So let's talk: What the heck is going on? Most of us were happy to get pregnant. And happy to give birth. And most of us expected that having kids would make our happiness quotient spike. The problem is, we didn't realize that kids and happiness exist in a complicated relationship to one another. Yes, our children make us happy in many, many ways. But they also drive us nuts. They permanently change our marriages and our relationships with our spouses. Remember how much you loved how sporty and free-and-easy your windsurfer boyfriend was? Now that he's your husband and the father of your children, do you still think it's so cool that he likes to spend all Saturday offshore?

Another thing we didn't quite realize would happen until we became parents was that we'd start to associate happiness with some future time, some imagined life phase when parenting would be easier. That we'd be happier when the kids were out of diapers, or when the kids were in school, or when they were old enough to be more self-sufficient, or when they packed up for college and left the house.

Literally hundreds of parenting issues tweak the happiness level in our homes. Hair washing. Doctor's appointments. Homework. Driving. Another major bummer (we might as well call it what it is) is the doling out of discipline and privileges. Do you agree with your spouse about when Johnny should get a timeout? Do you agree on whether or not he should have a TV in his room? If he's behaved well enough to get dessert? If his grades are high enough to sleep over at a friend's house? And it pretty much goes without saying: If you're fighting about the kids, marital happiness often goes out the window. It's hard not to blame a spouse—especially one you've been disagreeing with on parenting issues—when things go awry. If you weren't such a softie . . . If you ever gave her a sense of freedom ... If you'd just stick with her bedtime routine ... If you didn't give in to his tantrums ... One mom we know calls these the "nevah evahs." These accusations are always tempting, but they're a recipe for disaster. Blame has made few people happy. Whatever the trouble, the key is to work through it together.


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