If you ask any parent, they’ll tell you that their children were the best thing ever to happen to them. Few choices are more important than having children, and psychologists have figured out what having children means for happiness. Some scholars believe that if you want to be happy, it’s best not to have children. On the other hand, other scholars have pushed back, saying that your happiness can depend on who you are and where you live. Still, some research indicates that the rewards of having children are different from joy. As for whether or not to have kids, the decision is up to you and your spouse.

The early research is convincing: having children is bad for your quality of life. In one study, psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his associates asked 900 employed women to report each of their activities and how happy they were doing each activity at the end of the day. Surprisingly, being with their children was one of the least enjoyable activities compared to watching television, shopping, or preparing food. After working a long day at work, your children tend to drain your energy even more.

Other studies have shown that when a child is born, parents experience a decrease in happiness that doesn’t fade for a long time. This decrease in joy adds to a drop in marital satisfaction that doesn’t recover until the children leave the house. Simply put, if you and your spouse have children, your happiness decreases after they’re born and won’t increase until the children move from the parental home. Having kids can put a lot of stress on someone, especially when they’re young. Raising a child involves financial struggle, sleep deprivation, and anxiety. Mothers also have to deal with the physical trauma of pregnancy and breastfeeding. To sum it up, children can turn a loving and romantic partnership into a battle over who gets to sleep.

There are also geographic reasons to consider. A 2016 paper researching the happiness levels of people with and without children in 22 countries found that the extent to which children can make you happy is influenced by whether your country has childcare policies like paid parental leave. For example, parents in Norway and Hungary are happier than childless couples in those countries. The United States holds the most significant drop in happiness after having children. Having children make some people happy and others unhappy; the rest fall somewhere in the middle. Factors on your satisfaction include how old you are, where you live, and whether you’re a mother or father.

One question remains: if having children can make you unhappy, why don’t people regret having them? One answer is a phenomenon called attachment. Most parents love their kids, and it would seem terrible to admit that you would be better off without them. Some parents also prefer a world with their children in it. To most parents, the existence of their child supersedes the decrease in their quality of life. Having children may have a lot of negatives, but there are a lot of positives too. In some cases, the positives outweigh the negatives. Children can make your life worth living.

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