With the neverending merry-go-round of expenses, tears, bad behaviour and boundary pushing, bringing up children can sometimes seem to be the worst kind of self-inflicted ordeal.
But a new study says parents actually experience greater levels of happiness and meaning in life than people without children.
The findings are among a new wave of research that suggests that parenthood comes with relatively more positives, despite the added responsibilities.
Stress: But a new study shows that parents actually have happier and more meaningful lives than people without children
The study, which contradicts the prevailing view that parents are less happy overall, also dovetails with emerging evolutionary perspectives that suggest parenting is a fundamental human need.
Researchers from the University of California, Riverside, the University of British Columbia and Stanford University conducted a series of studies in the U.S. and Canada.
They tested whether parents are happier overall than their childless peers, if parents feel better moment-to-moment than nonparents, and whether parents experience more positive feelings when taking care of children than during their other daily activities.
They found that parents are happier when taking care of their children than while doing other daily activities. Fathers in particular expressed greater levels of happiness, positive emotion and meaning in life than their childless peers. And older and married parents tend to be the happiest of all.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at UC Riverside and a leading scholar in positive psychology, said: 'We are not saying that parenting makes people happy, but that parenthood is associated with happiness and meaning.
'Contrary to repeated scholarly and media pronouncements, people may find solace that parenthood and child care may actually be linked to feelings of happiness and meaning in life.'
Happy family: Fathers in particular expressed greater levels of happiness, positive emotion and meaning in life than their childless peers
Recent popular accounts have painted a portrait of unhappy parents who find little joy in taking care of their children, 'but the scientific basis for these claims remains inconclusive,' the researchers write.
The consistency of their findings across all three studies 'provides strong evidence challenging the widely held perception that children are associated with reduced well-being', they claim.
Study co-author Elizabeth Dunn, associate professor of psychology at UBC, said: 'If you went to a large dinner party, the parents in the room would be just as happy or happier than the guests without children.
However, their findings came with important caveats. Professor Lyubomirsky explained: 'Our findings suggest that if you are older (and presumably more mature) and if you are married (and presumably have more social and financial support), then you're likely to be happier if you have children than your childless peers.
'This is not true, however, for single parents or very young parents.'
Unsupported: The team said their findings do not necessarily apply to very young parents or single mothers, who might not have the support enjoyed by older, married couples
And Professor Dunn noted that the finding that fathers in particular got a happiness boost from parenthood needed further study, pointing out that 'the pleasures of parenthood may be offset by the surge in responsibility and housework that arrives with motherhood.'
Nevertheless, Professor Dunn added, 'These findings suggest that parents are not nearly the miserable creatures that we might expect from recent studies and popular representations.'
The findings of the study will appear in a paper — 'In Defense of Parenthood: Children Are Associated With More Joy Than Misery' — which will be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science, the journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2146345/Yes-struggle--parents-actually-happier-people-study-says.html#ixzz1vEwL9EHL