Money and child-raising do not mix, according to new research by psychologists.
Parents who are obsessed with their work, wealth or social standing attach less meaning to the task of bringing up children than those who can separate the two, said the study.
And it is mothers who are the most likely to lose sight of their parental responsibilities if they are distracted by financial matters, it added.
Financial troubles does not make life easy for a parent but being rich is not good either if it occupies them too much, said Canada’s University of British Columbia. Those parents who are better off are distracted by wealth to the extent that they lose sight of the goals they have for their children, the study found.
Money ‘creates conflicting goals’ for those with children, they told the annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference.
Previous studies have shown that many parents have a lower sense of wellbeing than childless couples, even though having children also, clearly, makes so may people happy.
The British Columbia team conducted psychological-style questionnaires with parents who had taken their children to a family-friendly festival.
They asked one group of parents to read an article about the festival’s financial success and achievements and another group to read an article about how well it went down with kids.
Then both groups were asked questions about parenting aims and meaning.
Those that had read and been motivated by the moneymaking aims of the first article attached less meaning and happiness to parenting.
And the difference was particularly pronounced among women surveyed.
Lead researcher Kostadin Kushlev said: ‘The relationship between parenthood and wellbeing is not one and the same for all parents.
‘This allowed us to see whether money compromises meaning because of the conflict between the goals associated with money and the goals and the behaviours that parenting normally demands.’
Couples with money-making goals felt that parenting was less meaningful than those who did not have the same goals.
Kushlev added: ‘Money seems to compromise meaning for mothers but not for fathers when they are spending time with their children.
‘This finding is consistent with research that suggests money tends to activate achievement and self-promotion motivations more strongly in women than men.’
The answer could be the age-old problem of trying to juggle work and home life without letting one interfere with the other, said the study.
Kushlev continued: ‘Keep work and family life as separate as possible so that work or money-related goals are not active when parents are spending time with their children.
‘The less we mix our various goals and motivations, the more meaning in life we may be able to experience from our various daily activities.’
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