Sometime tonight, maybe when you collapse onto the couch with that glass of wine and prepare to zone out with your good buddy Netflix, I want you to pat yourselves on the backs, Must-Have Parents.
You're doing amazing.
How do I know that, you ask? Because you're still here, you're still doing it, and you still care enough to read a column about it.
Especially all of you who are in a solo parenting season at this particular moment. Maybe you all should go back into the kitchen to top off that glass of wine. You deserve a little extra credit.
And definitely all of you who have just run the back-to-school gauntlet, stopping by three different stores to find the ever-elusive three-pronged folder that is only acceptable in orange and hunting down the last packet of wide-ruled notebook filler paper in the tri-state area.
You've met the teachers. You've visited the classrooms. You've completed the forms ...
... Hey, sorry for bringing up the forms. I should know better. Those forms are traumatizing. It's still too soon.
You made it through the summer. Statistically speaking, that means you also probably either planned or are currently planning a birthday party while flying solo. (In the U.S., August is the most popular month for birthdays, followed by July, October and September.) That's a whole other level of stress.
For those with children who have late August, September and October birthdays ... again, I apologize. I shouldn't have brought it up. It's still too soon.
And it's not just that I know that it's been rough for you because I've been there (and am there right now -- I've got two Leos, one Virgo and a Libra in my house), I know because ... Science.
Check this out: According to this study, having a baby has a negative effect on parents that is "worse than divorce, worse than unemployment and worse even than the death of a partner."
That's right -- it's a scientific fact. Your "bundle of joy" might be making you miserable.
And that's the effect that having a baby has on TWO parents who are there to experience it TOGETHER.
It doesn't take a scientist to figure out that if it's bad when there are two people there to commiserate and share the pain, it's even worse when all that, ahem, FUN falls on just one.
The study found that surveyed parents said that their happiness levels dropped dramatically after their baby was born, and then continued to drop through the first and second years of the child's life. That means the unhappiness wasn't just due to lack of sleep.
The purpose of the study was to look for reasons for the dropping birthrate in the western world, and the researchers think they've stumbled onto one of the reasons: Having a child made parents unhappy enough that many just weren't willing to go through it all again.
I've got tons of thoughts about this study and tons of questions. For starters, when did the parents' happiness start to tick back up again? Because, as hard as parenting is with my kids now, I do think it was worse when I had an infant.
And did any of these parents have to track down an orange three-pronged folder or a low-odor package of fine-tipped black Expo brand dry erase markers at a time when apparently every other parent in town got there first? Because that makes me pretty darned unhappy.
But still ... if it's hard for two people, it's probably even harder for one. So, well done, Must-Haves! Keep up the good work!