Are Mormon Women Becoming Less Happy?
In a recent op-ed, Maureen Dowd talks about the phenomenon of women becoming more and more unhappy. This trend is apparently true across all sorts of cultures and classes – married or non-married, kids or no kids, rich or poor, etc. Researchers hypothesize that a major factor in this is that women are simply more stressed out. Rather than just worrying about their kids and homes as they might have done 40 years ago, many are now worried about those things, in addition to their jobs, their grad school, etc.
Conversely, men are becoming happier. Researchers surmise that since many now share with their wives the responsibility of providing for their families, they are feeling less stressed. And as they age men, unlike women, are becoming happier as well.
Perhaps the most striking thing in the op-ed is this sentence about children: ‘“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.”‘
Now I wasn’t surprised by the research that indicated that women tend to be more stressed and less happy, with the opposite being true for men. But I was surprised by this statement about children. I’m not a run of the mill Mormon, but to some degree I must have embraced the idea that children make life happier.
I do wonder if that statement is just referring to the years in which one is heavily involved in child-rearing. I can easily imagine most people (inlcuding myself) being less happy with young demanding children, but then at 70 when the kids are all grown, being very pleased and happy to have had children. So maybe the real payoff to having kids comes in one’s later years?
Another interesting tidbit about happiness research comes from my husband, who studies the economics of happiness. According to some researchers, the most unhappy year of a person’s marriage is the year you first have a baby. Happiness slowly creeps up as the child ages, but then it plummets again when the child becomes a teen.
I’m wondering how this happiness research reflects the lived reality of Mormon women and men. I would imagine that most Mormon women would say that they are pretty darn happy – could that be because so many are not subjecting themselves to the stress of both motherhood and careerhood, and feel validated in only sticking to motherhood? And for those of us who are doing both (or only the career), would we say that we are unhappier than we were in other phases of our lives?
I would love to know your thoughts about happiness. Are you happier with children or without, working or not working? Are you more stressed than the men in your life? How happy are you single Mormon women?