Are Parent and Childfree Brains Different?
Shankar Vedantam has a provocative piece on Slate. She discusses some of what’s out there on parenting research versus the “subjective” parenting experience:
“Parenting is a grind, and most parents are stressed out much more than they are happy. But when parents think about parenting, they don't remember the background stress. They remember the cuddle and the kiss. Parenting is a series of intensely high highs, followed by long periods of frustration and stress, during which you go to great lengths to find your way back to that sofa and that kiss. We have a name for people who pursue rare moments of bliss at the expense of their wallets and their social and professional relationships: addicts."
It seems there is a good deal of science linking “addiction regions” of the brain with parenting. The idea is that humans evolved these regions of the brain so we would seek out and persevere in parenthood—why? A Darwinian view might hypothesize that it’s to ensure the continued evolution of the human species. We have evolved to where some underlying mechanisms in our brains have developed by natural selection to make us seek out and, at least in the big picture, enjoy parenthood.
So how might this relate to those who don’t seek out or want the experience of parenthood? Could this region of the brain be different for those who do not seek out or ultimately opt out of parenthood? Why do some of us just not feel the neurological pull toward parenthood? The childfree don’t yearn for those intensely gratifying parenthood moments enough such that we are willing to put up with the millions of not-so-good moments in between. Or we might not see those kinds of special moments as intensely gratifying at all.Continued on the next page