Great Blackdragon Debate 4: Having Kids Makes You Happy, Or Not?
Welcome, one and all, to the fourth Great Blackdragon Debate! Today, “Fred” steps up to debate me on my contention that having kids makes you less happy in the long-term. As always, both of us have adhered to the 1700 character limit for each response.
The specific topic we will be debating today is:
Having kids in an intelligent way makes men more happy in the long-term, not less.
Fred will be debating FOR, I will be arguing AGAINST.
Fred’s comments will be in blue like this. My comments will be in the usual black font.
As always, I will let Fred start and end the debate with his comments. At the end, you can decide who won.
LET THE BATTLE BEGIN!!!
Thanks for accepting the debate. Let’s get started. Before we get into the details, I’d like to outline some basic starting points for the debate. I assume you won’t have any problem with these:
1. There are very stupid ways to have kids, such as knocking up your girlfriend when you are 15. Obviously, this is not conducive to long-term happiness, and I don’t want to discuss this type of situation.
2. I am only considering the man’s perspective here. Much of what we will discuss will also apply to women, but I think we can keep this more simple by only discussing men.
3. There are significant positives and significant negatives to having children. My argument is that the positives outweigh the negatives when you have children in an intelligent way, making you more happy long-term. Your argument is that, regardless of how it is done, the negatives outweigh the positives when you have kids, making you less happy long-term. Correct?
I agree with your three parameters.
It is not my argument that the negatives outweigh the positives, since every man will have a different opinion as to what is “positive” or “negative” and how much value of each it is to him.
An extremely conservative, right-wing, religious Alpha Male 1.0 may consider having five children as a huge net positive (leaving a legacy, doing God’s will, having little minions to boss around, prove to the world his penis works, etc) even if doing so makes him far less overall happy because of the extreme amount of work, cost, sacrifice and stress this places on himself, his finances, his wife, and his marriage. He’ll clearly be less happy overall than a man like me, but that doesn’t matter to him. He’ll still tell you that it’s worth it because there’s more positive (in his eyes). (And we haven’t talked about when this man gets divorced, which is statistically likely in the modern era, and has to pay child support for five children or go to jail.)
My argument is that having kids makes you less happy, on average, on the overall, over a period of around 15-20 years, until the kids grow up and leave. Because it does. Just about every study they’ve done on this topic indicates this. Just about every married couple with kids I see goes through this; moments of intense joy followed by hours or even days of irritation and hard work, as I explained here. Like with long-term monogamy, this unhappiness occurs regardless of “how you do it.” It’s inherent in the system. Having kids is hard, hard work, that usually isn’t fun for mom or dad.
Just to make sure we are on the same page, I’ll try to summarize what you wrote:
- A person viewing huge positive aspects of having children (such as leaving a legacy) as outweighing the negative aspects is incorrectly weighing the positives and negatives. His day to day life will be less happy (due to the negative aspects) even though he won’t see it this way because he is weighing the positive aspects too strongly. Is this an accurate summary of what you think?
- The main negatives to having children are: the extreme amount of work, cost, sacrifice and stress this places on himself, his finances, his wife, and his marriage. And possibly paying child support. Any other things to add here?
- Your proof that having kids makes you unhappy is 1) studies on this subject and 2) your personal experience and the experience of other people you know. Is this correct?
- The graph and writing relating to having kids from your “How Happiness Works Over Time” blog post is your personal opinion, correct? That is not based on a study?
1. No, he’s not incorrectly weighing positives or negatives. He’s instead placing his own happiness as a lower priority as compared to other things. So if he says, “Having kids makes me more happy,” he is wrong. If he says, “Okay, fine BD, having kids makes me less happy, but I don’t care because of X and Y,” then he’s correct. My only issue here is happiness.
In other words, you are more than welcome to defend or encourage lifestyles that make you less happy, but you can’t tell me these lifestyles make you more happy, because they don’t.
2. Yep, that’s a pretty complete list. Regarding one of the items, remember “sacrifice” means always wanting to do things with your life that you are unable to do, because of the kids. So many men who are fathers wish they could do so many things, but can’t. Add that to everything else in that list, and you’ve got a decent amount of unhappiness, even if you’re the greatest parent on Earth and your kids are the best kids in the world.
3. Correct. However, I wouldn’t characterize my personal experience raising kids as miserable or constantly unhappy. Just less happy than if I didn’t have any kids. The vast majority of mothers and fathers, if you got a little alcohol in them, and put them in a secluded room far away from everyone they knew, would quietly admit the same.
4. Correct, my personal opinion/extrapolation. However, I very confident that if you gave that graph to a researcher qualified in this area, they would more or less agree with it.
1. Ok, I think I understand your point here.
2. We are in agreement here
3. Studies on this subject are pretty much irrelevant because they reflect the average person. The average person is:
- A) Broke/In debt– talk about stress! I can’t imagine anything more scary than having kids that I may not be able to feed. The average person is basically living paycheck to paycheck. There is a ton of data on this. Here is one source.
- B) Working a shitty 9-5 desk job– Super-stressful. Your boss can take a shit on you everyday but you can’t cut off your only source of income when you have kids. Great way to lower your happiness.
- C) In a traditional sex-less (or low sex) marriage– Ugh. You’ve covered this enough on your blog, but once again, the theme here is that the average person feels trapped (in this case sexually).
- D) having kids in his 20s or early 30s– You guessed it- trapped. You want to do something different or amazing with your life, but you are trapped financially by your kids.
The AVERAGE person is less happy by having kids? No shit- they are completely trapped financially and sexually. How miserable! Fortunately there are ways to NOT suffer. As you’ve stated, it is ideal to be in great financial shape, hire a full-time nanny to help, accomplish many of your major life goals first (prob means having kids in your 40s), and have a non-monogamous marriage with pre-nup and parenting plan. Happiness is usually more about eliminating negatives than creating positives. A study with people having kids intelligently would show an increase in happiness, since they are facing very few of the “average person” problems.
Yeah, I know the average person sucks, I’m not sure if you’re quoting me or making an argument. So, your contention is kids won’t make a man less happy if he does all of the following:
– Hires a nanny (part time or full time?)
– Is able to easily afford a nanny (nannies are expensive)
– Doesn’t have any kids until he’s 40
– Is regularly banging other women besides his wife
– Has a prenup and a parenting plan (if he’s married; does he even need to be married?)
Yes or no?
If yes, I’ll proceed to discuss those above items.
If no, please tell me exactly and with specifics what “having kids intelligently” means.
I am quoting you and making an argument. The point here is that you claim that the “average person sucks” and yet you use studies full of average people to show why an Alpha 2.0 (in this case meaning someone having kids intelligently) will be unhappy having kids. The studies (which are your main argument for why having kids will make you unhappy) are not valid for the way that you suggest (and I agree with) to have kids.
And yes, the points you listed are how I (and you, I think) view the specifics of “having kids intelligently.”
To answer your questions:
– Full time nanny would be ideal
– Nannies are expensive but aren’t necessarily that pricey. I met a live-in au pair the other day, and she was only getting room/board + $1500 a month.
– To keep things simple, let’s say married with a prenup/parenting plan. I know every state has different laws (including some with common law marriage) that make this complicated. You’ve already discussed the ideal ways to get married.
I have another main point discuss, but I’d like to discuss this point first.
I agree that the stats I refer to are looking at (mostly) normal people who do most things wrong in life, so let’s move on from that.
You’ve confirmed that raising kids “intelligently,” means you hire a full-time nanny. You just said, hilariously, that paying a nanny $1500 a month plus providing her full-time room and board is not “pricey.” This is ludicrous, I completely disagree, and I think the vast majority of people reading this would as well. Very few men, even most Alpha 2.0’s who make the recommended $75,000 per year, are going to be able to easily do this.
So yes, I agree that if you are wealthy, and can easily afford a full-time, live-in nanny to raise your screaming kids for you, this may not damage your long-term happiness as I normally describe. I’ve already said as much in this article here, where I described how many of these kinds problems don’t apply to rich people. Rich people can have divorce after divorce, can have multiple children out of wedlock, can get STD’s, and have all kinds of problems that won’t affect them like they affect non-wealthy people. It’s a different world.
But if you think this option is available to the typical guy out there following (or trying to follow) the recommended lifestyle I talk about (Alpha Male 2.0), again, even if he makes the recommended $75,000 a year, then you are wrong.
Haha yes, $1500 is “pricey.” What I meant was that $1500 per month is a good value considering you get a full-time nanny 24/7/365.
Like you mentioned, obviously this is not reasonable if you are making 75K a year. But come on, BD, you’re nitpicking here. As I said, a full-time nanny is ideal. But what can a person making 75K a year do? Obviously they can get some help as well. How about hiring a college student to help for $10 an hour a few days a week? Maybe this runs $480 a month ($480 = $10/hour X 4 hours per day X 3 days a week X 4 weeks per month) or $5760 a year. Not cheap, but reasonable for someone making 75K.
Or maybe you think that isn’t enough help and/or money. Maybe the recommended amount of income per year needs to be a little higher 75K. Once again, I think that is just nitpicking. Unless you have you have anything else to add related to your quoted studies being not valid or the specifics of having kids intelligently, I’d like to move on to my next main point.
This nanny thing was your idea, not mine. I’m still trying to nail down your SPECIFIC definition of having kids “intelligently.” You clearly said above it was to hire a full-time, live-in nanny. Now you’re moving the goal post and saying it can be paying a college student for a few hours a week. I can’t respond your point if you keep changing your definition of “intelligent.”
Please give me your final, very SPECIFIC definition raising kids “intelligently” is. Then when I address it, don’t change it.
Haha, you are certainly getting bogged down in the details here. As I’ve stated from the beginning, the most intelligent, most ideal way to have kids is to have a full time nanny.
Just so we are on the same page:
– Yes, this is pretty much impossible if you only make 75K a year.
– You can still do ok for yourself if you only make 75K a year (as I just described), but this is not ideal (not the most intelligent way to have kids)
– You set the 75K number, not me.
As I’ve said many times on my blog, you must get agreement on the specific definitions of words if you discuss a topic, or else you get nowhere. It is not a “detail.” Your definition of “intelligently” raising kids is very important to this discussion; indeed, it’s the entire topic here.
Your contention is that “intelligently” raising kids requires a full-time, live-in nanny. I agree this would offset most or all of your unhappiness. The problem is the VAST majority of men reading these words are not going to have that ability, which renders your entire point invalid, or at least very, very weak. I think I won this round. But I’ll let the readers decide.
On to your next point, if you had one.
Let’s do a quick recap:
1. You claimed that studies show that people are less happy when they have kids. I showed that those studies are invalid. But you still haven’t provided any evidence that proves that people are less happy. This is required to “win” this round.
2. I stated that people will be significantly happier than studies show if they have children intelligently (meaning A. they are in great financial shape B. Accomplish major life goals first (prob having kids in your 40s) C. have a non-monogamous marriage w/prenup+parenting plan D. hire a full time nanny. We agree that those 4 items will make you significantly happier when you have kids. You nitpicked ONLY ONE of those 4 items, and claimed that now my entire point is invalid.
This is illogical. My entire argument is not invalidated by nitpicking one point, it is only slightly less strong. Your average reader (which was never a condition to start, but fine, let’s go with it) can achieve say 85% of having kids intelligently, and will still be FAR better off than average people in the studies.
Why does it have to be full-time nanny or nothing? That doesn’t make any sense. You can still achieve all of A-C, and part of D (having a part-time nanny) on 75K a year. You can achieve A-D 100% on a higher salary.
Furthermore, your current argument is non-existent; it is just nitpicking ONE of my points and suggesting it invalidates everything. Please respond with exactly what your argument is for why you will be unhappy having kids, and explain how the average reader not being able to achieve 100% (but can achieve 85%) of having kids intelligently invalidates the entire argument.
The studies include normal people who tend to suck; they’re not invalid. If they were invalid, you would be able to suggest all kinds of easy-to-do things to prevent unhappiness from occurring, not hard ones like hiring a full-time nanny.
If 1 of your 4 requirements is a full-time, live-in nanny, yes, your point is invalid, since it only applies to a small group of men.
If your point is the nanny accounts for only 15%(!) of the happiness gained, that’s laughable. An Alpha Male 2.0 in great shape with protected finances and nonmonogamy is still going to suffer noticeably reduced overall happiness by having kids. Freedom, peace, travel, your daily schedule, sex, low cost of living, living abroad (if you want to), sleep, focus on your Mission, ALL of these things are negatively affected to some degree when having kids. It’s true when they’re small, true when they’re teenagers (though not quite as much). Then, post age 18, you still have things like college costs, helping them get cars, helping them get jobs, helping them get settled in life, helping them get through their problems, and on, and on, and on. There are so many ways in which your overall happiness levels decrease in some way, I can’t even begin to list them here.
To say that most of this crap is offset just because you’re not fat and can fuck other women is wrong. How does banging FB‘s on the side help when the baby is screaming in the middle of the night, when the 9 year-old is needs help with his homework, when the 17 year-old just crashed her car?
I agree the Alpha 2.0 lifestyle helps, but doesn’t fix even 50% of this reduced happiness.
1. Here is what is laughable- you previously agreed that the studies were not relevant, and now you have changed your mind.
2. Also laughable- you continue to pretend that childcare is a binary issue. Full-time nanny vs no nanny. It is not binary. There is a spectrum of childcare solutions. A part-time nanny + doing everything else intelligently will get you roughly 85% of the way there. Each person can add or subtract childcare hours as they see fit.
3. Your evidence is still non-existent. You’ve simply listed negative aspects about having kids. The debate is not: “Are there negative aspects of having kids?” Obviously, there are negative aspects of having kids. In order to “win” this debate, you need to prove that the negative (happiness decreasing) aspects override the positive (happiness increasing) aspects.
4. The other aspects (A-C) of intelligently having children are not insignificant. In fact, the #1 complaint of most of my friends that have kids in an “unintelligent way” is that they are not able to fuck other women.
5. By the time you are in your 40s, it is not that hard to make significantly more than 75K a year. You have 20 years of work experience at this point. I would guess the majority of your readers that are 40+ are making significantly more than 75K a year.
6. Maybe part of the problem is your outlook on kids in general. Many people look at “helping them get jobs, helping them get settled in life, helping them with their problems” as positive (happiness increasing) things where they enjoy the opportunity to help mentor their children.
Anyway, at this point, it feels like we are spinning our wheels here. I’d like to move on.
Let’s move on then. Proceed.
I know we both agree that, in life, much happiness is derived from doing meaningful work. For many people, having kids is the most important and meaningful thing that they do. Although I am aware that this is impossible to prove, I believe that evolution has made us strongly desire having children, sort of like a built-in Mission (to use your terminology).
Of course, the counter argument here is that the feelings and emotions that people have regarding their kids are all coming from societal programming. For the record, I 100% believe that societal programming massively influences just about everything we do, including our decisions to have kids. SP obviously is responsible for many of the dumb things men do, like buying a woman a massive engagement ring. However, there is more to this than just SP.
Having kids actually affects men physiologically. You can read more about this here. I bring this up not as evidence that having kids makes you more happy but to illustrate that there is something more going on here. Having kids affects men on a very deep level. If you believe that having kids is a “built-in Mission” for men (which I do), then the logic that follows is that not having kids will lead to at least some level of unhappiness and regret, while having them will lead to some level of happiness and satisfaction. Overall, assuming one can intelligently deal with the negative aspects of having kids (as we’ve discussed), having kids should increase your long-term happiness.
To quote your article: “When men did more than donate sperm to a pregnancy…they got called crazy. The condition…describes expectant fathers who are stricken with some combination of weight gain, nausea, food cravings, backaches, insomnia…a father’s testosterone level also drops by about a third, on average, in the first three weeks after his child is born.”
That makes men more happy?
My evolution designed me to impregnate as many as women as possible before I die. If I did that as caveman in 50,000 BC, or a farmer in the 16th century, that would be a good idea. If I did that today, the child support would bankrupt me and quite literally destroy my life. Evolution isn’t the issue. Long-term happiness and modern-day realities are.
I never said not having kids won’t cause any unhappiness. It may for some men. I said that having kids will damage your long-term happiness (despite moments of joy), and if you add up all the unhappiness you’ll experience over the 18-20ish years (at least!), that will be far more unhappiness than any regret you might feel if you never have kids, while you’re living a great life, being a free and happy man.
I’m not telling men to never have kids. I’m saying if you really want kids, you can’t bullshit yourself with some kind of right-wing guy-Disney fantasy. You must fully understand that your average levels of happiness are going to take a noticeable hit for about 20 years. Do it if you like, but damn, you’d better want those little bastards so badly that you don’t mind decades of reduced overall happiness.
Let’s wrap this up. Make your final statement (you can address any of the above if you wish), and we’ll let the audience decide.
Really, BD? Let’s recap:
Fred: “I bring this [article] up not as evidence that having kids makes you more happy…”
BD response: “To quote your article: …. That makes men more happy?”
RE: Evolution- It is very relevant. Evolution is the reason why we are the way we are. However, your argument regarding evolution is irrelevant. No one is suggesting having dozens of children with multiple women.
I’ll let the rest of my arguments stand as written.
BD, thank you for the debate; I enjoyed it! Also, thank you for your blog. It has definitely helped shape some of my views and changed how I see the world.
Thank you Fred for a vigorous debate!
The rest of you can now leave comments as to who you thought won, plus any other points that should have been brought up. Having kids is an extremely important topic and warrants further discussion.