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Having Children May Actually Help You Live Longer (Even If It Doesn'T Feel That Way)

My husband and I have a running joke about how our children are slowly shaving days and weeks off our otherwise healthy lives.

They do the slightly-dangerous things all kids do, like climbing trees and running around slippery swimming pools, which weakens my heart and shocks my central nervous system. Like a lot of moms, I have a mental highlight reel of all the times my children’s daring—and stupid—acts stopped my heart and set my internal organs aquiver with terror. One rainy Halloween night my daughter darted from our car into an alley where she could have been run over had our neighbor not been driving 5 mph. I swear that incident alone took a good 365 days off my life.

And then there's all that sleep deprivation that comes with being a parent. It was one thing when they were babies, but the other night my son climbed into bed with us, and proceeded to ninja kick us all night long.

The way we see it, I’ve lost at least three years already, and my kids haven't even started dating yet. At this point, I hope I make it to retirement.

Luckily, a new study gives me hope that I’ll make it to my Cocoon years. Swedish researchers found that parents live longer than childless people. (Yes, really.)  In fact, if I can make it to 60, then I will live 1.5 years longer than my childless counterparts; if my husband makes it to 60, he will live two years longer than his childless counterparts.

Now, the researchers studied men and women in Sweden, which makes me wonder if Swedish children sleep and follow directions better than their American counterparts. The study was silent on cultural differences, but clear on this: We can stop being jealous of our childless friends who can have brunch whenever they want or dash off somewhere fabulous for the weekend without a diaper bag. Because, Parents, our day is coming, when the childless will be gone (but not forgotten), and we will be still be kicking it at the Bingo table in the assisted living complexes that our loving offspring have researched and picked out for us.

Children, it seems, are an investment in our future. The little people who are sapping your energy and driving you to binge-eat Girl Scout cookies are the very beings who give you the gift of more trips around the sun. Right now, we are tired from the lack of sleep, stressed from the demands of helicoptering, and frazzled from the minutia of parenting. But one day, these very children may be our social, emotional, and medical guides—they will literally add years to our lives.


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