Motherhood.

My grandmother had 12 children. My mother had 8. So, I have had a good experience of large families.

Although the Washington Post would have you believe that having babies is the most detrimental thing that ever happened to women, I don’t think that is the case.

According to the Post, both my grandmother and mother should have lived wretched lives. They didn’t.

All 20 children went on to be happy and healthy. Nobody felt deprived because mama had less time to hover over them, telling them how to do every little thing that entered their lives. In fact, their lives were immeasurably enriched by have a large cadre of brothers and sisters of various interests, talents and expectations. Some became farmers; some worked in factories; some went on to school. Some are hunters; some love geometry; some travel the world. They got married and had even more kids. Holidays are big, boisterous times, with a household of guests. At Christmas we have something like 40 people at our house.Everybody has a good time. The little kids run amok, as they should. The parents occassionally tell them to quiet down, as they should. 

Frequently today, especially on TV, it is the practice to claim that holidays are sad times, or times when everyone fights. I can’t even conceive of it. The whole idea seems ludicrous.

It seems to me that the saddest thing in the world is a family with only two kids. The parents worry too much about them. They hover. They get too involved in the kids lives, and have to cast judgment on each of their friends, on each of their activities, on each of their outfits. They develop a sick neediness in regard to their kids. When the family is big, and one of the kids gets miffed about something and stays away, everyone laughs about it. It is not a big deal. As a result, the storms die down quickly. When the family is small, if someone gets angry and stays away, it is a calamity. The  breach rends the entire family. Everyone is upset, and stressed as a result. So sad.

And my grandmother and mother’s happiness? They are two of the most happy women I have known. My mother is one of those people who never have a bad word to say about anyone. She is content, as was my grandmother.  Both lived to very old age, my Grandmother kicking the bucket at age 90 something.  In their old age, they have lots of help and attention. Even if 4 kids are too busy to help, 4 kids are. I fear the small family types will find their kids have limited time, and gee, it’s just too bad. And so their later years will be more lonely and less interesting.

And now, after all of this insisting on small families, and insisting on birth control, and insisting that women get careers and become independent, what do we find? We find that women are more depressed than ever. We find they have a good job, but are lonely and stressed out.

Stevenson and Wolfers found that American women – of all social classes, ages and whether they worked, stayed home, had kids or did not – had seen a decline in happiness since the early 70s. Thirty years ago, women reported higher rates of subjective wellbeing than men in the US. This advantage has been entirely eroded, and in many instances it is now men who are happier than women. So how did women manage to end up, after a generation of advances in gender equality, less happy typically than their mothers at their age?

Since the early 1970’s. 

Just when all this stuff started.

And whaddaya know? Women used to be happier than men. Women used to be content. Now they are a frazzled bunch.

But in fact, homemakers were happier than women who had “careers“:

Last week, two sociologists at the University of Virginia published an exhaustive study of marital happiness among women that challenges this assumption. Stay-at-home wives, according to the authors, are more content than their working counterparts. And happiness, they found, has less to do with division of labor than with the level of commitment and “emotional work” men contribute (or are perceived to contribute). But the most interesting data may be that the women who strongly identify as progressive—the 15 percent who agree most with feminist ideals—have a harder time being happy than their peers, according to an analysis that has been provided exclusively to Slate. Feminist ideals, not domestic duties, seem to be what make wives morose. Progressive married women—who should be enjoying some or all of the fruits that Freidan lobbied for—are less happy, it would appear, than women who live as if Friedan never existed.

Here’s a thought. Maybe if you want to be happy as a woman, you have lots of kids and devote yourself to a family. You focus on getting a great husband, a good guy who is capable of joining you in this endeavor. Maybe becoming chairman of the board is not the most perfect thing in the world.

Just a thought.

(Please don’t beat me to death with your copy of Ms. Magazine).

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