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Parents: Do Less, Be Happier

Published on: December 30, 2013

Parenting shouldn't cost as much as it does -- we shouldn't be spending so much on gadgets, and we shouldn't be running ourselves ragged to keep up with our kids' activities. In the end, none of it really makes much difference, and it makes parenting a very stressful affair for many of us. That's according to economics professor Bryan Caplan, author of Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think.

The secret joy of being a parent, Caplan argues, comes from understanding the limited liability of parenting. Studies have found that child-rearing is, if you can believe it, a little overrated. In surveys of twins raised together and apart, behavioral scientists consistently found that nature overpowered nurture in almost all categories, from character and intelligence to happiness and health. Once you accept that bad parenting won't always keep your kids from being great (and good parenting might not make a difference!), it's easier to relax and enjoy the state of being a parent.

Refreshing return to common sense or license to slack? This introvert with a dislike of overscheduling (and a real anger at the way that moms are made to feel responsible for managing every aspect of their child's life) votes for the former.

Although I still won't be having any more kids -- as Caplan suggests -- for the good of the country:

But if you zoom out to the national level, more rugrats means more innovation. He reminded me that "there are long-term benefits for an increased population for progress. The key to progress is new ideas. Ideas are the cause of progress. Where do they come from? People! More people, more progress.

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