There’s been a lot of talk lately about modern women being unhappy.
The most recent is Maureen Dowd’s New York Times article, “Blue is the New Black.” In it, Dowd writes:
According to the General Social Survey, which has tracked Americans’ mood since 1972, and five other major studies around the world, women are getting gloomier and men are getting happier.
Before the ’70s, there was a gender gap in America in which women felt greater well-being. Now there’s a gender gap in which men feel better about their lives.
What’s the deal, Dowd wonders. Women have broken out of our “domestic cocoons” (her words). We’ve left our mothers’ “circumscribed lives behind.” Why aren’t we happy?
“[T]he more women have achieved,” she writes, “the more they seem aggrieved. Did the feminist revolution end up benefiting men more than women?”
Perhaps men are happier because women still have the “second shift” (more housework and child care to do after the work day is over)? Probably not, Dowd writes. Though women still do more of each, the “trend lines are moving toward more parity, which should make [women] less stressed.”
Dowd offers a few possible solutions to the “paradox,” then focuses on one in particular: kids.
One area of extreme distraction is kids. “Across the happiness data, the one thing in life that will make you less happy is having children,” said Betsey Stevenson, an assistant professor at Wharton who co-wrote a paper called “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness.” “It’s true whether you’re wealthy or poor, if you have kids late or kids early. Yet I know very few people who would tell me they wish they hadn’t had kids or who would tell me they feel their kids were the destroyer of their happiness.”
The more important things that are crowded into their lives, the less attention women are able to give to each thing.
Here’s what that last line (read it again, would you?) got me thinking of: rocks. Stephen Covey, well-known author of the The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, has a “rock theory.” Boiled down, the theory goes like this: Your life is bucket. Put the big rocks in first, then the little rocks, then the sand, then the water. It all fits. So, know what the big rocks in your life are and start there.
What I’ve found is that my kids are the rocks in my life. I think you will find that, by your desire and by God’s design, your kids will become the rocks in your life as well. They are a joy and they are a reward. But they are also very hard work. The very nature of raising kids demands time.
Before I had kids, I was able to juggle some pretty big boulders. A full-time career. An hour-long commute. But when my daughter came along, I realized that a choice had to be made. Would I give up some of the other rocks in my life or would I try to now cram them all in the jar together? Though it involved some serious financial and lifestyle sacrifices, I gave up some of the other rocks in my life. And I’ve never been sorry.
I still work, obviously. But my work has the flexibility to be a small rock, the sand or even, at times, the water (you probably didn’t notice, but there was a serious lack of Heather articles this summer over at Boundless), depending on what my family and I need.
Other moms know the stress of having too many rocks. In fact, 79 percent of all moms (working outside the home or not) say that working full-time when you have children is not ideal.
Owen Strachan writes this:
Modern women are unhappy. Feminism is not working. It is the call of the church of Jesus Christ to image the kind of happy (though by no means easy) life of the biblical home. We do so not merely as a means of witness, in these strange days, but as a means of rescue.
I know that there are a few working moms who read this blog. Who feel that, because of decisions or circumstances, their work has to be a major rock in their life. Please know that no one here at Boundless, including me, is judging you or condemning you.
But I don’t want to equivocate either. For those of you looking down life’s road to future children, there are things you can do now to give yourself flexibility in the future. I hope you’ll consider it. 79 percent of women, including me, are trying to tell you something.