When I mention this to Daniel Gilbert, he hardly disputes that meaning is important. But he does wonder how prominently it should figure into people’s decisions to have kids. “When you pause to think what children mean to you, of course they make you feel good,” he says. “The problem is, 95 percent of the time, you’re not thinking about what they mean to you. You’re thinking that you have to take them to piano lessons. So you have to think about which kind of happiness you’ll be consuming most often. Do you want to maximize the one you experience almost all the time”—moment-to-moment happiness—“or the one you experience rarely?”
Then read this response to the article on Babble.com, equally thought-provoking.
Biz did indeed find a silver lining, carefully extracted from Gilbert and his fellow gloomy scientists, and it was as follows: though average happiness goes down when you have kids, experiences of extreme pleasure and pain increase. In effect, by having kids you are re-submitting your life to the turbulent intensity — the highs and lows — of earlier phases of life.
I’ll post my thoughts after I have a little more time to sit with it, but my initial thoughts are:
Ugh, like my twenties again?
Hmmmm. Less predictable, less control, more ups and downs. Not this.