Q: My wife and I are giving serious thought to starting a family, and now I'm having second thoughts. The idea of being responsible for a child is daunting enough. But I read a recent report suggesting that parenting often leads to unhappiness. What's your perspective?
Jim: Scientists love to examine the happiness quotient of parents. Year after year studies either find how miserable parents are or how much joy and satisfaction children bring to their parents' lives. One of our staff researchers studied these varied findings and concluded that the reason for the disparity lies in how we define happiness.
Parenthood can be exhausting -- no doubt about it. It's a huge investment of time, money and energy. Couples with young children endure sleep deprivation, and a teenager's back talk can work that last nerve. Still, there's a reason why the happy announcement -- "We're pregnant!" -- is met with celebration.
At some level, we understand that happiness isn't measured by the many things parents sacrifice. There's a deeper satisfaction that comes from living to benefit others and from loving our children well. There's a joy that fills the soul when you see your daughter selflessly serving others or see your son's face light up after he discovers something new and that "aha!" moment strikes. Moments like these make sacrifices worth it. This type of transcendent love causes us to look beyond ourselves and become the people our children need us to be.
As you weigh the prospects of parenting, make sure your definition of happiness lines up with a long-term perspective. If you do, I think you'll see that bringing a new life into this world and then loving and guiding him or her along the way offers a meaningfulness and joy unmatched by any other human endeavor.
Q: Is it a bad idea to become romantically involved with a co-worker? I think I'm in love with a guy at work, but I'm not entirely certain about his feelings for me. Any advice?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: You're wise to tread cautiously. Many office romances end in disaster. Here's a typical scenario: A couple begins dating, the relationship doesn't work out, and they break up. If there are hard feelings, the working environment can become a nightmare. This is true not only for the couple themselves but for their co-workers. Some corporations have a "non-fraternization" policy for this very reason.
On the other hand, some office romances work out fine, especially when they involve two mature and thoughtful individuals. Much depends on the nature of the work relationship. Generally speaking, it's inadvisable to date a supervisor or a subordinate. The best case is when two people work in completely separate departments. Then if the relationship sours, there's not the awkwardness of interacting with each other every day.
If your co-worker hasn't openly expressed any romantic interest in you, be careful of jumping to conclusions. Don't read too much into the fact that you've had some nice conversations or feel a sense of chemistry with him. Guard your heart. Avoid building up a romantic fantasy in your mind. If his feelings for you are something more than friendly, you'll know soon enough. Use the time to get to know him before allowing your emotions to run away with you. Watch him on the job. See how he interacts with fellow employees. Then ask yourself if he displays the strong character that you want in a dating and marriage partner.
Finally, I'd encourage you to grab a copy of a great book, "The Dating Manifesto," by my colleague Lisa Anderson. I guarantee you'll be glad you did.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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