In a recent study, participants ranked sex first and alcohol second on a list of things that make them happy. Meanwhile, childcare came in fifth place, begging the question: Why do people prefer sex and booze to kids?
Of course, there is some bias built into the comparison. We tend to think of child care as a 24-7 activity. I wonder how sex and booze would stack up if they were also a non-stop, no vacation, activity.
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On the other hand, I haven't met anyone who doesn't remember the day of their child's birth or the first time they held their child and felt the amazing little grip of tiny fingers. And interestingly, this intense bonding releases the same hormone — oxytocin — that stimulates pleasure centers in the brain after orgasm.
But childcare isn't all love and fun. We also tend to worry about our kids. We anticipate problems and we hold onto regrets. As a result, we associate childcare with stress. Some of my clients have reported feeling tremendous guilt about this.
It's hardly a surprise that sex tops the list of things that satisfy us. We are biologically motivated to love sex. Otherwise, the species would have died out long ago. Those who don't enjoy sex may have painful experiences (perhaps child abuse, rape or body shame from an earlier trauma) that is so associated with sex that their minds fill with fear, dread or intense shame, and they are not free to experience sex as pleasureable.
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The other two activities in the top five are volunteer activities and meditation. Volunteering is something we choose to do, and we do it as much or as little as we choose. People enjoy volunteering because it makes them feel good often enough and reliably enough to continue choosing to do it. Keep reading ...
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