Don’t call us, we’ll call you

February 16, 2012

Newsy

I knew it!  Blogging makes new moms happier, or so says a recent study out of BYU.

Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the 157 first-time mothers that participated in the study.  I’m interested to see what else comes out of the data since the questionnaire was pretty extensive and I have now participated in two waves of data collection.

***

Let me also point you to “The M.R.S. and the Ph.D.,” an interesting NY Times Opinion piece from scholar Stephanie Coontz.  It is in part a rebuttal of Kate Bolick’s Atlantic piece from last November called “All the Single Ladies.”  The things about Bolick’s piece that annoyed me were many and varied (I think I have a ranty blog post about it somewhere in these drafts), but one of them is precisely an assumption that Coontz is questioning in her piece.  Bolick seems to assume that the marriage prospects of educated women are dimming simply because “marriageable” men should be better educated and earn more money than their spouses.

Coontz starts her piece by talking about how in the 1950s and 1960s men ranked education and intelligence fairly low on their desired qualities in a spouse, around 10th or 11th, much lower than things like good housekeeper and cook.  But the last couple of decades have shown marked changes:

But over the past 30 years, these prejudices have largely disappeared. By 1996, intelligence and education had moved up to No. 5 on men’s ranking of desirable qualities in a mate. The desire for a good cook and housekeeper had dropped to 14th place, near the bottom of the 18-point scale. The sociologist Christine B. Whelan reports that by 2008, men’s interest in a woman’s education and intelligence had risen to No. 4, just after mutual attraction, dependable character and emotional stability.

So based on recent data, education and intelligence are at number 4 on men’s wish lists.  And should it get higher than that?  Call me crazy but those other traits like mutual attraction, dependable character, and emotional stability are pretty darn important in a successful relationship!  So why, on the flip side, are so many articles by women about how men’s declining education level spells doom for women finding suitable mates, as if there are no other important criteria for their relationships?

I can see I am in danger of veering into rant territory here.  But since I have limited time, let me just say that although I personally am a great lover of formal education, I have serious misgivings about our society’s focus on it and its corollary purpose of making more money.  Someday when I have a chance to write more about the book Shop Class as Soulcraft (I’m vaguely planning a book week in the next couple of months) and multiple intelligences, I’ll record more about why I view society’s focus on certain types of intelligence and certain types of work quite myopic.

For  now, though, let me just highlight a few of the paragraphs from Coontz’s op-ed that I really appreciated:

One of the dire predictions about educated women is true: today, more of them are “marrying down.” Almost 30 percent of wives today have more education than their husbands, while less than 20 percent of husbands have more education than their wives, almost the exact reverse of the percentages in 1970.

But there is not a shred of evidence that such marriages are any less satisfying than marriages in which men have equal or higher education than their wives. Indeed, they have many benefits for women.

In a forthcoming paper from the Council on Contemporary FamiliesOriel Sullivan, a researcher at Oxford University, reports that the higher a woman’s human capital in relation to her husband — measured by her educational resources and earnings potential — the more help with housework she actually gets from her mate. The degree to which housework is shared is now one of the two most important predictors of a woman’s marital satisfaction. And husbands benefit too, since studies show that women feel more sexually attracted to partners who pitch in.

The most important predictor of marital happiness for a woman is not how much she looks up to her husband but how sensitive he is to her emotional cues and how willing he is to share the housework and child-care. And those traits are often easier to find in a low-key guy than a powerhouse.

Oh, you should really just read the whole piece! (I had to leave out a few interesting paragraphs for fear they would trigger some crazy spamming.)  But speaking as someone who met a college drop-out (or a bum, as he likes to say) who, instead of working a “real job,” painted me beautiful paintings and cooked my meals and showered me with ample time and attention, and who, despite having finally graduated from college, would still rather color with our daughter than go to graduate school or get a “real job,” I’ll take this “marrying down” phenomenon any day of the week!

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4 Comments »

  1. Lindsay! I love how much you blog lately. It makes ME happy. Hopefully I can step it up myself and be happier as a new mom in April. 🙂 I miss you guys!!!

    Comment by Genny — February 16, 2012 @ 5:46 pm

  2. thanks for posting these!

    Comment by Alysa — February 17, 2012 @ 4:50 am

  3. When in middle school, Neal, who admittedly has a wicked (warped?), & playful sense of humor, use to tease one friend mercilessly (Sravan, to be specific), that he wouldn’t get into college. Sravan would protest vociferously. (After all, they both were in a college prep school.) Last I heard, Sravan is happily in med school after graduating college in Spanish, & teaching English in Korea. “Happily” is the operating word, Neal, as life plans evolve when one matures. And his MD mom breathes a sigh of relief… 🙂 No, Neal, I don’t think “he sold out.” Lindsay, it is no dishonor if your National Merit spouse evolves, too. Of course the evolution I speak of is his “wicked…& playful sense of humor!” 🙂 !!!

    Comment by Lorie Call — February 18, 2012 @ 12:19 am

  4. I also really enjoyed this article, and the way it challenged the presumption that marrying “up” is better for women. When I was reading it I was at first like, “only 4th on the list?!” but when I saw the preceding 3 I had to admit that I too, favored those traits over letters after a name, so why should men be any different?

    Comment by Jen — February 20, 2012 @ 4:12 pm


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