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During the renovation of my centuries-old parish in Virginia, an astounding discovery was made in a dusty old storage room. Buried under piles of boxes was a 16th–century Spanish icon of Our Lady. The icon, of museum quality, was likely brought over by settlers in the 1700s. When a new church was built in the chaos of the late 60s, someone decided this old icon wasn’t of much use anymore.
I’ve come to see motherhood like this icon. It too was put aside for decades amid new feminist fads. And yet, society today is showing more signs than ever that motherhood is being dusted off and looked at again in a whole new light.
Here are four signs that motherhood is making a comeback:
1) Homemakers are happy
As I talk to more and more moms about my book Ultimate Makeover, many express dissatisfaction with the way their own mothers chose hands-off parenting. Emily, a mother of two, said, “My mom has expressed a lot of regret that she wasn’t home with me more. I’ve decided to take a different route.”
A new survey in the United Kingdom found that homemakers, despite having double the work hours, reported being the happiest. The results echoed a large-scale study done by the Office for National Statistics that showed that “stay-at-home mothers believe their lives are more worthwhile than their counterparts in work.”
Blogger Denise Renner on her site The Motherlands explains why this is. The irony is that “motherhood assimilates all the various jobs I’ve ever enjoyed. […] It’s my dream job.”
Another mother of two, Jennifer Starrs Harding, who left her career to be a homemaker, said: “After years of the glamour and excitement of NYC event planning I thought I was ready for the quiet enjoyment of stay at home motherhood. I definitely underestimated just how much more rewarding life with my little ones actually is.”
2) Secular feminism is losing its sway
Gloria Steinem famously said years ago that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. But the powerful influence she and the feminist movement have had is waning. Steinem, now 83, was rebuffed back in February for accusing Bernie Sanders fans of supporting him only because he’s male. And the retailer Land’s End pulled its catalog feature of Steinem when customers protested.
While secular feminism still has a monopoly on women’s print magazines and other forms of media, a few alternatives are popping up, as people reject the narrative that women and men can be airbrushed into interchangeable cogs. The simple reality that women and men are different — and made to be so — is gaining traction.
3) More families are balancing work and motherhood in new and creative ways
University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox found in his research that the women who are happiest are those who stay at home with their children, but who also have some form of outside work. The Internet and new forms of flex-scheduling have created far more opportunities for this than previous generations of moms were offered.
Dr. Sita Canady, a pediatrician and homeschooling mother of six boys, said, “When my colleagues found out that I was pregnant during my residency, everyone thought I was nuts and that I was ruining my career. Yes, I had to take some time off, but with some creative scheduling, I finished and I know being a mom has made me a better doctor. Even now, I work two days a week as a pediatrician, but I’m around the rest of the week to just be mom.”
4) Women are rediscovering the connection between self-sacrifice and joy
On a flight last week, I chatted with the man next to me. When he learned that I have four kids he asked, “Is that fun?” It isn’t always fun, I admitted. But it’s joyful. Joy is generated from concepts almost opposite of fun – self-sacrifice, gratitude, and just being present. Joy is the grown up version of fun.
A recent Australian study found that the happiest parents have four or more children. The five-year study by Dr. Bronwyn Harman researched hundreds of parents and revealed results that were the opposite of what Harman anticipated. Despite more chaos and larger expenses than smaller families, the research showed “that these issues are balanced by the amount of joy received from having more children.”
Even Adele gets it. When asked about being a mum, she said, “It is hard but it’s phenomenal. It’s the greatest thing I ever did.” She’s made it clear that she is a mum first and work comes second. “It used to be that my own world revolved around me, but now it has to revolve around him.”