False freedom is why we are miserable.

Recently, DF asked my opinion on the following exchange in which DF wrote:

Also on the topic of housework, I think you may come from a different perspective here, not being Christian, but for us, housework is just another way to show those that we love how much we care about them. We’re keepers of the home, and take pride in taking care of our homes well. I know that might make no sense to someone who doesn’t value homemaking and child-rearing as a profession, but for me, this is my job right now.

And Violet Wisp responded (highlighting mine):

“There seems to be some confusion in Christian circles about what ‘traditional Christian values’ are when it comes to the organisation of a family unit. All too often there is an unhealthy pressure for women in a marriage to abandon any paid work they might have doing, in order to exclusively take care of the home and children. This is unhealthy.

Think about how women would have lived in the majority of human societies. Family groupings in close communities; smaller generation gaps and intergenerational living; a mix of community and home based daily tasks e.g. food gathering and preparation, maintenance of common and home areas. People spent a lot of time outside, tasks were very physical and shared with others, children were exploring the world together, under the supervision of a network of adult relatives and friends when young. This is natural, this is what any traditional Christian community would have looked like.

Now think about women today in this artificial ‘housewife’ role. One lone female adult for most the day inside a block of wood and concrete doing physically simple tasks and caring for one to several young children often indoors […]

Human society is not likely to return to the natural community model any time soon. There are too many disadvantages in terms of privacy, wasted time and general comfort. The most sensible way to deal with the changed living conditions of modern society is to consider how to balance life for everyone in a nuclear family.

I take “balancing life” to mean the modern concept of the egalitarian marriage in which both spouses work full-time and split child care and housework 50/50.  The first thing to note is that Violet’s conclusion is wrong.  There may be many reasons why a housewife might feel lonely or unhappy, but since women en masse have entered the paid workforce full-time and sought to make “career” their identity, researchers Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers have found that women have become significantly less happy.  So the solution for women isn’t just to get a job, make your husband scrub more toilet bowls, and all will be well.

But even though her conclusion is wrong, her analysis of the problem is correct.  In a post here awhile back, The decline of the gens and familia: we want to live together but we just can’t get along, I wrote:

“We’ve gotten in the habit of thinking of the word “family” as meaning a husband, a wife, and several children, but this is a very narrow view of what family means and certainly isn’t what’s meant by the term “patriarchy”. A patriarchy has generally been a kin-based clan that is headed up by a senior male relative, with each man under him taking on successively smaller leadership roles. For example:

In Roman times, all citizens were divided by gens (clan) and familia(sept), determined on a purely patrilineal basis, in the same way as the modern inheritance of surnames…[t]he gens was the larger unit, and was divided into several familiae…

The idea of the nuclear family being an autonomous unit not embedded in a wider kin network seems to be fairly recent…

Are we happier this way? Maybe in the short-term we are, but I am not convinced we are in the long run.  The decline in the size of our family units has nicely mirrored the decline in our mental health:

Studies show that rates of depression for Americans have risen dramatically in the past 50 years. Research published in The American Journal of Psychiatry found that major depression rates for American adults increased from 3.33 percent to 7.06 percent from 1991 through 2002.”

So two things seem to be at the root of women’s declining happiness: leaving the home to pursue careerism and extended families breaking apart into nuclear families.  And the major cause of extended family/community breakdown is transplantism, which refers to a person or couple moving away to a different region of the country from the rest of their family, as the author of the blog Face to Face has explained in a number of very interesting posts on the subject.

For instance, transplants are significantly less likely to be in contact with both blood relatives and in-laws, and the result is a decline in happiness:

“A simple comparison between natives and transplants shows that their happiness levels are indistinguishable: 35% of natives and 36% of transplants are “very happy,” while 10% of both natives and transplants are “not too happy” (the rest being “pretty happy”).

That is despite the transplants being more educated (33% hold a college degree, vs. 20% of natives), and earning a higher average income ($58K in current dollars, vs. $47K for natives). Any boost to happiness from being upwardly mobile is apparently cancelled out by not belonging to the broader culture of the place where you live.

[…] here we see a vivid reminder of how simple it is to sever the ties to your extended family — just move away, or perhaps they will. As long as the split is not acrimonious — you’re just leaving to better yourself — no one will be bitter about the diluted and fragmented family web. It’ll be one of those things that just happen, mysteriously and uncontrollably.

I don’t see things changing course due to a change in attitudes toward family ties. There’s too strong of an impulse toward self-enhancement, rather than maintenance and enhancement of everything else that made you.”

It is really quite a paradox.  Born of a selfish impulse for self-enhancement, transplantism and the decline of the gens has actually led to reduced happiness  Truly, we do not know what is good for us.

And what is good for us?

Submission.

And not only for women, but for men too.  Because in the traditional family structure, wives submitted to their husbands but their husbands submitted to the leader of the larger family group.  Transplantism, like feminism, like no-fault divorce, like atheism, like democracy itself —like all of liberalism’s twisted offspring—is born of the desire to rebel against submission to proper authority (you can do what you want!) and a futile search for happiness in total freedom.

Paradoxically, true emotional fulfillment is only found in dying to self, and true freedom from misery is only found in submission to proper authority: children submitting to parents, wives submitting to husbands, husbands submitting to the family patriarch, family patriarchs submitting to the rightful king, and everyone submitting to Jehovah God.

Edited to added: I should clarify that I do not think it is unhealthy for mothers to be at home caring for their children.  I wasn’t clear about that.  What I do think is unhealthy is the atomization of the extended family into progressively smaller units via transplantism, divorce, and the like.

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Why so many people are confused about marital roles.

During my lunch break today I read the following Dear Abby letter:

http://entertainment.suntimes.com/lifestyles/dear-abby-seeking-ways-tell-daughter-truth-father/

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I were going along in life, doing it our way, until we decided we wanted to return to the church, so we stopped drinking and smoking pot. We hit a rough patch in that journey and divorced, but we didn’t stop going to church. It’s crazy, I know. After we divorced, I knew I messed up and deep down I knew I loved him.

So, now that we have remarried, it seems like he’s taking the role of Christian husband back to biblical times. This means he is the head of the house (which I get), but to the point where I am almost like a fixture. I would say I’m here for my looks, but I am overweight. I would say it’s for the sex, but it isn’t happening morning, noon and night, if you know what I mean. I would say it is the money, but now, after his last raise, he makes more than I do.

He cooks most of the time because he gets home before me. The house is always clean, and we share the household bills and expenses. So, I’m kinda lost and confused. Do I have a purpose here? Or am I only here to help pay the bills? — STARTING TO WONDER

Here was “Abby’s” advice:

DEAR STARTING TO WONDER: Only your husband can answer that question. However, part of a husband’s duties to his wife is to make her feel “honored and cherished,” and if that isn’t happening, your remarriage is in trouble.

Marriage counseling (possibly within the church) might help you to reconnect with each other, and I strongly recommend it. Unless you find out why you’re unhappy and fix it, this marriage will not last.

One’s initial reaction might be to mock the wife, but when you actually stop and think about it for a moment, her feelings of being lost and confused are also rather poignant and touching. She instinctively senses that something is wrong here – that a husband being “head of household” shouldn’t really be synonymous with “doing everything himself”.

This couple is confused because they are trying to “do” marriage under several sets of different, competing rules all while getting no helpful teaching but plenty of bad advice.  Previously they obviously had an egalitarian marriage in which they split the earning and household management evenly. Since becoming Christians, her husband is trying to figure out what the biblical role of “husband” is supposed to entail, and he’s obviously figured out that he is supposed to be the head of the marriage. But he has no practical understanding of what that looks like, so he is simply taking it to mean, “I am the head, therefore it must be my responsibility to do everything myself and require nothing of those of whom I am the head.”

The wife sees that things have changed, but she has no concept that her husband being the head requires her to be “under” his headship. She also doesn’t seem to understand that she has duties that, as a Christian wife, she is supposed to be fulfilling. But don’t mock her; how would she know what those roles are? She may have read a few verses in the Bible about women submitting to their husbands (or not), but it’s unlikely that she has had any helpful teaching about this from other Christians.

Now, common sense also seems to be lacking here. Obviously a wife with a clue would say to herself, “Gee, my husband is working hard. What could I do to please him?” She seems to have a sneaking suspicion about some of the things she could do: take care of her health and appearance by losing some weight, making sure that physical intimacy is happening somewhat regularly, and perhaps taking on some additional responsibilities around the home since her husband now out-earns her. But my suspicion is that she doesn’t really want to do these things very much as they may be difficult, and she’d rather coast along and is looking for moral cover to do so.  This is probably why she went to someone like “Dear Abby” with her question instead of taking it to God or another mature Christian.

Still, we can forgive this couple for their confusion. It would be really helpful if pastors could step up and deliver some practical sermons on biblical marriage roles.

But the one we can truly be disgusted with here is “Dear Abby”. Now, clearly Abby is not a Christian, so we can assume she gives lip service to egalitarian marriage. But here is where the rubber meets the road; here we have a man who is doing nearly everything and a woman who is not pulling her fair share, but instead of telling the wife to step up her game, Abby blames the husband! Not only is he supposed to do everything, he’s also supposed to make his wife feel honored and cherished while he does it! Not only is that not biblical, it’s not even egalitarian.

Since they are Christians, we can pray for this couple to find wisdom from God about what the biblical marriage roles of headship and submission look like in a practical context.  However, it is no wonder men and women are lost and confused. Pastors are often too cowardly to teach accurately on biblical marriage for fear of offending their congregants, and the secular advice-givers actively promote a fake egalitarian model.