It’s official. If you want to get people very fired up over their life choices, publish an article called, oh, I don’t know, “All Joy and No Fun, Why Parents Hate Parenting.”

That was a recent New York Magazine cover story by Jennifer Senior and the online version has been residing atop its “most viewed” and “most emailed” lists for much of the week. As of this writing, almost 20,000 people have recommended it on Facebook.

“Most people assume that having children will make them happier,” Senior writes. “Yet a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so.”

Oh boy. We know where this is going.

The comments section on the piece had only a fraction of reactions to the actual article and was more like an ongoing argument in defensiveness between deliriously happy parents and folks who had gleefully opted out of parenting altogether. I haven’t seen this much projection at a multi-plex cinema.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am child-free by choice and found the article refreshing. Since the majority of our citizens go the parenting route -- some because they have a genuine pull, others because they think they’re supposed to -- it is unquestionably the more societally accepted path to take. Senior’s piece gave a real, nuanced picture with joys and challenges as opposed to the sentimental or fairy tale scenario often dished up by parents who are afraid to be honest.

One of the best parents I know -- whose college student daughter is one of the smartest, most sociable, well-rounded kids you could ever meet -- used to be so baffled by all the mothers who would gush, “I can’t remember my life before my kids.” She wouldn’t hesitate to say, “I can.” She didn’t love her child any less than those other mothers, she was just expressing her truth.

But honestly, I’m less interested in debating the merits of my choices or yours or entertaining what we think of each other’s choices than I am in adding a dimension to the discussion. One theme that emerges repeatedly in dialogue on this topic is the notion that having children makes a person mature or “an adult.” Undoubtedly that can be true in some situations, but my favorite comment on the New York Magazine article was where a reader asked if that meant Octo-Mom was a winner at life while Leonardo da Vinci led an unproductive, immature one.

I’d like to issue a greater challenge in the discussion around rites of passage. How about we tweak the measuring stick a bit? Maybe consider those intangibles of life? What I mean is, it doesn’t make you an adult because you own a big house and two cars and have 2.5 kids. I know plenty of people who have done all of that and haven’t grown an inch emotionally or spiritually in 20 or 30 years. How about taking that dimension into account when we’re gauging growth?

This is not about religion or how Zen you are, because heaven knows plenty of the folks sitting front row center in churches every week are often spiritually stunted and stuck in ritual. But something like having the maturity to spend less than you bring home a month requires not just sound financial planning, but spiritual and emotional balance. So does eschewing black-and-white thinking, taking each situation and weighing it without preconceived notions, and breaking free from an entitlement mentality.

Listening, really listening, requires maturity. Reacting with grace to heartbreak, pain, setbacks and crises takes emotional intelligence if there is to be a leveling off that brings us back to a productive and joyful place. Compassion requires tapping into the spirit, something seriously lacking here:

“Oh, and if you’re too selfish and social to want kids during your child-bearing years,” one commenter wrote, “then do us all a favor and get your cats now, and lose the number of that fertility specialist that you assume can reverse this decision when you’re 50.”

Instead of hurling words like “selfish” or “irresponsible” at each other, how about respecting each other’s choices and even appreciating the other person’s point of view? Why get so worked up over anyone’s choices but our own? Emotional intelligence is so darned underrated while everyone is patting themselves on the back for being an adult because they have all the right gadgets and know how to work a grill.

If studies show that parenting does not necessarily make people happier and your experience differs from that, write and say so if you feel compelled. That doesn’t require disparaging other people’s experiences. If you’ve chosen well, made good life decisions for you, revel in that. Be in it. Be grateful.

And stop worrying about everyone else’s kids or lack thereof.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is Please direct all questions/comments to