“The crazy cat lady”, is a stereotype I’m sure we have all heard before. The term is used to negatively describe single, typically older women with no kids. Mainstream media has further perpetuated this belief by depicting women who are single as sad, lonely, and depressed. This narrative has taught young women that being single is inherently bad. However, with recent statistics and research, it turns out the “crazy cat lady” may have been right all along. Is it possible that unmarried, childless women are happier than the masses?
Whether people are willing to believe it or not, unmarried and child-free women are one of the happiest subgroups of individuals. Paul Dolan, a behavioral scientist, and professor at the London School of Economics, spoke on these issues in depth at the Hay Festival in 2019. He presented new evidence claiming societies’ ideologies based on perceived notions of happiness are false. Dolan claims that traditional values and success regarding family aren’t a driving force for women’s happiness. In his book Happy Ever After Escaping the Myths of a perfect life, he outlines common misunderstandings about happiness levels concerning women having children or getting married. Many questions have been raised from this new research, “Why are women happier remaining single? Could the same be said about men? Does this imply that women who are married and mothers are miserable?”
Like most things, the answer is complex, and the discourse online regarding this issue tends to be emotional. The reality of the situation is simple, women are dating less. For centuries females have been taught a narrative of traditional family values, one that subjects them to motherhood and homemaking, with the assumption to gain happiness as this is seen as the ultimate goal of a woman. To cook, clean, raise children, take care of her husband, maintain her appearance, the list goes on and it’s utterly overwhelming. In the year 2023, women are prioritizing themselves in both a professional and personal setting. Many have expressed their disinterest in marriage or motherhood due to the demands of women. The modern-day woman is expected to perform household duties whilst still having a successful career, the stress is unbearable. Divorce lawyer, Dennis Vetrano, speaks on this concept as a factor in failed marriages. He states, “ The major theme, that I am seeing in the divorce industry, is working moms doing it all. And I am seeing the husbands step back and say “I don’t gotta do a thing”. She’s got the kids, she’s got the groceries, she’s got the laundry, she’s got the meals and she’s got the work. That’s the theme, and women are tired”.
Paul Dolan also explains how men benefit from being in a relationship more than women do. He states, “You (man) take less risks, you earn more money at work, and you live a little longer. She, on the other hand, has to put up with that, and she dies sooner than if she never married. The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children”. There are certain pressures placed on women to get married including societal, religious, familial, and biological clock. However, women are rejecting this construct and feel empowered to stay single. In a recent report by Morgan Stanley, it’s predicted that by 2030, 45% of women will be single.
While the debate on this topic is complex, the information is interesting and certainly telling. Although research shows immense levels of happiness in unmarried childfree women, that does not mean the inverse is false. There are plenty of women in relationships who have children that lead a happy lifestyle. The goal of this research is not to deter women in one way or another, the goal is to show women other options than what has been presented to them for years. Women should feel empowered by either decision she chooses to make, whether that is becoming a mother or not. It’s crucial as a society we aim to place less judgment on women in regards to personal matters such as marriage and motherhood.