Oh, hey there people who happen to have been born third into a family that already has two children. Remember all those sinking suspicions that your parents may not love you as much as they loved your older siblings? According to new research there may actually be some validity to those fears. Scientists have complied data that shows that children bring happiness to couples, but only the first two. Children three and on have no positive impact on the happiness of couples, which, as a third child myself, I find tremendously alarming. I mean, if the momentous and glorious occasion of my emergence into this world wasn’t enough to make my parents happy, why on earth did they have kids after me?
According to a study by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Western University, Canada, the happiness level of a couple is demonstrably increased the year before and after the birth of their first child, after which it returns to their pre-child happiness level. This makes sense since, typically, the first part of the year before a child’s birth is filled with copious amounts of sex (I mean, how else are babies made, am I right?). Next we run into the actual pregnancy, which I can only assume is rated as a “happy time” because of a combination of the pregnancy hormones and societal pressure to regard pregnancy as the greatest thing on earth. I have never been pregnant, a fact I am open and upfront about, but I have seen a few pregnancies in my day and they looked….rough. Then there is the joy of childbirth – again, not an event I have actively participated in but is absolutely something I witnessed from the floor of a hospital room when I was 12 (I saw my nephew’s head come out of my sister’s vagina and am confident that this is the reason I am nearly 30 and rate my womb as inhospitable) – which is lauded by all as a pleasure cruise of comfort and privacy, and nobody poops anywhere, so, yeah, I suspect most people would rate that as a happy time. Or maybe, it’s a happy time because they don’t have to be pregnant anymore. Wait, no, it’s probably a happy time because they have a baby – that’s probably it.
The research goes on to add that there is a similar increase and decrease of happiness for couples experiencing their second child – the difference being that their happiness increases about half as much as it did with their first child. Professor of demography at LSE, Mikko Myrskylä explains, “Our results show a temporary and transitory gain in parents’ happiness around the birth of first and second children,” and adds, “the fact that parental happiness increases before these children are born suggests that we are capturing broader issues relating to childbearing such as couples forming partnerships and making plans for the future,” as an explanation for why we don’t usually see those increases in the later births.
It would seem that, contrary to the source article’s title, the research indicates not that parent’s don’t love their third child, but simply that they were accustomed to pregnancy. While creating a new person to add to your family is exciting, it is slightly less novel once you’ve done it a few times. Further, and let’s be honest, kids are expensive, so the happiness of adding a new member to the family may be diminished by the pending financial hit the family will take as a whole. Either way, third siblings (and beyond), with the holiday season fast approaching, you are now well armed with ammunition to make your holiday gatherings awkward, uncomfortable, and explosive. Your parents may not have paid attention to you growing up, but by God, they’ll pay attention to you when you present this scientific proof that they probably were not happy that you were born. You can pepper it somewhere in your line of accusations and questions about why they didn’t let you join the Girl Scouts or why they made you wear hand-me-downs from the 80’s well into the 00’s. Y’all, I cannot wait for Thanksgiving!