In a previous post on happiness I noted that research tends to show people who have children are less happy than those who don’t. Yet, at the same time, most people who do have children will say that the kids make them happy, often even that their kids are their deepest source of joy in life.
Why? The answer seems obvious: if you don’t think that your children make you happy, if you resent them and regret them, you’re going to be a bad parent. By telling yourself your kids make you happy – even if they don’t – you are giving them a better life, doing something that will help them out. Surely that’s your duty as a parent, to think of your kids as your great joy and the centre of your life.
But there remains something unsettling here. Do we really want to say there’s a duty to lie to oneself, even for such a noble reason? If one allows oneself this kind of self-deception, surely it makes room for other, more harmful kinds of self-deception? I imagine this will be a difficult question to resolve – the kind that would require going down to the foundations – but I would like to hear your thoughts.
(For the record, I don’t have children and don’t plan on having them, so this is not a personal question for me.)