Families, the falling birthrate, and the well-being of children have been the subject of much discussion lately, from Jonathan Haidt’s latest work on the tech-induced mental health crisis to Abigail Shrier’s sharp critique of therapy culture; from Tim Carney’s report of the many ways we’ve made childrearing unnecessarily difficult to Brad Wilcox’s call to marry young; and finally, to Catherine Pakaluk’s profile of college-educated women bucking the child-free trend by having five or more children. 

This focus is for good reason: no matter one’s religious or political views, it’s hard to deny the centrality of the family to a healthy culture. Yet even with this great journalism and scholarship presenting some of the real goods of children and recommending the interpersonal and institutional approaches to helping families flourish, it’s hard to deny that as a society, we do a poor job of making family life look appealing. We are increasingly moving away from extended family; living, working, and parenting in isolation; and consulting mental health professionals instead of other parents for advice on childrearing. Not to mention that there’s a good bit of complaining about the hardships of parenthood, and doomscrolling about impending dangers that threaten our children’s futures. There’s a rising sense of despair all around.

The truth lurking inside the great morass of opinions, questions, and fears about the human condition is that a confluence of factors leads to greater personal, familial, and communal flourishing. Ideology alone, policy alone, will not solve our problems or help us thrive. This month, our authors have explored a number of topics related to human thriving at the personal and institutional levels, showing that those who seek to improve our lot and set the stage for a more promising future can start from, well, a variety of different angles. Rather than lead us into despair (There’s so much that’s broken! There’s so much to fix!) it can instead open the door to hope (There are so many opportunities for growth, healing, improvement. Take your pick.).

First, Taryn DeLong describes the increasing normalization of pain in women’s healthcare: an increasingly systemic and institutionalized problem that most often results in masking disease by offering cycle-suppressing synthetic hormones. Closely related to the issue of reproductive health is the much-dreaded call to chastity: a term that lacks cachet yet is important to helping young people grow in the virtue of temperance. Nathaniel Peters explores the need to reframe the conversation about chastity with an eye toward growing in virtue, not merely exercising restraint (an admittedly losing battle). 

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Discussions about the competing priorities of work and home life often lack nuance, but our authors have brought a bit more depth: Frank DeVito frames remote work policies as a boon to working parents, helping them remain faithful to their caregiving responsibilities while staying in the workforce. And Stephanie Murray pushes us to think about why we might want to support policies that recognize homemaking as the valuable pursuit social conservatives claim it is.

Nathan Schlueter continues the feminism–antifeminism debate, which we’ve hosted in our pages, by explaining why the antifeminist position has never been, and never will be, sufficient to champion and defend the distinctiveness and unique genius of women. Finally, Elizabeth Corey reminds us to return to a focus on ordinary life and all its abundant goods: a necessary project for all who want to restore a sense of wonder and enchantment in a life that, so often, seems to lack both.


Other Highlights from This Month


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From the Archives

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Until next time, thanks for reading PD.

Alexandra Davis

Managing Editor

Image by Halfpoint and licensed via Adobe Stock.