Fifty years ago, women were traditionally seen filling the role of the “housewife,” who took care of household affairs and made sure her husband and children were well taken care of. While some women argue that this role was more oppressive than supportive in light of current-day expectations for women, this domestic position for women was actually healthier for her.
Economists analyzed happiness trends in households between 1970 and 2005 and found a “paradox of declining female happiness.”
Economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers analyzed happiness trends in households between 1970 and 2005 and found a “paradox of declining female happiness.” Stevenson and Wolfers found a higher life satisfaction rate amongst women in the 1970s, but by the 1990s it began to decline, while men’s scores of overall happiness remained roughly the same.
Who Wins the Title of “Unhappiest Person"?
First, let’s look at a run-down of the profile of the happiest person, according to Psychology Today:
1 young child at home
A wife who works part-time
Household income between $150,000-200,000
And now for the unhappiest person:
Household income under $100,000
Professional (doctor, lawyer, etc.)
These results may be shocking to some. After all, with all of the women’s liberation and economic, political, and social reforms we’ve achieved to gain equal footing with men, shouldn’t we be happier?
Should We Try To Be “Super Woman"?
Christine Hassler writes in The Myth of Having It All: “Somewhere along the path of the women's liberation movement, we began to buy into the belief that to be an empowered woman means we have to do everything that both men and women do. So instead of making choices, we have tried to fulfill both gender roles at the same time."
Hassler also writes that we have substituted freedom of choice with having to do everything a man can do, on top of fulfilling the role of women. According to a survey by the National Parenting Association, 50% of working women are primarily responsible for meal preparation, as opposed to only 9% of their partners. Women also feel more responsible for the well-being of their children and more than half of working women will take time off work to care for a sick child, compared to only 9% of their partners.
We have substituted freedom of choice with having to do everything a man can do, on top of fulfilling the role of women.
Additionally, working women are less likely to take breaks during the workday versus men who feel more entitled to taking leisure time or even vacations away from the everyday grind. This sounds exhausting, and no wonder women are increasingly becoming more stressed and less satisfied with life.
What’s the Solution?
It’s possible to find fulfillment and contentment on any path in life, whether as a stay-at-home housewife or as a career woman. While some women may find more satisfaction preparing school lunches, the breakdown of traditional relationships in society can make it difficult for some women to freely choose their path. Some women are single-mothers trying to survive and have no choice but to work, while others have more freedom to stay at home and take care of their families if they have a supportive family unit and the means to do so.
We live in a fast-paced society, where the concept of doing it all and having it all has clouded our mindsets and can overwhelm us rather than inspire us. However, just because it’s challenging to balance work and family life, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. We should be encouraging our daughters to think about what they value most in life and to pursue it with all their hearts. And we should set the example by doing it ourselves.
We should encourage our daughters to think about what they value most in life and to pursue it with all their hearts. And we should set the example by doing it ourselves.
The roles of women in society have dramatically shifted throughout the past fifty years, and our focus on being everything to everyone has cost us our happiness. Let's re-evaluate our priorities before we become just another sad statistic.