1. Survive childhood as unscathed as possible.
2. Graduate high school.
3. Go to college or university.
4. Get a job.
5. Get married.
6. Have kids.
Those are the steps, dare I say, most people I know expect to follow into their 30s and 40s. This is the way my life went, too. Up until the get married and have kids part.
After I started a career and finally started to think for myself at around the age of 27, I started to question the path I thought I was supposed to be on. The path I had always been on.
My thoughts threw me for a loop: What? I actually have no desire to have a wedding? Why isn't my womb starting to throb as my biological clock ticks?
I'm supposed to want these things, right? At the very least, I'm supposed to want to want kids, right? Then why do I find myself feeling the same way as my 30-year-old male friend, who told me when we went for lunch last week:
“It's hard enough for me to put in the time as an uncle, and all I have to do is show up. The truth is, I'm not that impressed by what kids can do. ‘Cool, you can jump on a trampoline. So can I, but I’m not going to. Because I’m going to have a beer with your dad.'"
When I revealed my doubts to my mom about a year and a half ago, she looked horrified:
“You’ll want kids when you’re my age. Without kids in your 60s, you’ll be very lonely,” she said in a desperate, almost threatening, tone.
I replied: "Most. selfish. reason. to. have. kids. ever.”
For the record, I enjoy children. Hanging out with this little guy at the gym is a highlight of my training these days.
But now, I have an even better argument to present to my mom:
Mom, listen up: New research says when it comes to health and happiness, friendships are more important than family! A perfect reason to connect to a social CrossFit community, and a legitimate reason not to feel pressured into having children—if it's not what you want.
The research out of Michigan State University involved two different studies: The first one looked at nearly 280,000 people from 100 countries, and concluded friendship was linked to higher health and happiness scores than family relationships. And get this, as people aged this became even more, not less, true! (So much for my mom's theory about needing children in your 60s and 70s).
Meanwhile, the second study looked at 7,500 older adults, and revealed a similar finding. Specifically, it showed that strained friendships, or a lack of friendships, negatively affected happiness, where as family relationships—be it good or bad—had less of an impact on happiness.
One of the reasons this might be the case is because friendships are less likely to be associated with feelings of guilt or obligation the way family relationships sometimes are. So if a friendship lasts a long time, you know it’s probably a good one as you’re not obliged to keep the person in your life. Like the saying goes: You don't get to choose your family.