Babies or Toddlers: Which Make You Happier?

tantrumAccording to a new study out of Norway, parents of young children seem to be a pretty miserable bunch. Dissatisfaction with our relationships and lives in general seem to take a hard hit beginning in pregnancy, and after a few peaks and valleys, hit an all-time low around the time one's child turns 3. Great, my baby just turned 2.

Honestly, it's a pretty depressing study all around. And according to Science Daily, Norwegian women -- those included in this study -- are generally happier than those of us in other locales. So we may be even more miserable than this study suggests.


"Most adults want to have children," says researcher Ragnhild Bang Nes. "Children are seen as a blessing, an enrichment, and a central source of meaning, love, and belonging. One would therefore expect that having a child meets both the desire and satisfies a fundamental need, which in turn creates happiness and satisfaction. However, studies show that this is not always the case. This is often called the 'paradox of parental life.'"

The "paradox of parental life" sounds like a disease or something. And it's true, parenting is hard, but like with most studies, you have to take the results with a grain of salt (perhaps around the rim of a margarita?) and know that it doesn't mean that's the way it is for everyone.

The study found parents were happiest when their children were infants and it got worse as they became toddlers. And those terrible 2s everyone complains about, well, they're supposedly no match for the terrifying 3s. I just don't see it.

While I've loved my children at every age, I can say with all honestly that I like them a lot better with every year that passes. And I adore the toddler years.

Babies are sweet and cuddly, but they're so incredibly needy. Besides a coo or a smile here and there, you're don't get a whole lot back. Give me a tantrum any day over a baby who wakes up in the middle of the night for no reason (repeatedly). You cannot bribe a baby, but the right bribes (or positive reinforcement as I like to think of them) work wonders on toddlers.

I love to watch the language of a toddler emerge, to see how they learn to interact with the world around them, and there are moments -- though few and far between they may be -- that you can actually reason with them. Plus, truly the funniest lines in the world come from the mouths of 2- and 3-year-olds. Even their outbursts are pretty entertaining.

And frankly, toddlers are a lot less work. Those infant baby carriers are devices of torture, and having to tote around diapers, bottles, baby food, bibs, extra outfits, and all the other stuff babies need was exhausting. Now all I really need is a diaper and some wipes in my purse (my purse! no more diaper bag needed). Somewhere around 18 months, I felt like I was coming out of a fog, and it seems to just be getting more fun as we go, even with the tantrums, which she seems to have a penchant for throwing right in the middle of busy streets.

So personally, I know I'm happier now that my daughter is 2 than when she was a baby, and I can only believe that in this next year as she learns to be more independent, I will only be happier. I hope so anyway.

Do babies or toddlers make you happier personally?

Image via ryancboren/Flickr

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