidst an ongoing pandemic, especially if you don’t have health care. Long COVID is a growing concern. Although some have quit their jobs to hop to new positions, there are undoubtedly many who’ve quit without another job lined up.
But even before the pandemic, burnout was starting to catch up to us. A 2018 Gallup study found 7 in 10 Millennials felt some sort of burnout on the job, with 28% reporting it as frequent or constant. Whereas 21% of older generations reported feeling the same.
We can theorize that this burnout comes from the increasingly blurred boundaries between being on and off the clock. From being conditioned to believe that appearing “always available” is the hallmark of a promotable employee. From jobs that once required a high school diploma suddenly demanding a bachelor’s degree, forcing young people to get mired in never-before-seen levels of student loan debt. Perhaps too from how we were brought up — being over-scheduled as young students to pad our resumes and gain acceptance to colleges.
Millennials reportedly have higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide compared with our Gen X and Boomer counterparts. For example, 54% of Millennials perceive their mental health as excellent or good compared to 64% of Baby Boomers, according to a 2020 report from Blue Cross Blue Shield. The same study also found a 43% increase in major depression for millennials between the years of 2014 to 2018.
Quitting a job will never be a cure-all for underlying mental health issues, but taking a short-term hiatus from a large stressor and focusing on getting better can be helpful. There may well be financial repercussions of opting out of the workforce — forgoing income is a serious consideration, as is giving up employer-provided health insurance and pressing pause on investing for retirement.
Even so, it seems millions are willing to take the risk. Reducing future earnings potential to focus on mental health may sound ridiculous to some, but figuring out how to live a stable, balanced and healthy life at a young age could reap enormous rewards for the next generation — and for our workplaces.
It’s quite possible that after decades of wealth accumulation being heralded as the route to success, we can start shifting toward a better balanced life — one in which work is just a piece of who you are and ambition and career success needn’t define you nor be what gives your life meaning. This doesn’t mean we’re without ambition, only that our desire to achieve can encompass more than the traditional, work-centric milestones.
Erin Lowry is the author of “Broke Millennial,” “Broke Millennial Takes On Investing” and “Broke Millennial Talks Money: Stories, Scripts and Advice to Navigate Awkward Financial Conversations.” She wrote this column for Bloomberg Opinion.
One of Google’s most talked-about Pixel 6 exclusives may not be so exclusive after all.The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are packed with exclusive features enabled by Google’s new Tensor processor. However, it appears that at least one of these new features may not be so exclusive after all.
According to former Xda Developers Editor-in-Chief, Mishaal Rahman, and backed up by several Twitter users, Google’s much-vaunted ‘Magic Eraser’ tool, which uses machine learning to automatically remove unwanted items from your photos, can be enabled on older Pixel models simply by installing an updated version of the Google Photos app (APK link).
According to the above Twitter thread, some have successfully enabled the feature on a Pixel 4a and a Pixel 3XL, and others have even enabled the feature on non-Google devices by rooting their smartphones and spoofing Pixel credentials with Pixel Props. However, others have so far failed to make the feature work.
Based on these reports, it appears Google has accidentally enabled this premium pixel 6 feature on older models. But perhaps the biggest takeaway is that the company’s much-vaunted tensor ship clearly is not required for magic erase to operate. That said, we don’t know yet whether there are any significant differences in quality when used on non-Pixel-6 devices.
It does give us hope, however, that Magic Erase might eventually see official support on other devices. It’s definitely a prime candidate for Google’s library of premium Google Photos features available to paying subscribers.
I’ve been working as a technology journalist since the early nineties. My passion is photography and the ever-changing hardware and software that we use to create it, be it traditional cameras and Photoshop or smartphones and tablets with their numerous apps. I have also worked extensively on computing titles such as PC Magazine and Personal Computer World and managed the PCW hardware testing labs. This has seen me testing and reviewing all manner of technologies in print and on line. I take on both written and photographic assignments and you can get in touch with questions, tips or pitches via email. Find me on Instagram @paul_monckton.
For most business owners, the saying “one step forward, two steps back” sounds miserable, but in many cases, taking a step backward can propel you forward and actually change your life for the better.
As an entrepreneur, you have responsibilities outside work. These might include providing for your family’s needs, teaching your children values and growing your relationships. It’s a lot to manage, especially when you’re bogged down fixing issues in your business or exhausted from overwork.
If your business demands so much time that it becomes the obstacle that keeps you from doing the things you’ve always said you wanted to do, it can leave you feeling defeated and depleted, no matter how “successful” you are.
Business owners who feel stuck in their business must first create systems. These systems not only benefit you and your family. They benefit the people in your business and can fuel the growth of your business like wildfire when implemented properly.
My company recently walked a client through this process. I hope following this process will be transformative for your business and life, as well.
The client and his family lived a life that from the outside would seem normal. They would take a vacation once per year and go out to dinner once or twice per week. They would spend as much time together as they could, but something was missing, causing him and his family to suffer because of it.
As a business owner, you can likely relate to this story. Things are going well enough — but not great. It’s not what you envisioned your life looking or feeling like.
Our client was a reliable and diligent business owner. He showed up when he said he would. His attention to quality fed his business so he got most of his business through word of mouth. In fact, he would have to turn business away because he was too busy. So, where’s the problem?
The problem was that he was the business. He had a couple helpers working for him, but it was just one small crew. If he couldn’t schedule something on his personal calendar, it couldn’t get done.
He came to us looking to outsource his accounting. It was his first step to buy time back. financial
Over a few calls, he opened up about how much he hated his current business situation, so I asked him, “Why don’t you do what you did with your accounting and unload more of the workload and responsibilities in other parts of your business?”
The first step is always the hardest, because oftentimes, it’s a step back. Most business owners know that if they can start delegating in more areas of their business, they will be able to do what they want. They can live a life of financial freedom and time freedom. They can create more memories with their family and take back control of their life.
After some review, I explained to our client that he would easily qualify for equipment financing with little upfront capital. This would mean he could hire another crew, doubling his ability to serve his customers.
The key to duplicating yourself is duplicating the systems and processes that allow for quality of work to remain high. For most, this is the biggest step back. You see margins drop and your time expenditure temporarily increases. It is predictably more chaotic and uncomfortable.
On the other side of that hard work, though, is a fully operating replica of your workmanship without you doing the work. For people like the client above, this means not having to turn down jobs or work overtime. You can then duplicate your craftsmanship as needed to service growing business inquiries.
To do so, there are a couple of steps you can take in your business to help ensure it stays healthy as you grow. First is ensuring you have a personal runway: Lower margins will mean less available money for you as the owner. Be ready for this with your own finances by not making any large personal purchases that will overextend you before scaling. This should be obvious but can get you into trouble if you’re expecting to be able to pay yourself more in the beginning of the scaling process.
If you’re financing equipment and hiring more crews, your monthly expenses will increase drastically. Be prepared for this by ensuring you have a full pipeline. Make sure you allocate some of your budget to ramp up your marketing, and pay attention to the number of projects you earn from word-of-mouth referrals so you can estimate how many leads you’ll get per project your first team accomplishes.
Also, ensuring you have a lead generation system in place that you can dial up or dial back is key. Not just relying on word of mouth but having an avenue of getting leads through paid ads and understanding how much those leads generally cost and how many convert to customers will also allow you to have more security in scaling. It will feel less risky and you’ll have a feeling of investing your money into your future instead of risking the future of your company trying to build it bigger.
Eventually, you will be able to fully step back and own the business instead of being owned by the business. But how?
Create leaders from within your organization. Train them to take ownership of their work by incentivizing with bonuses tied to profit earned and created. Create bullet-proof standard operating procedures that allow high-quality work to be replicated on every job. Invest in your team members’ success so they’ll invest in yours.
What happened with our client? Within 18 months, he has four crews and only has to work 20 hours a week doing the creative stuff he prefers. The best part? It’s attainable for you, too, if you are willing to take the leap of stepping back to skyrocket your business growth.