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.

 

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Should you gamble on a partner who says he or she doesn’t want children?

Back in my grandmother’s day, things were pretty simple. You grew up, got married and had babies. Period. No birth control. No legal abortions. No vasectomies or tube-tieing. The only people who didn’t have children, aside from priests and nuns, were the ones who were physically unable. And everyone pitied them. “Oh poor Aunt Martha, she couldn’t have children.”

There was no choice, no changing of minds, no “do you want to have children?” “Let’s wait until we have more money” or “I don’t think I want to have children.” People just had babies, and if it made their lives more difficult, if taking care of the kids meant sacrificing something else you would have liked to do, tough.

Sometimes I wish we were still back in those days. With all the sex my first husband and I had, I’d have at least three children now, maybe more because we might not have gotten divorced. I’d still be attached to a husband who drank too much and didn’t believe in monogamy. Instead, we split up, and I married Fred, who was the best husband ever, except for not wanting to have children with me. Did it turn out for the best? I think so.

Every day I receive comments from readers struggling with the baby question. In many cases, they and their partners completely agreed when they got together about having or not having children. Then either one of them changed their minds or one of them proved to be unable to make babies. And now they don’t know what to do. They’re broken-hearted. They’re talking about breaking up, but they’re still in love and don’t know if they’ll ever find a better mate. I don’t know what to tell them. Things happen. People turn out to be infertile. People who said they didn’t care about having children suddenly realize that they can’t bear living their entire lives without experiencing motherhood or fatherhood. People who thought they wanted children discover they really don’t.

What it comes down to, I think, is making a commitment to another person and sticking to it, no matter what. Relationships are a gamble. Marriage is a gamble. He/she might die, might get sick, might get fired, might not be able to get pregnant, might decide he’d rather have a puppy. People change their minds. If you truly love that person, you don’t leave when things get tough. You talk it through and find the best solution for both of you. When it comes to having children, if one wants them and one doesn’t, somebody’s going to get hurt. So the question it always comes down to is: Is this person worth taking a chance?

What do you think? Please post your comments. I’m running out of answers.