A trend occurred in the early 20th century when many Americans moved away from rural areas and into urban centers. For the first time ever, their children ceased to become economic assets capable of contributing to the family’s prosperity and started to become a financial burden.
And yet, in spite of this daunting reality, Americans continued to produce offspring at nearly historic rates for the next 50 to 75 years. What was their motivation? Surely it was more than just a desire to accumulate mountains of fingerpaint art.
We chatted with dozens of parents and poured through mountains of medical research to find the real reasons why Americans continue to reproduce. Come along as we explore the top 10 hidden benefits of having children.
1. Children lower your blood pressure
A recent study conducted at Brigham Young University found that parenthood may actually help lower your blood pressure. Researchers at the school hooked up 200 married men and women to blood pressure monitors for 24 hours and found that couples with children had significantly lower blood-pressure readings than those without offspring.
"While caring for children may include daily hassles, deriving a sense of meaning and purpose from life's stress has been shown to be associated with better health outcomes," says Julianne Holt-Lunstad, the lead researcher. "This doesn't mean the more kids you have, the better your blood pressure. The findings are simply tied to parenthood, no matter the number of children or employment status."
2. Children entitle you to major tax savings
It used to be the only way you could make money off of your children was by sending them into the coal mines. But now, thanks to the IRS, your children allow you to qualify for some very valuable tax savings — a notable hidden benefit of having children. According to one recently published study, the average family can save $3,500 per year simply by claiming child tax credits, education credits, and child- and dependent-care credits.
“These tax credits shouldn’t spur you to have a child,” says U.S. tax attorney Roni Deutch, “but since the projected cost of raising a child to the age of 18 is just shy of $200,000, parents need all the help they can get.”
3. Children get you better parking
Shopping with children is seldom easy, but there is one enormous perk to taking your rug rat to the mall: better parking. Many shopping centers, grocery stores and factory outlets now have parking spaces reserved especially for families and pregnant women. Not only are these spots conveniently located, but they’re also usually vacant. As an added bonus, you can also drive in the HOV lane on your way to the store since even the smallest newborn legally counts as a full-fledged passenger.
4. Children keep you sane
Contrary to popular belief, children don’t always drive their parents crazy. In fact, researchers at Taiwan’s Mental Health Foundation claim they may even keep their parents sane well beyond their years. The organization recently interviewed 1,084 randomly selected senior citizens and found that seniors with no children scored 6.4 points lower on a mental health questionnaire than elderly subjects with children.
“The results shows that people who have children are happier and have greater satisfaction and emotional well-being than those without children,” says Tom Yang, the study's lead researcher.
5. Children renew your thirst for knowledge
Anyone who has children can attest that their child’s favorite word is “why.” Kids constantly want to know the answer to a variety of head-scratching questions like, “Why do a cat’s eyes shine in the dark?”, “Why does it smell so fresh after it rains?” and “Why do Mommy and Daddy always lock their bedroom door on Tuesday nights?” You may not have the answer to all of these queries (well, two-thirds of them anyhow), but they’re sure to get your wheels turning as you attempt to formulate a plausible-sounding response.
As your children get older, you’ll also get to brush up on your education by relearning your multiplication tables, the names of every state bird and the capital of Liechtenstein (it’s Vaduz, in case you were wondering).________________________________________________________________________
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6. Children make you sexier
Think puppies are the ultimate chick magnet? Think again. Any father will tell you there’s no better way of attracting attention from the fairer sex than by strolling through a park with an adorable baby. Heck, even an ugly baby will do the trick, since most women are responding more to the father’s sense of dedication and maturity than they are to the fruit of his loins. Who knew that a $200 stroller could elicit more oohs and aahs than a $200,000 sports car?
7. Children give you an alibi
Single men often complain that their friends with children never have time to hang out. And while there is some validity to that observation, they fail to realize many parents use their children as a convenient excuse to get out of unwanted social events. So, if your buddy tells you he can’t attend your Jersey Shore marathon because his son has Tibetan whooping cough, there’s a very good chance he didn’t want to go in the first place.
8. Children increase your self-esteem
Anyone who has children knows firsthand the satisfaction you get from being told you’re “the best daddy in the whole world.” Those kinds of positive pronouncements can have a profound effect on your self-esteem, allowing you to accomplish tasks you previously thought were impossible.
9. Children remind you to stop and smell the roses
When was the last time you gazed at the stars or lay on your back watching the passing clouds? Kids engage in these kinds of wholesome activities all the time, and in doing so, they invite you to join them as well. You’ll be amazed at how your cynicism and natural defenses will magically melt away after you begin seeing the world through a child’s eyes.
10. Children make you happier
Parents have long suspected that their offspring make them happier, and now there’s finally proof to support their claims. A study conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research found a direct correlation between children and happiness for parents over the age of 40.
Researchers surveyed 200,000 parents in 86 countries between 1981 and 2005 and found that from age 40 on, parents with one to three children were considerably more content than childless couples. After age 50, mothers and fathers were happier than childless couples, regardless of the size of their brood. The reasons for the findings aren’t entirely surprising, since most children become easier to care for as they grow older.
"Children may be a long-term investment in happiness," says Mikko Myrskyla, the author of the study. "Seeing the age trend of happiness independent of sex, income, partnership status, and even fertility rates shows that one has to explain it from the perspective of the stage of parents' life.”