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To Be Happy, Women Must Do The Opposite Of Everything Secular Western Culture Tells Them

Suzanne Venker’s latest book, How to Build a Better Life, distills her countercultural, practical, and effective life advice for women.

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Everyone wants to talk about what’s wrong with men, whether it’s “toxic masculinity,” “men without work,” “the end of men,” the longhouse, or the need for men to “clean their rooms.” Not so many people, however, want to talk about what’s wrong with women. Even the longhouse complaint is that women are too successful:

As of 2022, women held 52 percent of professional-managerial roles in the U.S. Women earn more than 57 percent of bachelor degrees, 61 percent of master’s degrees, and 54 percent of doctoral degrees. And because they are overrepresented in professions, such as human resource management (73 percent) and compliance officers (57 percent), that determine workplace behavioral norms, they have an outsized influence on professional culture, which itself has an outsized influence on American culture more generally.

The bureaucracy that controls Western life is feminized, the longhouse argument goes; implying that women have won. But is that true? Is it “winning” for women to wield power at the expense of their sexual counterparts, the other half of humanity, without which there is no humanity? Are women happier ostensibly being in charge? It seems obvious the answer to that is a resounding no.

Our society offers very few generally accepted successful strategies for helping both men and women achieve happiness through maturity. The women might look better on their resumes, but they’re also a skyrocketing majority of antidepressant and other pharmaceutical users. And it sure doesn’t satisfy women that they can kick tail in the office if their apartments are filled with cats, houseplants, and vacation pictures because the available men aren’t working toward family-sustaining salaries or interested in trying to lead even one slightly fractious and anxious woman on the quintessential life adventure of growing a family.

While our culture may not offer either men or women good counsel about how to create a fulfilling life, author and life coach Suzanne Venker does. A longtime Federalist writer, Suzanne has expanded her writing career into coaching so she can get right in the trenches with women. Venker’s latest book out in March from Post Hill Press, How to Build a Better Life, distills her countercultural, practical, and effective life advice for women into eight digestible chapters.

Her overarching theme is simple: To be happy, women have to do just about the opposite of what secularized Western culture tells them. This theme builds on other how-to books Suzanne has written, including The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men and Marriage, which I buy for friends’ wedding showers.

What does it mean to swim against the cultural current? Suzanne lays that out in her chapter titles: Live an examined life, prioritize marriage and family over a career, unleash your feminine power, date with purpose, don’t not have babies or not stay home with them just because you’re in debt, change your definition of work-life balance, learn the truth about daycare (that no one ever told you), and love your life, not theirs.

Suzanne regularly points out that women often clue into the importance of these feminine ways of life so late that it causes them some big regrets. That’s a big reason she does the work she does: to help women avoid regrets that often start accumulating in their early to mid-30s for suboptimal decisions in their 20s. If women in their 20s know they are likely candidates for such regrets, they can better avoid them.

It’s sad this sort of information has to be conveyed by a relationship coach instead of a mother, aunt, big sister, or grandmother, but that’s where our atomized society is right now. Suzanne capably fills in the big sister or aunt role for our society’s lost women.

I’ve followed Suzanne’s advice. So have women close to me. She’s been right every time. She really understands male-female dynamics and what truly makes women happy better than almost any other voice in the public square. Suzanne’s encouragement has been among those helping me focus on mothering my children despite the constant social, financial, and news-cycle pressure to work more instead.

One of her most controversial and internet-viral stances has been to explain why daycare damages children, something about which most Millennials and Gen Z women know nothing. They’ve been told daycare is good for babies and toddlers, that it helps them get ready for school and “socialize” and give mom a break.

They haven’t been told that daycare is just about the worst childcare environment possible because it’s chaotic and overstimulating, prompting chronic cortisol stress surges that can trend small children toward anxious, moody, and sick for the rest of their lives. When momma needs a break, a few hours at home with a babysitter — even better if he’s dad or another family member — are far better.

Researchers are looking at tons of things to pinpoint causes of skyrocketing youth anxiety and depression, from social media to Covid-19 to sexual orientation to puberty and peer pressure. What hardly any have done is investigate further the research-indicated links between long-term nonparent care and lifelong chronic anxiety and agitation.

Perhaps the most striking results surfaced in Quebec, which opened a universal birth-to-school government daycare program a generation ago. Researchers found that, as adults, the kids who attended the program are significantly more anxious and depressed and less self-controlled and happy than kids who didn’t. Multiple studies have found similar results.

This is intimately connected with the striking unhappiness of so many women today, both as a cause and an effect. The proportion of American children in extended nonparent care has dramatically increased in the last 50 years. That means more women old enough to be mothers today were detached from their families at young ages, damaging the bonding that is crucial for robust emotional development. That detachment, a form of self-protection against the anxiety of being left to fend for oneself at a young age, gets passed on and sometimes expanded when these women forego children or separate themselves from the children they do have.

Rather than blame America’s young women for problems like these, which are not all their fault, Suzanne offers them the emotional support and practical wisdom that many of our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts should have but for whatever reason — perhaps something as simple as living far away or as complicated as divorce — didn’t. Her positive, can-do attitude is refreshing and compassionate and a model for everyone, since we all deal with and love people with emotional hangups that delay their rise to maturity. Just as yelling at young men to “get a job” may be correct but ineffective, so is yelling at young women to “stop crying liberal tears and voting for abortion.”

America’s distressed young need not to be talked at but talked through their problems, to be walked and counseled by someone who is on their team and shows up for them. In short, they need the parenting and familial support that too many did not get enough of when they were younger and most still don’t have as adults.

Suzanne shows young women how to work through their emotional issues so they can mother their children in a satisfying way that contributes to both personal and societal happiness. Mothers who focus on their children are the key to addressing a very large part of our society’s inner chaos and discontent. Young women need to hear this, that we can be the mothers too many of us didn’t have, and that doing this is more effective than just about anything else we could do to promote our own good along with the common good.

Get this book for all the women in your life who might be open to Suzanne’s positive, truly woman-empowering message.


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