This survey gives some interesting (and to me, encouraging) results.
Chores Outrank Kids in Today's Marriages
(I tried to find the same graphic that was printed in my paper, but I don't seem to know where to look. So, via some tedious hand-coding--go me!--here is my tally of the results.)
Marriage views/factors associated with a successful marriage
Happy sexual relationship--70% (2007)
Sharing household chores--62% (2007)
Adequate income--53% (2007)
Good housing--51% (2007)
Shared religious beliefs--49% (2007)
Shared tastes and interests--46% (2007)
Agreement on politics--12% (2007)
Source: Pew Research Center (although for the life of me I couldn't find this survey on the site. I guess I wasn't entering the right search terms).
Of course, the two biggest differences in seventeen years are "shared household chores" rising, and "children" plummeting. This encourages me because it shows more women are demanding that their husbands/boyfriends do their fair share around the house (and not just the typical male "outside" stuff). This business of locked-in gender roles (male: provider and female: homemaker) is stale and stultifying, and long past due to be demolished. Frankly, the "second shift" for a working wife is nonsense, and more women need to insist that their husbands step up to the plate.
(How to do that? I would say--not being the passive-aggressive sort--nag, scream, yell, throw a complete foot-stomping fit if need be. If he won't get off his butt then, tell him to get the hell out. If I have to work and do all the household chores myself, you're not a husband; you're a leech.)
The status of "children" being so far down as a predictor of satisfaction confirms what I have thought for some time: kids are not, and should not, be the be-all and end-all of marriage. The two adults came first, after all. (Of course, I'm not one to sacrifice my "me-time" for anything, which is why I am quite happily childless.) Naturally, this development rings all kinds of alarm bells among family-policy experts, which is why this pithy quote from Barbara Dafoe Whitehead is included:
"The popular culture is increasingly oriented to fulfilling the X-rated fantasies and desires of adults," she wrote in a recent report. "Child-rearing values - sacrifice, stability, dependability, maturity - seem stale and musty by comparison."
Funny, I didn't think anything on that list was X-rated (unless you're an atheist talking about "shared religious beliefs") and I personally have never connected sacrifice, stability, dependability, and maturity exclusively to child-rearing. Those qualities would seem to come in just as handy to building a good career (and a good marriage, for that matter).
Besides which, the 800-pound gorilla in the room nobody wants to talk about is the fact that we've got too many frakking people on the planet already. If today's educated, First World masses have realized this (and apparently they have, judging from the plummeting birth rates) this can only be a good thing. Now, of course, we need to have the Third Worlders take control of themselves, their economies, and their countries--and one great way of doing this is to have women take control of their reproduction.
To do that, we have to get past the mind-set that marriage exists solely in reproductive terms. It does not and should not. The survey recognizes this: by an almost 3-to-1 margin, "Americans say the main purpose of marriage is the 'mutual happiness and fulfillment' of adults rather than the 'bearing and raising of children.' "
Amen to that, sista. When that attitude spreads worldwide--and with it, the level of stability and technology to make it possible--I think the world will be a better place.