The British Sunday Times uncovers the "new woman"...
A NEW breed of educated women has discovered the secret of a happy marriage — opting to stay at home instead of pursuing a career.Does this mean that the "new man" is going to make a comeback too?
The phenomenon, in which wives prefer their husbands to be the main breadwinner, has been identified by American sociologists and is now gaining a foothold in Britain.
Unlike the housewives of the 1950s, who had little choice over rearing children and acting as homemaker, this generation of women is building on the advances of the feminist movement to determine their optimum lifestyle.
The women are predominantly drawn from the middle classes and have young offspring. They regard themselves as “at-home mothers”, seeing their prime responsibility as bringing up the children rather than housekeeping.
They include women who have given up jobs altogether as well as those who have taken extended career breaks to be with their children throughout their upbringing.
According to research by academics at the University of Virginia, 52% of modern housewives describe themselves as “very happy” with their marriages compared with 41% of working women.
Other key ingredients to matrimonial bliss include an attentive and emotionally responsive husband, a sense of fairness in a relationship and a lifelong commitment to the institution of marriage.
Women who go to church with their husbands also claim they are happier than those who do not, according to the study, which is based on the responses of more than 5,000 couples.
“Progressive women with kids at home feel it is a legitimate choice,” said Brad Wilcox, co-author of the report, which has been published in the Social Forces journal.
In a second study that has not yet been published, Wilcox found that even wives who described themselves as feminists claimed they were happier staying at home to raise children. The research shows fairness is seen as vital, although this need not mean splitting domestic chores down the middle.
In most marriages, wives do twice as much housework as husbands, yet only 30% of women in the study thought their relationship was unfair.
“They tend to think things are fair, either because the man is taking the lead in breadwinning and/or he is taking care of the car and other household affairs,” said Wilcox.
With divorces in Britain reaching a seven-year high in 2004, the latest year for which figures are available, some couples might heed the example of Jessica Renison, a self-declared “liberated” housewife.
Renison, 33, a former English teacher from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, has chosen to stay at home to raise her 16-month-old son George, while her husband Mark continues to teach physics at a secondary school.
“I certainly feel a woman has a right to work if that is what she feels is right for her family,” said Renison. “But I am happier than I would be if I was working. If you are working, you can be torn between professional and home life.
“It is a difficult decision to make from a financial standpoint, but I do feel liberated.”
Kirsty Robeson, 32, from Wolsingham, County Durham, gave up her job in financial public relations to raise daughters, aged one, three and five.
“If your mind is fully occupied with other things and you don’t put the effort into marriage, then it can go awry,” said Robeson. “My husband Simon is involved emotionally with everything that happens at home and everything to do with the domestic side.”
The University of Virginia study does, however, have its critics. Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas in London, said: “What makes a happy marriage is likely to be people engaging with each other. If the full extent of your relationships with the external world is the toddlers’ group, daytime TV and ironing, it has got its limits.”
The "obey your husband" part doesn't have a chance in my house :), but the feminist movement sure hasn't done the male role any favors in the last 40 years.
Related post here.