Fatherhood has a huge impact on your happiness, studies say

Like motherhood, fatherhood is hard, too. And like motherhood, fatherhood is transformative.

Fatherhood has a huge impact on your happiness, studies say


The mental load of fatherhood has remained constant over the generations, but fatherhood is changing in positive ways that breed more happiness for dads

Actively joining their partner in the birth experience is not the only thing that is new to this generation of dads. Millennial dads are different from generations before them in their mindset as well, opening them up to greater participation and fulfillment in their new role.

According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, "Today, fathers who live with their children are taking a more active role in caring for them and helping out around the house. And the ranks of stay-at-home and single fathers have grown significantly in recent decades."

Five key findings that define these changes are:

  1. Dads are just as likely as moms to say that parenting is extremely important to their identity. Almost half of fathers say they find parenting enjoyable all of the time.
  2. Dads spend on average seven hours per week on childcare, and nine hours on household chores. This is an average of 250% more involvement than 50 years ago, and almost 50% of today's dads don't think that is enough.
  3. It's become less common for dads to be their family's sole breadwinner. In 1970, dads made the money in almost half of the families. Now, almost 75% of two-parent families with children are dual-earning.
  4. Half of today's fathers find it challenging to balance work and family life. Working fathers are also about as likely as working mothers to say that they would prefer to be home with their children, but that they need to work because they need the income.
  5. Seventy percent of adults say it's equally important for new babies to bond with their mother and their father. However, on average, fathers take only one week off from work due to employers putting more pressure on them to return to work quickly after the birth or adoption of a new child.

Taken together, these new social findings reflect the shift in mindset that has enabled millennial men to experience fatherhood in a manner not always enjoyed by previous generations, allowing them to embrace more fully their fatherhood and enjoy the journey.

Millennial dads are happier than men without children

Research contradicts prior studies that have found that parenthood is not fun, but instead wrought with unhappiness, higher levels of depression, and less positive and more negative emotions. Most recently, a three-part study from UC Riverside finds that parents—especially fathers—are decidedly happier than non-parents.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside, and the paper's senior author, says that, in fact she finds when asked about their biggest regret, people often cite the decision not to have children.

"It doesn't make sense evolutionarily," says Lyubomirsky, who is also a mother. "We want people to have children, so why would having children make them unhappy?" To answer that question, Lyubomirsky and her colleagues conducted in three different studies to look more closely at happiness levels in parents and non-parents.

The first study was conducted to determine whether just parents are happier overall, compared with non-parents. Researchers looked at data from four sets of a nationally representative sample of U.S. respondents who completed the World Values Survey (WVS, 2006)—research conducted by a global network of social scientists studying changing values and their impact on social and political life.

Over the course of 25 years, parents, in general, reported higher levels of life satisfaction, happiness, and thoughts about meaning in life than non-parents. But what's interesting is although all parents reported more frequent thoughts about having meaning in life than non-parents, further analyses of the data revealed that parenthood was associated with increased satisfaction and happiness most among fathers. These findings directly align with those from the Pew Research Center.

In the second study, researchers tested whether parents reported more positive emotional experiences and meaning in daily life than did non-parents. Handing out pagers to 329 parents and non-parents, the researchers beeped them randomly five times a day over the course of a week, asking them: "How happy are you?" Activity was recorded for that very moment parents were beeped, when toddlers could be melting down or giving snuggles.

The results suggest that there were more loving moments on a daily basis than not, because parents reported higher levels of momentary well-being, including more overall positive emotion and more meaning in life, than non-parents. And again, fathers, in particular, scored higher than childless men on all of the well-being indicators.

A third study was conducted online to compare how parents felt when they were taking care of their kids with how they felt doing other things during the day. Almost 200 parents were asked to reconstruct their previous day's activities, play by play, reporting how they were feeling during each activity.

Responses showed that parents experienced more positive emotion and more of a sense of meaning when they were taking care of their kids than when they were doing unrelated tasks. "Our analyses show that… parenthood and child care may actually be linked to feelings of happiness and meaning in life," said Lyubomirsky.

Millennial dads report higher work-life satisfaction than single millennial men

This cultural shift in fatherhood is a good thing. In a 2016 report, The New Millennial Dad: Understanding the Paradox of Today's Fathers, survey results from 1,100 millennials between the ages of 22 and 35 indicate that millennial fathers claim they are significantly more likely to feel their work and home life conditions are excellent, and they've gotten the important things they wanted in life, and that in most ways, they are living closer to their ideal life than single men.

"When you look at the percentages and the scores, fathers just seemed to have richer, more meaningful lives that they were more satisfied with than their single counterparts," said Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family and a co-author of the report. Although the findings in the report contradict research showing that millennials are on track to have the lowest rates of marriage by age 40 than any previous generation, "... fatherhood clearly is enriching the lives of these men, at least according to their self-report," said Harrington.

Millennial fathers who split caregiving duties equally with their spouses say they are happiest

Furthermore, millennial dads who divided caregiving responsibilities equally with their spouses reported higher levels of work-life satisfaction. These dads scored well above the other dads in strongly agreeing with statements like, "If I had to live my life over, I would change almost nothing," that their life conditions were excellent, and that they were satisfied with their lives. "What was interesting to me was how pleased egalitarian fathers seem to be with themselves and their arrangement," stated Harrington.

Happiness and altruism—the practice of selfless concern for the well-being of others at one's own expense—are intimately linked and biologically founded.

Altruism promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness. Research has shown that giving to and helping other people releases endorphins, which then activate the parts of our brain that are associated with trust, pleasure and social connection. Being altruistic, like caring for others and spending money on them, as in fatherhood, leads to greater levels of endorphins released, compared to spending money on oneself.

Additional research has shed light on the fact that dads are the primary influencer in the family for generosity and altruism. And more research supports the theory that fathers modeling altruism, in turn, raise kids who do the same, and they're happier for it.

To sum it up, doing things for others is an essential ingredient to being happy. Sharing the workload with your partner and taking care of your kids is in effect doing things for others, which makes you happier. So, by way of altruism, it can be said that fatherhood is the very definition of happiness.

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The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

Conz Preti

Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


Belly oil

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

$58

Belly mask

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

$42

Nipple + lip ointment 

HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

$28

Belly tattoos

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

$18

This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

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Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

You've got this.

Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

The Motherly Birth Class

pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

$79

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$79.99

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

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15 vegetarian school lunch ideas kids will gobble up

Need some plant-free lunch ideas to take to school? We got you, mama.

Tom Werner / Getty

Have your kids stopped eating meat? Is your family just trying to cut back? One trend I'm intrigued by is eating vegetarian on the weekdays, then going omnivore Saturday through Sunday. For health, happiness and environmental reasons, more and more families are simply opting out of anything that's not grown from the ground—and that includes two of my daughters.

With school starting back up, you may be needing some more school lunch ideas for kids that don't include meat to keep those cute lunch boxes—and little bellies—full!

Here are our favorite ways to pack lunch boxes that are hearty, satisfying, full of protein yet vegetarian all the way through.

Simplified Focaccia Bread

When we lived in Italy, we learned that focaccia bread was originally made for fishermen who needed a fast lunch that would stick with them until dinner. Olive oil not only packs a flavorful punch but adds enough (good) fats to keep fishermen full. Turns out, it works for kids at school too and this easy recipe is the best way to make it!

Cheddar Cheese and Apple Muffins

Think of these savory baked goods as a twist on a biscuit--one that's packed with tart apples and creamy, salty cheddar cheese.

Whole-Wheat Mini Tomato Galettes

Start with pie crust (use our easy recipe or take a shortcut with something from the store) then layer on the freshly sliced tomatoes (or potatoes!), sprinkle with cheese and bake. These make-ahead lunches will be the hit of your bento boxes (Tip: measure the size of your container and adjust your galettes before baking!)

Spicy Black Bean Enchilada Cups

Of all the ways to eat enchiladas, I bet you've never thought of this one. Fold tortillas into muffin pans and fill with all the gorgeous flavors of enchiladas. If your kids aren't into spicy, simply skip the adobe sauce and use mild enchilada sauce instead. (P.S. If you like the idea of using your muffin pan for another lunch special, try lasagna cups too.)

Veggie Nuggets

Served at room temp, this vegetarian spin on every kid's favorite food is a tasty treat. Don't forget to pack dipping sauce! (Bonus: Make a big batch and store in the freezer to simply pull out when you're ready to pack lunches.)

Fruit & Nut Butter Wraps

Begin with a tortilla or wrap, then slather on a thick layer of your chosen nut butter and top with freshly sliced fruit: strawberries, peaches, blueberries… Almost any combination works deliciously.

Puff Pastry Pizza

Talk about a happy meal. This one combines pizza with the buttery, flaky texture of puff pastry. Add any toppings your kids love, from plain cheese to tomatoes, mushrooms, olives and more.

Crispy Tofu Nuggets

If you've got an air fryer and a vegetarian kid, these tofu nuggets are your new best dish. Their perfectly crisp texture will remind you of a popular dish served in packs of six at a restaurant that rhymes with Schmic-donalds.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

"But how do you get enough protein?" For every parent of a vegetarian has heard this about a zillion times too many, here's your one-word reply: quinoa! This golden grain is packed with the stuff, plus fiber to keep kids full. Fill a colorful pepper with quinoa, plus a handful of other tasty flavors, and you've got a protein-rich lunch to send to school on repeat.

Tiny Tomato Pies

My daughter asks me to make these pies for her birthday every year. And when her friends come over for dinner. And when it's her turn to choose a meal. There's something about a flaky crust topped with cheese and fresh tomato slices all grilled together that even elementary school kids can't resist. (Psst: Since it starts with store-bought biscuit dough, these tiny pies come together in a snap.)

Quiche Cups

One of the best things about quiche is how versatile it is: add cheese, grilled veggies, roasted broccoli, fresh herbs...or none of the above. Since you use a muffin pan to make a dozen at a time, you can even change up the combinations to suit your kids' tastes.

Simple Sushi Rolls

Don't let the name fool you. Making sushi is not only easier than you think, but a fun way for kids to try their hand in the kitchen with you.

Toasted Bagel Bites with Hummus

Slice up a store-bought bagel and give it a minute under the broiler and you'll have the crispy bites kids devour at lunch. My kids like a little hummus, marinara sauce or nut butter and jelly for dipping.

Very Pickle-y Egg Salad

The secret to this egg salad is simple: tons of dill pickles. The salty, sweet and crunchy texture makes the perfect bite with all those rich and creamy boiled eggs. (Tip: Save time with dill pickle relish.)

Taco Pop Tarts

What started as a cheeky way to use up taco filling has turned into one of my kids' most-requested lunches. Just fill pie crust with your favorite taco filling (using beans or a veggie substitute for ground beef) and bake. Again, word to the wise, do measure your lunch box compartment ahead of time so you don't make mammoth pop tarts like someone I know. Me, it's me. Of course it's me.

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