Are childless couples happier?

While I was reading the morning news, I stumbled upon a story that could change my life — well, it could have changed my life 30 years ago before my wife and I had kids, four kids to be exact, four daughters to be more exact, who were the fulfillment of conjugal bliss.

At least that’s how I thought about it during my introspective moments, like, say, after a bottle of wine or three.

Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end. We all lived under the same roof at the same time with the same bathroom. One bathroom and four daughters. If I had to do it all over again, I’d invest in a pink Port-o-let to keep the waiting lines shorter. Who knew that being married with kids could come with so many complications involving everything from the septic system to acne medication and college roommates?

The headline told the whole story: “Study says if you want a happy relationship, don’t have kids!” The picture accompanying the story was even juicier: A man and a woman were snuggling in the matrimonial bed (or maybe they weren’t married, just “swinging singles” pretending to be married). She was wearing a very revealing black teddy with a lacy bra and looked like she was pursuing a career as a Vegas showgirl or a Maxim pinup. He had a smile on his face.

So that’s what marriage is like when you don’t have kids. No one ever told me. Every childless couple who saw that photo probably swore never to procreate and then stampeded down to Victoria’s Secret for the semiannual sale.

I don’t recall my marriage being like that, even though I bought my wife a teddy or two for Valentine’s Day, but they ended up in the Salvation Army collection bin in the Wal-Mart parking lot. (I hope we at least got a tax write-off.)

The study, which was titled “Enduring Love?”, surveyed 5,000 people and was conducted by the Open University in the United Kingdom. It concluded that couples without kids are more likely to be happy than old Mom and Dad, who are on diaper duty, at soccer practice or driving cross-country to go college hunting.

I could have told you as much without doing a high-priced, government-subsidized survey. Why aren’t these universities curing cancer or developing a better breath mint instead of wasting money on this nonsense?

The study said childless couples were more satisfied with their lives and felt more valued by their partners than parents did. However, “mothers are the happiest with their life than any other group.”

I confess that about 99% of the domestic quarrels I’ve had with my wife revolved around our kids. The other 1% revolved around me. (Or maybe it was the other way around.) There were joys, too. For instance, when I became proficient in the art of diaper changing, I experienced more job satisfaction than I had during my entire career in journalism.

In the defense of parenthood, I want to state forcefully and unequivocally that being married with kids provides many pleasures. For example ... let me think about this ... it’s coming to me ... as I was saying. Some benefits are intangible, like ahhh ... Others are tangible. For example, you save on teddies, which cost a lot more than Huggies. For the price of one teddy, you can get three jumbo-packs of Huggies, 42 diapers per pack. And that’s a great deal.

I have many friends, with kids and without kids, and all of those without kids are trying to have kids and all of those with kids are struggling to support the kids or being extra nice so they’ll care for them in old age.

I admit that if we didn’t have kids, we would have saved a fortune, and that money could have been spent more wisely on ... teddies. However, for the record, I want to say I’m glad we had four daughters, so happy I’m considering trying for Number Five.

Joe Pisani may be reached at