Are the Moms All Right? Busting the Myths about Motherhood by John Stonestreet and Heather Peterson for Christian News Headlines
Last fall, cultural observer and former BuzzFeed writer Anne Helen Petersen published an e-book about the difficulties of motherhood during the pandemic. Based on interviews with 1,000 women, her conclusions were telegraphed in the title: The Moms Are Not Alright. I think most parents would agree that parenting during a pandemic is, well, not ideal.
However, according to scholars Brad Wilcox and Wendy Wang in a recent article in The Atlantic, married mothers fared quite well during the pandemic, including indicating a greater degree of happiness than their single counterparts. Summarizing the 2022 American Family Survey, a poll of 3,000 respondents, Wilcox and Wang report that “affluent married mothers had a striking 30-percentage-point advantage in their reports of being somewhat or completely satisfied with their life, compared with poor single moms.”
The difference cannot be explained, as many claim, only as a difference in class. While mothers with more money can benefit from the reduced stress extra wealth brings and can afford services that make life with children easier, Wilcox and Wang think that marriage is what makes the most difference. In fact, middle-class and upper-class mothers tend to have another parent in the home at a whopping 81 and 95% respectively, compared to 55 percent of mothers living in poverty.
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Wilcox, in particular, hopes to expose the common narrative that marriage and family is bad for women. As he has indicated previously, women who are married with children and participating in a faith community tend to be happier than other women. This group of women is frequently conservative, although not always. These findings counter the “divorce is better” narratives so often advanced in academic and media circles, not to mention progressive mommy bloggers and self-help gurus online.
Another myth, one trumpeted recently in a Bloomberg article, is that childless, unmarried women are wealthier. According to Wilcox, this is also false. He points to the American Community Survey as one source that suggests “the richest group of women in America are those women who are married with kids.”