Marital fertility is modestly up in the United States, in contrast to virtually every other developed nation. The total fertility rate in this country has returned to replacement levels of 2.1 children per woman. And married couples also report a lower opinion of divorce and an increase in marital happiness.
Logically, staying home almost never makes any sense from the individual perspective. It exposes women to financial risk if marriage should fail. It reduces family income over the long haul (even a few years out of the workforce reduces women's long-term earnings). But then, by any of these measures -- safety, security, autonomy, self-interest -- having a baby makes no sense either. The same longing to participate in the great mystery of creation that drives men and women together, into marriage and baby-making, seems to pull many women from purely market relationships -- whether or not they also work.
I have nothing against working mothers. I am one. But something in me rejoices to see the deeply countercultural impulse of motherhood rising and winning over mere economic forces. Where will this lead? Not to Mommy Wars between moms who work and those who stay home, I hope, but toward a profound and shared recognition of the importance of mothering and of the husbands that give mothers the gift of choices.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.
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