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  • The dominant problems in our society are not primarily material. They are relational. Tweet This
  •  If you want a fulfilling life, you should not only get married, but get pregnant. Tweet This
  • The little society that my husband and I built is bursting with laughter, joy, and meaning. Loneliness? What does that even mean? Tweet This
Category: Marriage, Parents

At the age of 34, I was a stay-at-home mom with four young kids living in one of the nation's most expensive cities. I had left a job I loved at age 25 to devote myself full-time to our family of now-six living on a pastor’s salary. Not only was I always tired and sometimes stressed, things were financially very lean. We were on utility discount programs, I shopped almost exclusively at Goodwill, and I was a master gleaner of just-about-to-go-bad produce at rock bottom prices.

Around that time I reconnected with a high school friend with a brainy husband who decided she wasn't going to have children. “Kids are such a drain, and if I left my job, I’d never regain that lost ground. Besides, the world is overpopulated anyway,” she remarked while sipping a latte I could barely afford.

As I recently shared, there was one moment on the side of a freeway when I was catching my 4-year-old’s vomit in my hands in the pouring rain when I wondered if I had made the right choice to not only prioritize marriage, but motherhood.

The avalanche of data in Brad Wilcox's newest book, Get Married has the answer. 

Per usual, Wilcox’s research is unassailable. He's not just the guy I go to looking for precision stats on the number of women who initiate divorces or answers to granular questions about cohabitation. He's the go-to for outlets like the New York Times and The Atlantic as well. So when it comes to the numbers, Wilcox is right.

What do the numbers tell us?

An increasing percentage of young adults (ages 18-40) think education (64%) and money (75%) are more critical to fulfillment than marriage (32%).

Wilcox also explains the why behind those numbers. A swelling percentage of people who would have already married in previous generations now largely see wedlock as a portal to “boredom, forgone job opportunities, the burdens of parenthood, oppressive gender roles, and being tied down.” They are rejecting marriage in an attempt to “maximize their freedom, wealth, and fulfillment—especially when they are in their twenties.”

Get Married spends several chapters explaining why those conclusions are totally wrong. The data is clear that “marriage and family life are often more important for our sense of meaning, direction, and happiness than the degree on our wall, the place we punch a clock, or our ability to maximize our autonomy.”

In one don’t-even-try-to-argue-with-the-findings-study, Wilcox reports:

the odds that men and women say they are “very happy” with their lives are a staggering 545 percent higher for those who are very happily married, compared to their peers who are not married or who are less than very happy in their marriages. When it comes to predicting overall happiness, a good marriage is far more important than how much education you get, how much money you make, how often you have sex, and, yes, even how satisfied you are with your work.

Ok. Marriage it is, then. After all, filming and editing those DINK videos is easier with two.

But Wilcox doesn't let you off the hook there. He spends an entire chapter, “The Parent Trap,” making it clear that you should not only Get Married, but Get Pregnant.

First, the numbers again. Wilcox cites a Pew poll that found “more than half of adults agreed that having a job or career they enjoy is “essential” to living a fulfilling life. But only about one in five felt the same way about having children.” He points to the exact “pervasive cultural forces” articulated by my high school friend who elevated her career over motherhood: 

No kids… means more freedom, more fun. In other words, individualism plus hedonism. But childlessness is also being elevated now not just as an obstacle to professional success or an expression of selfishness but as the moral choice in a world where children are depicted as a threat to the environment.

Is a childless life more “free”? Certainly. Is it more “fun”? Maybe… if you favor casinos over karaoke-style carpooling with the pre-teen crowd. Is it good for the planet? Nope. (But that's a subject for another article.) 

Freedom, fun, and environmental fanaticism may sound great in your 20s or 30s, but Get Married has reams of stats connecting the rise of the single, childless life with loneliness, meaninglessness, and sadness. If it's fulfillment you're after, Wilcox makes clear that it’s time to have some kids. For example, he notes:

  • Childless Americans are more likely to report that their lives are lonely, and less likely to report that they are meaningful and happy.
  • Nearly 60% of men and women who do not have kids report they are lonely, some, most, or all of the time, whereas parents say the same only 45% of the time.
  • Parents are more likely to report their lives are meaningful, “noting that they find a great deal of meaning in spending time with family.”
  • 82% of parents are “very happy” or “pretty happy,” compared to 68% of their childless peers.
  • Childless men and women are more likely than parents to say their lives are sad, most or all of the time.

I’ve heard it said, “if someone can't accurately diagnose the problem, don't listen to their answer.” Wilcox understands the problem. That’s why we must heed his solution. If you want a fulfilling life, you should not only get married, but get pregnant.

That's certainly how my story unfolded. My kids are now 14, 16, 18, and 20. The little society that my husband and I built is bursting with laughter, joy, and meaning. Loneliness? What does that even mean?

My childless friend on the other hand seems to ever be hunting for fulfillment: following the latest trendy diet, in search of another gripping book, waiting for the next interesting work project. Her career peaked years ago, so she's now planning to retire at 50. She's lived in grand homes all across the world, wears Dolce and Gabbana glasses, and has a personal trainer. She's also told me that when her husband leaves for a couple weeks on a business trip or to visit his ailing father, she gets sad. The childlessness that seemed so liberating when she was sipping that latte 12 years ago has revealed itself as a meaningless void.           

The dominant problems in our society are not primarily material. They are relational. The solution is to form and create the most durable relational bonds known to mankind—the marriage kind. The parenthood kind.

Read Wilcox’s new book. Then, get married, get pregnant, and be happy.