Let’s Talk: Did having your first baby make you happy or unhappy? 113



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It’s common belief that having our first child was a wonderful time, but a new study says that isn’t always the case. Instead, two-thirds of parents reported feeling unhappy when their new addition was born, and likened the emotion to that of losing a job, a partner dying or a marriage break-up.

The study was recently published in the journal, Demography, and asked 20,000 parents to rate their happiness on a scale of one to 10 in the two years before the birth and in the year after.

Happiness was reduced by 1.3 points on average, and in comparison, the death of a partner or unemployment reduced happiness by one point, and divorce by 0.6.

And having another child wasn’t on the cards for 14 per cent of those who felt unhappy after their first.

According to Mikko Myrskyla, of the London School of Economics, “Parents’ experience with and after the first birth help predict how large the family will be eventually.

Politicians concerned about low birthrates should pay attention to the well-being of new parents around and after the birth of their first child”.

Surprisingly, regardless of gender, there wasn’t a marked difference between happiness levels, though education and age played into how much they enjoyed their firstborn – and it wasn’t uneducated or young people.

Mothers and fathers over 30 and those with more than 12 years in education were especially influenced by their state of well-being when it came to deciding whether to have more children.

So why were these first-time parents so unhappy? Professor Myrskyla said other research showed new parents felt run down by “a lack of sleep, relationship stress and a feeling of loss of freedom and control over their lives”.

Despite all this, people who have two children do have more happiness overall in their lives.

Tell us, did you have the same feelings? Or was it a beautiful, joyful time?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. My ex-husband (now deceased) together with his mother, made my pregnancy and the birth of my daughter an extremely unhappy time

    7 REPLY
  2. Myself being a father being there to see my 3 children being was a privilage and im proud and now 2 off them have there own , my 3 rd child is still single,,it was fantastic………

  3. My pregnancy was not a happy experience, I had morning sickness from a week after I conceived till the birth, then I had toxemia , to cap it off I was put in hospital for an induction and after 36 hours of Labour a specialist was called in and I was told I had to have a caesarian, after the birth I had pneumonia and all at the grand old age of 17 years old. But despite it all loved my baby dearly and would have done it again but I never had the chance

    1 REPLY
    • Libbi I too had morning sickness from morning till night for the entire 9 months, plus toxaemia. However, the birth took only 3.5 hours, but I had lots of stitches and couldn’t walk for weeks. My mum lived 4 hours drive away so had to go it alone. Just loved my husband and baby son though, so the pain was all worth it. Second baby (girl) took 25 minutes…..had a few dissolvable stitches and only 3 weeks’ morning sickness. Why they call it morning sickness I don’t know, as it lasts all day long!!

  4. Exceptionally happy! All of my 5 babies made me feel like I was living in heaven. The best part of my life

  5. We were very happy although when you have your first baby and you have left your entire family behind in another country I can see it would have been a bit of a nightmare if I hadn’t had such a good and hands on husband.

  6. I got post natal depression and by the time my first born was 1 year old I had split from my husband. I can’t say it was the greatest time.

  7. I can’t say I enjoyed my pregnancies ( morning sickness, insomnia, etc ) but after the births I was full of energy and on top of the world.

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