I am currently in India visiting friends and family with the kids.
A typical day is this: I wake up around eight, start working. The cook prepares and serves breakfast for the family. The chauffeur and the nanny take the kids to an activity: art, tennis, calisthenics, while I jam through my job's to-do list. We lunch together, again, cooked, served and cleaned up after. I work a bit more while the kids nap. 4pm is play date time, with friends with kids, or relatives who want to catch up. Dinner at seven, bath and bed by eight. By eight thirty I have wrapped up work and emails, feeling relaxed, ready for a glass of wine and some adult time that may involve a drink with friends or a quiet supper with my husband. We have sex and settle in with a book or a movie. The nanny is available in the middle of the night to attend to the baby in case I am not.
Fast-forward to next month when I will be back in the States. Six am wake-ups and breakfast, getting the tots and myself ready for the day, fleeting kisses at the door, finishing work in time for school pick-up, planning an activity and dinner, bath, clean-up, email and scuttle into bed in preparation for the next day. "Date night" and "sex" are to-do's on the calendar.
The difference between these two scenarios is social support. In India, aside from family members around and available (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins are expected to be an active part of children's lives), hired help is also the norm. And while you will find every mom's group or luncheon conversation veer to "how difficult it is to find good help these days", most middle class and above moms have access to ironed clothing and an hour for a haircut, things considered luxuries in the United States when you have young children. On weekends I can really let my hair down and have a couple of extra glasses of wine if I feel like it because there is back-up with the kids in the am.
Without stress the libido is unbridled.
Being around similarly unfettered couples seals in the mood. Since babysitters are in-house, planning dinner or drinks with friends is not a tedious exercise. Usually it's a phone call and a debate about where to go. Since weekend brunch is not the only option, we tend to see our friends more often, leading to tighter bonds and more fulfilling relationships. Our current rate of meet with friends in America is three weeks if you live nearby, six weeks if you don't.
Most Western countries function in this independent, nuclear family model. But Americans are by far the most work-focused and ambitious of those nations, adding a layer of stress you don't see in Europe or Australia. With the guilt associated with leisure and the general type-A bend, it's no wonder that Americans are losing ranks on measures of happiness, despite being one of the world's richest people.
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