Thank you, Ina Garten. The chef — a k a the Barefoot Contessa — wants to call off the parenting wars.
Garten, 69, told Katie Couric last week that she and her husband of 48 years determined early on in their marriage not to have kids because it wouldn’t be compatible with the life they envisioned together. But unlike some other childless celebrities, she seems to have no chip on her shoulder about the whole thing: “I really appreciate that other people do [have kids], and we will always have friends that have children that we are close to.”
That’s a far cry from Ashley Judd, who has said it’s “selfish for us to pour our resources into making our ‘own’ babies when those very resources and energy could . . . help children already here.” Or from the whole “Childless by Choice” movement that preaches the emotional and even environmental benefits to life without kids.
Garten certainly hasn’t demanded a Meternity Leave (you know, where childless women take time off to cater to their own needs).
“I never felt that people [judged us],” Garten says. “I think the one thing that we miss [out on] is a lot of people’s friends are the parents of their kids’ friends. So we never had that connection with other people that I see. . . . But no, I never felt judged by it.”
Garten’s satisfaction with her decision isn’t surprising. For decades, nonparents have reported higher levels of happiness with their lives than parents.
And American parents for many years reported some of the lowest levels of happiness, compared with their childless counterparts. Books like Jennifer Senior’s “All Joy and No Fun” describe just how tedious and difficult raising young children can be and how hard it can be to transition from life before children to life after.
But while Garten may give the most lovely Hamptons dinner parties, there’s hope for those of us picking dried spaghetti off the floor. According to a new study in the Review of Economics of the Household by Chris Herbst and John Ifcher, the parental-happiness deficit seems to have reversed: From 2000-2016, 30 percent of parents report being “very happy” compared to only 25 percent of nonparents.
Unlike previous studies, Herbst and Ifcher restricted their study to parents who actually had children under the age of 18 residing in their home. They found that until mid-1990s, nonparents were happier than parents. But starting in the late ’90s, that flipped.
Why? One possibility is that, as the stigma against childlessness has fallen away, fewer people became parents when they didn’t want to — leaving fewer resentful parents.
In an interview with the Institute for Family Studies, Herbst, a professor of social work at Arizona State University, explains that nonparents today “perceive their financial situations to be deteriorating relative to parents. They have also become more likely to express regrets about their lives, more likely to want to…