When women stepped into male-dominated realms, they put more demands — and stress — on themselves. If they once judged themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens and dinner parties, now they judge themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens, dinner parties — and grad school, work, office deadlines and meshing a two-career marriage.
Even without children, even without a full-time job, I see this at work in our home. Rob works as hard as anyone I know, but he comes home and lets go. Plays the guitar. Cooks dinner. Tries to get me to watch a movie. Meanwhile, I am pulled in a thousand different directions: I come home from school and work on music for church, volunteer projects, cleaning, weeding the garden. Even my "leisure" activities, like reading and writing, are a means to an end -- lesson plans for now and, God willing, a future career.
To be clear, I am not complaining about my life. My life is wonderful. I have been blessed beyond measure in ways I don't begin to deserve. And everything I do is by choice. But, as Dowd says, choice itself is a funny thing:
“Choice is inherently stressful,” Buckingham said in an interview. “And women are being driven to distraction.”
The more important things that are crowded into their lives, the less attention women are able to give to each thing. [. . . ]
Stevenson looks on the bright side of the dark trend, suggesting that happiness is beside the point. We’re happy to have our newfound abundance of choices, she said, even if those choices end up making us unhappier.
That's the bright side?! That we stubbornly insist we're enjoying ourselves as we report lower and lower levels of fulfillment and happiness? Dowd calls this a paradox, but I think it's fodder for an epidemic of female depression. If not for the Church, I know I'd be part of it.