Is Parenting Good for You?

A Jewish guide to parenting without pain...or, without a lot of pain.

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This smooth and happy family transition and succession does not always happen. The chapter in which this verse from Proverbs appears, shares something of what happens when families cannot operate with this sense of continuity and pride: “Better a dry crust with peace than a house full of feasting and strife.” In other words, it’s better to be raised in a home where there is little money but much peace than where there is wealth and strife. Later the same chapter offers some advice about keeping that peace: "Before a dispute flares up, drop it,” and then describes what a great sibling relationship looks like, “A brother is born to share adversity." It’s easy to be a good sibling when times are good. The better measure is shared loss and difficulty.

Before you get too depressed, an article from USA Today (I was in an airport) in a loud banner screamed, “Parents Aren’t Destined to Be Unhappy.” What a relief! I think I’ll keep my children now. Two new studies suggest that earlier findings may be flawed. Studying 52,000 parents, these studies showed that well-being is elevated while waiting for a child to be born and during the first year of a child’s life. A different study demonstrated that although parents seemed to be less happy between 1985-1995, from 1995-2008, parents were happier. Is this because children have changed, parents have changed or because there has been some kind of societal shift that has helped us understand the nature of personal happiness? It might be too early to tell.

Proverbs 17 also includes the verse, “A joyful heart makes for good health.” That joyful heart includes children, who are the crown of our existence whether you are a parent, an aunt, a friend or a member of society who believes in the next generation. And if that bundle of joy is also a challenge at times, then perhaps children help us affirm our humanity and self-sacrifice. In the words of Hillel, if I am only for myself, who am I?

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Erica Brown

Dr. Erica Brown is the Director for Adult Education at The Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning and consults for The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. She is an author-winning author and the recipient of the 2009 Covenant Award. Erica has served as an adjunct professor at American University and George Washington University. She lectures on subjects of Jewish interest and leadership.