What Makes Family Life Satisfying For Men?

America needs more stable, intact families. This much is obvious to anyone who is even slightly familiar with the social and demographic trends of the past few decades. Stable, intact families are overwhelmingly the most reliable source of productive, responsible citizens, which are always in short supply.

Both men and women are falling down on the job when it comes to family formation, but their failings are not precisely the same. The men tend to opt out of family life entirely, either by no…

  1. epoche

    from

    http://www.fisheaters.com/gb3.html

    Feminist Barbara Ehrenreich agrees:

    Women were, and to a large extent still are, economically dependent on men….So what was at stake for women in the battle of the sexes was, crudely put, a claim on some man’s wage.

    The fact that, in a purely economic sense, women need men more than the other way round, gives marriage an inherent instability that predates the sexual revolution, the revival of feminism, the “me generation” or other well-worn explanations for what has come to be known as the “breakdown of the family.” 

    Rachel Lu: Epoche, I would like to see your evidence that it was specifically women, not men, who demanded income tax, elderly entitlements and increased credentialing. But in any case, why must so many people rush to turn these threads into a blame war? To me it seems ridiculous to try to pin all our social ills on a particular sex per se; lots of people of both sexes have contributed to the problems, and everyone is hurt by them. · 3 minutes ago

  2. epoche

    Barbara Ehrenreich is a not a member of the lunatic fringe. Her friends and family are some of the most influential members of society. The sense of entitlement that even some conservative women have to other peoples money is astonishing. Why do I care if people who have access to more material and status advantages need daycare subsidies for instance? 

  3. Darin Johnson

    I’m not sure it’s about blame, but I do think Epoche is on to something.  From the man’s perspective, marriage is a high-risk undertaking.  If a couple has children and divorces, he can expect to lose his children, his assets, and a good chunk of his future earnings. 

    Is the deal equally bad for women?  Well, the substantial majority of divorces where there are children are instigated by women — something like two thirds — so revealed preference suggests that it is not. 

    Women who want to be married and have children might benefit from having fewer options.  If there were a way to forgo the right to no-fault divorce, or to sign a pre-nuptual agreement that would actually hold up, that would probably be a good thing for women.  You, know, something more like the tried-and-true version of marriage.

  4. Amy Schley
    Schrodinger’s Cat

    One suggestion that has sometimes been made to me is that men need to be needed, and with women working, they feel superfluous within the family. The first part seems definitely true, but the second just seems preposterous.

     It’s not preposterous. For millenia, a man’s role as a father was to provide and protect his family.

    To lose the role of provider is a significant loss for men.

    I think something you’re not seeing, Rachel, is that power and authority follow money.  The ability to set the family budget gives the breadwinner authority over the family.  When a man can’t be the breadwinner, he loses most of his authority.  Now, some men are okay with this arrangement, but those are men that most women aren’t interested in.

    (And this doesn’t require the woman to not work at all, either — just that her contribution financially is about bringing home the cake, not the bread.)

  5. Retail Lawyer

    It can be very frightening to contemplate starting a family.  Each partner must rely on and believe the other, and that the commitment will last over time.  In my experience, I have seen so many families broken up by the mother, where the father behaved exactly as promised.  The mother “evolved” to find him and/or the family to be boring, unfulfilling, whatever . . .   I think the culture promotes women to feel cheated out of something if they stick with the commitments.   This dissolution of the marriage pretty much ruined the father for a few years at minimum, and the mothers did not usually fare too well, either.  The children are devastated.  

    My recommendation to men contemplating a family is to start one with a woman who is overtly, obviously religious.  Its not a guarantee, but a good indicator.  I would love to know of others.

  6. Mike Visser

    What makes family life satisfying for men?

    Building something from scratch with a devoted teammate that he can put his name on.  Watching his offspring grow up healthy and strong off the food he put on the table.  Going to sleep at night knowing his family is safe and warm beneath the roof he provides them.  Growing old with the mother of his children and grandchildren understanding his place in a lineage that transcends beyond himself  from the past into the future.  

    Deviate greatly (forcibly or otherwise) from a formula such as this and do not be surprised when the results are less than optimal.  

  7. Mike Visser
    Amy Schley

    When a man can’t be the breadwinner, he loses most of his authority.  Now, some men are okay with this arrangement, but those are men that most women aren’t interested in.

    Exactly right.

  8. BlueAnt
    Rachel Lu:

    Women are generally needed as caretakers for at least some significant portion of their lives, but their financial contributions are often needed as well. As the blue state model continues to crumble, I suspect that financial instability is increasingly going to be the norm for single-income families.

    I’ll play my usual role as currency bore, and point out that this is mainly true due to 4 decades of rampant inflation.  

    Yes, two incomes are needed for most of middle class Americans, which makes the pre-1970s model of a single breadwinner more difficult.  But relieving the financial pressures now placed on marriages requires fixing our unsound currency, more than any cultural reform.

    the ideal for men hasn’t changed… working full-time through their adult lives, while hopefully devoting their evenings and weekends to family. Is that such a bad life?

    It’s not so bad… but we now have a society where it is acceptable for that man to be merely “involved” in his kid’s life, on a limited weekend basis, without being married to their mother.  Why would he feel the need to accept additional bonds of commitment?

  9. Darin Johnson

    Retail Lawyer, divorce rates among Christians, even devout ones, are not substantially different from the population at large.  Other ideas?

  10. Mike Visser

    I read this somewhere regarding the difficulties of marriage:

    Men expect women to stay the same, and then they change; women expect men to change, and then they stay the same.

  11. Mike

    The ability to set the family budget gives the breadwinner authority over the family.  When a man can’t be the breadwinner, he loses most of his authority.

    I think that’s a tempting argument, but I also think it’s too limited (and it reminds me of cynical feminists I’ve known). There are ways to have power, for example, that are not negative and dominating. This also loses sight of homes (mine, for instance) where men make most of the money but the women (oops, almost said “wife”) manages the household, including all the finances.

    Men can be “authorities” in ways other than making money. What we’ve lost is women’s willingness to allow men to BE authorities, in anything.

  12. Mollie Hemingway
    Darin Johnson: Retail Lawyer, divorce rates among Christians, even devout ones, are not substantially different from the population at large.  Other ideas? · 1 minute ago

    Not true. At least if you define “devout” as something to do with weekly worship attendance. All religious adherents with regular spiritual disciplines have lower divorce rates. And for those couples who are conservative Christians that attend worship weekly, their divorce rates are significantly lower than the average.

    Oddly enough, however, nominally affiliated conservative Christians have a higher-than-average divorce rate…

    Don’t be nominal in anything! Or something.

  13. epoche

    I think that is not based upon a realistic assessment of human beings as they really are. A man’s role in the family is the weakest link and without that paycheck (or status however defined) he is not going to have a role in the family at all. I cannot marry a beautiful actress despite the fact that I make great blog posts and am handsome for instance.

    Mike

    The ability to set the family budget gives the breadwinner authority over the family.  When a man can’t be the breadwinner, he loses most of his authority.

    I think that’s a tempting argument, but I also think it’s too limited (and it reminds me of cynical feminists I’ve known). There are ways to have power, for example, that are not negative and dominating. This also loses sight of homes (mine, for instance) where men make most of the money but the women (oops, almost said “wife”) manages the household, including all the finances.

    Men can be “authorities” in ways other than making money. What we’ve lost is women’s willingness to allow men to BE authorities, in anything. · 9 minutes ago

  14. Terry Mott

    There are at least two separate issues being discussed here: 1) why many men aren’t interested in getting married, and 2) what married men need to feel satisfied.  These are not necessarily the same thing, though they probably overlap somewhat.

    I suspect a large part of issue #1 is summed up in the old saying about cows and free milk.  The promise of regular sex is a huge motivating factor to young men.  If it can be gotten by “hooking up”, “friends with benefits”, etc., why make a huge commitment?

  15. Neolibertarian

    BlueAnt:

    Yes, two incomes are needed for most of middle class Americans, which makes the pre-1970s model of a single breadwinner more difficult.  But relieving the financial pressures now placed on marriages requires fixing our unsound currency, more than any cultural reform.

    Precisely!

    This falls deeply into the poorest of American families, as well. Inflation is the “poor man’s tax,” and for him, the most insidious and destructive. His wages can never catch up.

    From the beginning of Washington’s first term to the end of TR’s, inflation in the US (except in mainly war years) had been nearly zero. The CPI was nearly the same in 1900 as it had been in 1789. Between 1870 and 1912, “The Gilded Age”, the US GDP increased by five times. At one point, it actually DOUBLED in an 8 year period. It was during this time the US GDP surpassed even the great empires of Europe.

    Even during the darkest years of the Great Depression, the US economy would remain the largest on earth.

    The point is, during the Gilded Age, when wages rose…well, they really rose. It wasn’t the shell game people today take for granted.

  16. BlueAnt
    Rachel Lu: I don’t think it’s really true that men have traditionally been sole providers in most cultures. In agricultural communities, the whole family helped to work the farm.

    Not to diminish the role of women as providers in this scenario, but while women matched men in industriousness, the unique value of men was in the physical strength (generally) inherent to their gender.  Farms without a source of literal strength would inevitably fall into ruin.

    traditional women have often contributed additional income through home-run businesses, or by cleaning houses or tending richer people’s children

    And this was considered supplemental income; in cases where this became a married household’s primary source of income, the man was held to be lazy, worthless, or otherwise at fault.  (Or merely injured, or in jail, or absent.)

    There’s a problem in developmental economics where women’s household contributions are unseen yet valuable; such that getting more women “into the workplace” actually reduces household wealth and well-being.  ”Care work” falls under the informal sector, which is valuable to households beyond measurable monetary terms; but it is not a source of income, properly understood.  Substitution effects can be tricky.

  17. KC Mulville

    Anthropologists tell us that at some point in evolution, the human brain became too big to develop in the womb, and most of its development came after birth. That meant that the human baby needed extra care, and while the mother was caring for the baby, she couldn’t protect and provide for herself. The institution of marriage and family developed in response; the responsibility to care for the whole family fell to the man. 

    We’ve just spent the last few decades telling women that they can care for themselves. And if they can’t (think about Julia) , then government will take care of them.

    Now …

    Human beings have “dimensions.” On one level, we’re individuals, and our individuality needs to be respected. But at the same time, on another level, we’re social creatures. Part of what makes us human is our ability to rise above our individuality and to live in harmony with others – while never losing respect for each other as individuals. We aren’t one-dimensional; human life is richer than that.

    We learn how to live that “rich” (multidimensional) life through family.

    For political reasons, however, we’ve created Julia.

    Disaster.

  18. Fricosis Guy

    Rachel, if men are going to buy into the victim culture then we’re lost. 

    • OK, women shouldn’t raise kids without dads. Now that we’ve established that, can we all agree that very few of those kids were conceived via artificial insemination?

    • How many of us really value family life and a stable marriage?  For example, in this discussion I see a few comments re: female hypergamy. Are we pursuing women we can’t catch? If you’re truly interested in family life, shouldn’t one pursue the male hypogamy strategy (which gives the woman what she wants too)?  
    • Are we willing to pay the price for breadwinning? That means changing careers, packing a bag, living overseas, etc., whatever it takes.  Many colleagues are mystified that their careers have stalled…but they are unwilling to fill in that critical experience or knowledge gap in their chosen field.
    • We’ll never be a protected class.  We must do the needful things to serve our families. Unless you want to come out of the closet. Then Oprah’s on line #1.
    Rachel Lu: One suggestion that has sometimes been made to me is that men need to be needed…

  19. epoche

    Even in feminist societies where men and women play similiar roles women are still hypergamous. Women are never really promiscuous. There is an increase in the amount of sex for a few men but for most men there is a decrease in the number of mates. The purpose of monogamy is to mate seeking relatively easy to give people time to take on the more serious business of raising children and transmitting a culture. Many women waste most of their prime fertile years chasing after alpha males and then wonder why they cant get any man to commit. 

    Terry Mott: There are at least two separate issues being discussed here: 1) why many men aren’t interested in getting married, and 2) what married men need to feel satisfied.  These are not necessarily the same thing, though they probably overlap somewhat.

    I suspect a large part of issue #1 is summed up in the old saying about cows and free milk.  The promise of regular sex is a huge motivating factor to young men.  If it can be gotten by “hooking up”, “friends with benefits”, etc., why make a huge commitment? · 23 minutes ago

  20. epoche

    Even if 95 percent of all men “kept it in their pants” it would do no good as the responsibility for preventing pregnancy has to lie with the women. A lot of these problems could be solved by legalizing prostitution or at least allowing people to sign contracts stating that you will not have a child that I will be responsible for if we have sex. 

    Fricosis Guy: Rachel, if men are going to buy into the victim culture then we’re lost.  · 2 minutes ago

    • OK, women shouldn’t raise kids without dads. Now that we’ve established that, can we all agree that very few of those kids were conceived via artificial insemination?

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