Were You Happiest Before or After You Had Kids?

By Charlotte Hilton Anderson, REDBOOK

Before Kids. After Kids. The two states of being are so different for me that I don't even think I can say I'm the same person. So when REDBOOK asked me in their survey on motherhood and happiness which time in my life made me the happiest, the answer was easy: Both! Or, some days, neither. It's cliche but it's true that nothing has been more challenging or rewarding for me than being a mom. (Motherhood has the added bonus of making me a cliche in a lot more ways than idioms. See: minivan, mom shoes, and strangely strong opinions about bake sales.)

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I've never been more thrilled than the day each of my kids were born. I've never been so proud of any achievement in my own life like I was when my son learned to ride his bike after months of agonizing. I've never been more grateful than when my other son pulled through a life-threatening illness.

The flip side, of course, is that I've never been more angry than when my other other son (still counting? I have three!) got caught cheating at school and lied to me about it. I've never been more scared than seeing my escape-artist toddler standing in the middle of a busy highway. (He was fine thanks to his overworked guardian angels.) And I've never been more heartbroken than the day my oldest daughter died.

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So what is my happiness in the face of all this? Children are life. And life is complicated. Backpacking Europe was life changing. But so was packing my son's backpack for his first day of kindergarten. And while neither made me particularly happy in the moment (sleeping on trains is highly overrated), looking back I can see joy interwoven like a gold thread, shining through the dark spots.

What would you say - are you happier as mom or as a single girl? What phase of life has been your favorite? Take our quiz; we want to hear all about you!

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