I’ve never gotten on the bandwagon of praying and asking God for a “word” for the forthcoming year—like Peace or Joy or Resilience or something. That kind of activity doesn’t really fall within my preferred brand of Christianity. But in the midst of all my Hallmark moving watching and Internet scrolling of the last week, the Lord did come and speak audibly to me and give me a special word for 2023. It’s a precious word, a necessary word, and, more importantly, it’s prophetic.* Ready? The word God gave me for 2023 is….
Here is a short, useful definition from Merriam-Webster Online: not having or showing an ability to absorb ideas readily.
This word is not a description of me–perish the thought–it is a revelatory word to help you understand the world around you. It is to ground you in the way things are. That’s right, and, wonderfully, we don’t even need to wait to discover why this is such a perfect word. We know already. Exhibit the First is brought to us by the Atlantic wending its way through science-y numbers and stuff:
Judging by its press since COVID began, you might think that married motherhood is a pathway to misery and immiseration. “Married heterosexual motherhood in America, especially in the past two years, is a game no one wins,” wrote Amy Shearn in one of many New York Times op-eds about the difficulties of marriage in the time of COVID. “Moms Are Not Okay: Pandemic Triples Anxiety and Depression Symptoms in New Mothers,” read a headline in Forbes. Bloomberg went so far as to suggest that family life was a financial dead end for women in an article headlined “Women Who Stay Single and Don’t Have Kids Are Getting Richer.”
I remember a lot of that “reporting” back in the day, and I remember thinking it was…to press into our word…fatuous back then. Only some people think that “married motherhood is a pathway to misery and immiseration.” Those are the people who can’t know things until they find a bunch of data to explain it to them. Ah, so much data. I do love data. Especially the brand that discovers that if your legs are longer and you move them quickly, you will get where you are going in a shorter amount of time than people whose legs are stubby and who won’t move them as energetically. Or the “study” that found that “shared core experiences” (i.e. Dinner) are essential for family cohesion. So anyway, the great thing about COVID is that it did show some people some things that they didn’t know, but that they should have known, and the chief among them was that having an actual family including children and a “partner”—what some call a “husband”—is not the promised path to immiseration, but literally one of the things that is essential for human “flourishing.”
Before you get your back up, this piece in the Atlantic isn’t going to talk so much about single childless women, though they do appear in the data. it’s going to compare two groups of women who do have children, those with the “husband” and those without him. Of course we already know how it’s going to turn out, but we have to toil through the mire as if we don’t:
But was all of this negative commentary about marriage and motherhood, primarily written by and for left-leaning, affluent, educated mothers, an accurate reflection of reality? And today, as we put the worst of the pandemic behind us, are America’s moms still “screaming on the inside,” to borrow the title of Grose’s new book? Are they socially and emotionally worse off than women without kids?
“We” already know the answer to that question. It’s been obvious for literally millennia. Unhappily, it is completely new information to data-dependent bureaucrats who can’t see beyond the ends of their own noses:
Actually, no. As tough as motherhood was during COVID, mothers were both happier and more financially secure than childless women during the pandemic. This gap existed before COVID, but it continued during the worst days of the pandemic and has remained since then. This phenomenon is especially noteworthy because moms, and parents more generally, used to be less happy than childless adults as recently as the 2000s.
Were they though? Or was the way that you went about doing those “studies” pretty flawed? Indeed, the very idea of doing that sort of study shows that something necessary for human happiness is missing. The fact that people don’t know that being families is better than not being in them means that “we” have already lost. Also, we could have known that married women with children are in general happier than single childless women because Hallmark existed back in the early 2000s. It didn’t just come into being in 2019 like the Verruca Gnome.
Still, the Atlantic presses on:
The picture becomes more complex when we consider socioeconomic status. Poor mothers consistently report lower levels of satisfaction compared with wealthier mothers.
OF COURSE THEY DID. Are you even kidding me? This is something we have to study? Ye gods….
This held true during the pandemic: In 2020, 62 percent of poor mothers were at least somewhat satisfied with their lives, compared with 79 percent of rich moms and 80 percent of middle-class moms, according to the American Family Survey data. This is perhaps not surprising given that lower-income moms were more likely than more affluent moms to lose their job and face child-care problems, as Stephanie Murray noted recently in The Atlantic.
I don’t want to be mean, but do you suppose that the people writing these sorts of articles have ever actually been poor? Or spoken to someone who is? I do, as one must, “believe in science.” I haven’t asked it to live in my heart or anything, but learning and discovering things is, like having a family, part of what makes people who they are. Collecting information is a good thing to do. Living in Clown World, on the other hand, is no fun at all:
However, wealthier moms experienced a COVID-induced decline in life satisfaction, while poor mothers stayed constant. The share of upper-income moms who reported being completely satisfied with their lives dropped a full 10 percentage points from 2019 to 2020, according to the American Family Survey. One possible explanation is that wealthier mothers were more likely to have had their life disrupted by social distancing—which was associated with emotional distress among mothers—compared with lower-income mothers.
And, get this, wealthy people discovered, perhaps some of them for the first time, that they weren’t in control. If you think you’re in control of your life, and then you discover that you’re not, you’re going to experience feelings of unhappiness. Poor women know they aren’t in control. Indeed, they are generally at the mercy of both particular people, and whole state bureaucracies that make life torturously miserable, or should I say, immiserating. We carry on:
“Being a single parent is really lonely, even when you’re not social-distancing,” Shoshana Cherson, a 35-year-old single mother in New York City, told The New Yorker in the middle of the pandemic. “The whole support system I had put in place to keep me going has now completely fallen apart.” Another single mother in the city said: “Some days, I feel like I’m melting.”
Yes…this is why marriage, which is privileged by many elites (just look at the way they actually live) should so also be privileged for the poor and downtrodden. I know this has been long, but this is the good bit:
We have heard about these challenges and rewards in interviews. Lucy Fatula, a 37-year-old upper-middle-class mother who lives with her husband in Virginia, told us parenthood has entailed some sacrifice: “We gave up eating out whenever we wanted, hanging out with friends for” long stretches, and lots of sleep, she said. But it was worth it: “Seeing my sons happy gives me so much joy, especially knowing that I play such an important role in their lives.” Having a husband who is “a hands-on dad and is always supportive of me” has made the journey that much better, Fatula told us.
“…parenthood has entailed some sacrifice…” Oh sweet dear heart. Yes, that is a true thing. Probably not “some” though. Self-sacrifice should be more of a totalizing thing where you give your whole being over for the sake of the other. That is the only path to true happiness. But sure, let’s keep collecting a lot of data:
If the data tell us anything, it’s that, at least for most American women, the pathway to happiness runs through married motherhood, not away from it.
I just want, in conclusion, to congratulate the Atlantic for publishing something that will eventually get them canceled. Admitting that “the data” occasionally even tells the truth about reality is kind of a big deal in these latter days, and we should be grateful for what we can get.
But as I said, the Lord spoke to me, and the word for 2023 is Fatuous. I’ll be using it an awful lot in the forthcoming, being sensitive to the Holy Spirit. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that no matter who you are—married, single, mother, childless, alone, tired, unhappy, unmoored, not sure how to live—God is a real Person who comes to be with you in whatever kind of darkness and disappointment immiserating you. He won’t just be your family, he will also be your home. All you have to do is ask him to come and be with you and he will.
See you later!
*I’m kidding. God did not audibly give me this word.
Photo by Sebastian Coman Photography on Unsplash