Are single, childless women happier?

Some days I feel as if I have said everything I could possibly say on the subject of childlessness. Then I realize that I can’t ignore these articles that keep showing up in my Google alerts claiming that single, childless women are happier than married women with children. I read the headline, think “baloney” and move on, but I guess we need to talk about it.

The articles are based on a book by behavioral scientist Paul Dolan titled Happily Ever After: Escaping the Myth of the Perfect Life. Dolan says that marriage is good for men because it “calms them down.” But women are less happy in marriage because of the added responsibilities they take on, including doing the lion’s share of childcare and housework. He bases his conclusions on “The American Time Use Study” published by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Well, we know women still do most of the work at home, but isn’t there some way to balance the responsibilities instead of remaining alone for life? I don’t think people are meant to be alone. One article shows a photo of Oprah Winfrey, single, childless, and successful, with Ava Duvernay at a Netflix premiere. Sure, they look happy. But ask most older women with no one coming up behind them or standing beside them if they’d rather have a family. I think they would.

This article in The Glowup, one of many on the subject, offers this: “We do have some good longitudinal data following the same people over time, but I am going to do a massive disservice to that science and just say: if you’re a man, you should probably get married; if you’re a woman, don’t bother,” Dolan said.

“[Men] take less risks, you earn more money at work, and you live a little longer,” said Dolan. “She, on the other hand, has to put up with that, and dies sooner than if she never married. The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children.”

Although he admits that some women are unhappy because they want to be married and have children and are having trouble making that happen, Dolan cautions that marriage is not as glorious as people think. “You see a single woman of 40, who has never had children—‘Bless, that’s a shame, isn’t it? Maybe one day you’ll meet the right guy and that’ll change.’ No, maybe she’ll meet the wrong guy and that’ll change. Maybe she’ll meet a guy who makes her less happy and healthy, and die sooner.”

Well sure, maybe. Or maybe she’ll met someone wonderful. Maybe her husband and children will make her very happy.

Check out this article on the subject:

Then read this editorial offering the reasons why wives and mothers are not thrilled with their status.

Then try this YouTube discussion that looks at both sides of the argument.

Your turn. What do you think? Are single, childless women happier? Is marriage better for men than for women? Does this make you feel any better about not having children? Please comment.


6 thoughts on “Are single, childless women happier?

  1. I think, as in most things, it’s a balance of better and worse. As a 20-month widow, I’m definitely not happier to be without my husband. I miss him constantly. Yet, I’m not excited at all about jumping into another relationship. Regarding children, my friends who are parents have great joy and deep heartbreak. I will learn to be content in my circumstances!


  2. Its so subjective though, isn’t it? If married, it surely depends upon how your marriage works out or doesn’t. What’s worse, a bad marriage or no marriage?

    If you don’t marry, your happiness or otherwise perhaps depends on whether you assumed that would be part of your life or whether you grew up thinking you only might get married.

    I haven’t read all the links, but it appears our angle isn’t really covered, married and childless? Again, perhaps it comes down to pre-marriage expectations. If you expected to have kids after marrying, it’s harder to be happy. Whereas if you never planned to have them and you don’t, you are more likely to be happy.


  3. Everything has its pros and cons. I had read that childless people are happier day to day. They get better sleep, they can travel and do more things they enjoy, but when people are asked to look back on their lives later, people with children report being happier and having more life satisfaction. That always kind of made sense to me. I have an easier, more enjoyable, lower stress life, but it’s also kind of an empty meaningless one. Sometimes I wonder if being married without kids is the worst of both worlds in a way. You don’t get the full freedom of a single person, but you lack the connections of family as well. At least that’s how I feel sometimes.


  4. OK, here’s my two cents worth. (I just started following this blog.) Anyway, I can speak from both perspectives. I remained single till I met my future husband about three months before I turned 39. I was happy with the way my life was going but wanted more. There are reasons I remained single all those years. I certainly had a couple of opportunities to marry, but it just wasn’t the right time (depressed) or the right person. 32 years of marriage later and having raised one of my own plus his two (they were 5 and 9 when I met them) I can say that I have no regrets about my decision to marry, raise his kids and one of ours. Yes it was difficult at times. I had no idea what I was doing initially and beyond but learned how to be with two kids who were having emotional and social problems. My own daughter was a breeze because she was of me. I knew her, she looked like me, and I could be with her unlike the other two. That was difficult! They are all grown and have lives of their own. I learned to love the two older ones as my own over the years. We enjoy each other’s company as a family and that is a gift.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s