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Motherhood is not a drag

Feminist messaging misses the happiness and fulfillment of having children

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Motherhood is not a drag
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White, middle- to upper-class women have the most angst and anxiety about motherhood. Despite the best access to healthcare, maternity leave, and solid marriages (this group enjoys the highest rates of marital stability), they wrestle with anxiety and stress more than other groups. 

In a recent Vox piece on how millennials view motherhood, the writer posits that many choose motherhood despite the fact that it “will require them to sacrifice everything that brings them pleasure.” 

With that kind of framing, who would want to dive into parenthood? It’s the dominant narrative in secular culture today. Furthermore, she notes that motherhood is even more difficult because “this moment is unlike any women have faced before.” 

The easy days of American frontier motherhood have ended, friends. Microwaves, cell phones, indoor plumbing, and the internet have made things so much more difficult! 

In all seriousness, technology brings new decisions, but overall it’s made life far easier in the physical sense. If anything, this so-called difficult “moment” is self-made, as we’ve piled impossible standards and responsibilities on families. 

According to Pew Research, 50 percent of women with children under 18 would prefer to stay home. And yet, only 20 percent of them report they can do so. Progressives don’t want to admit it, but mothers would be happier if they worked less. The call is coming from inside the house, friends.

Maybe that’s why millennials “dread” motherhood—because of the cultural messaging that we owe it to our feminist mothers to work full time, outside the home. They fought for us, right? But then everyone complains such a life is thankless, depleting, and “hard on career, health, friendships and sex lives.”

We see this mentality flourishing in a recent social media trend where childless couples boast about being DINKS (dual income, no kids) who can spend their time and money in ways parents cannot. 

“We have disposable income we can spend on whatever we would like and don’t have to spend it on a kid,” said one woman. 

Couples list things like lazy Saturday mornings, regular travel, dinners out, and restful nights of sleep as the benefits of childlessness. In other words, life is all about me. Kids are mentioned with palpable disdain. 

Studies find that women with three or more children are happier than those with fewer.

It’s a weird flex considering that most parents find parenting “rewarding” and “enjoyable.” Happiness levels for parents cross even racial and economic lines in a telling and encouraging way. As I wrote for WORLD earlier this year, moms reported better mental health during COVID than childless women. 

The Vox piece notes that positive messaging about starting families “come almost exclusively from the Right.” 

Studies find that women with three or more children are happier than those with fewer. It appears larger families breed fulfillment, purpose, and satisfaction. Why is the left against telling women the truth about motherhood? The good life doesn’t end in the delivery room—it gets better.

Many articles exist about why people don’t regret being childless, but it’s taboo to discuss the opposite. There is, however, an “unspoken grief” that does exist for some who never had children. 

I’m thankful for the first wave feminist movement, but the last 100 years prove that more options for women don’t necessarily mean women are happier—or that women will choose them if they don’t have to. I like the options, just not the pressure to capitulate to them. 

As Nancy Pearcey documents in her book, The Toxic War Against Masculinity, the Industrial Revolution made many things worse for women. Men began to work away from home, becoming strangers to their children, and women were left with no contribution to family income.

Feeling lonely and unfulfilled, they began to work more outside the home. Unfortunately, this led to women doing double duty—caring for the home and working full time while husbands remained exclusively committed to the latter. The imbalance was untenable, and in the past 20-30 years we’ve begun to rectify the problem with more flexible work options and a movement to recruit more present fathers.

And we’ve made real progress. Vox reports that most mothers interviewed for the piece admitted “they had pretty equitable arrangements with their partners,” but were hesitant to promote “too much enthusiasm for child-rearing [because it] could … detract from larger feminist goals.” 

In other words, it’s going well, but saying so would hurt the cause of feminism. Much of the messaging is couched in the secular worldview of personal happiness and radical independence as life’s ultimate virtue. “Do what makes you happy” is progressivism’s first commandment. 

Women who live by that commandment have the luxury of debating the merits of motherhood, never recognizing the ability to be one is a gift of womanhood. It’s often said that women “lose themselves” in motherhood, but that’s false. We become more of ourselves, triggering the full potential of our miraculous, image-bearing essence. 

Ericka Andersen

Ericka Andersen is a freelance writer and mother of two living in Indianapolis. She is the author of Leaving Cloud 9 and Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church & the Church Needs Women. Ericka hosts the Worth Your Time podcast. She has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Christianity Today, USA Today, and more.

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