The empty cradle is fueled too by versions of feminism that encourage women to repress or distrust maternal desire. Daphne de Marneffe is no conservative. A clinical psychologist and feminist (and mother of three), she writes in her important new book, "Maternal Desire," that "feminism has not always helped me. How many times I have encountered a feminist book filled with innovative ideas for changed gender relations, the acceptance of whose argument requires just one small price: that I relinquish my attachment to spending time caring for my children." At that moment, she writes, "the author and I inhabit truly different emotional worlds. What seems like a rational, sane and human solution to her seems like a Faustian bargain to me." She asks: Why can't we see mothers' desire "as a feature of their self-development" rather than its "negation"?
According to Longman, "The desire for large families is much stronger among (the younger) age group than among older generations." Among Gen-X Americans (ages 18-29), a stunning 42 percent want at least three children. Among their boomer parents (age 50-64), just 29 percent consider three or more children ideal.
Amid all the doubts and worries young women face when it comes to combining not just work, but life and family, too few forces stand up for the seemingly senseless inner voice inside married women that says: I want (another) baby. It makes no economic sense. It won't help my career. It's enormously inefficient.
It's just the greatest thing in the world.
Happy Mother's Day.
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.