According to Eva Mendes sweatpants are the number one cause of divorce after the birth of a baby. We’d like to live in Eva Mendes’ world (hello Gosling!) wherein one can comfortably wear jeans and flouncy summer dresses immediately after giving birth, but that’s not the norm for most women. If you’ve become a mother by giving birth, your body needs time to heal and the cotton and stretch offered by yoga pants, pajamas, leggings and yes, the dreaded sweatpants is often doctor recommended.
Even if your path to parenthood came through different means, soft, cotton clothes for those first few months are often a necessity. A friend who became a mother through surrogacy swore by her comfy cotton clothes after she and her husband brought their son home, “yoga pants, tees and always a pony tail. I could rest comfortably without changing and they’re spit-up proof, and [our son] spit-up a lot … and my husband didn’t cheat on me.”
But my friend’s claim is what we call anecdotal evidence and it doesn’t hold a lot of scientific weight, so let’s test the substance of Mendes’ claim: New mothers’ use of sweatpants postpartum is the primary cause of divorce in America. We’ll set aside the gender norms and implications of her statement and put only her hypothesis to the test.
Divorce is a complex subject and not one that can be neatly summed up in a few paragraphs. For now I’m going to focus on data surrounding first marriages ending in “irreconcilable differences” divorces, meaning those where violence, substance abuse, adultery or incarceration were not factors. I’m also going to look at the broad strokes of the issue, because with everything, the data is nuanced once by age and socioeconomic status.
Mendes’ claim pertains to women of childbearing years that were married at the time of their child’s birth. This accounts for approximately 59.5% of all births in the United States.
Within that age bracket, approximately 42% of those marriages entered into during childbearing years will result in divorce, by the end of the individuals’ childbearing years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is 9.2 years.
What the data seems to support is that across Western nations, the number one cause of divorce oscillates between communication issues (‘we grew apart,’ ‘we never talked,’ ‘we became strangers’) to financial problems/differences in spending and saving. Note, sweatpants are not mentioned. That’s not to say that the birth of a child is a smooth transition for married couples, with about 20% reporting that the birth of their child caused a crisis in their marriage. With that said, the “crisis” appears to be additional strain added to preexisting stressors in the marriage.
Postpartum depression also seems to be an additional risk factor for divorce, however, the correlation doesn’t appear to be clear: does the divorce exacerbate the postpartum depression, or does the postpartum depression exacerbate the end of a marriage?
But what’s important to note is that sweatpants are not mentioned in any of the literature as being a cause of divorce. What we can say now is that we have confirmed Eva Mendes’ null hypothesis, meaning that there is no correlation between divorce and sweatpants.
Now, this is a subject I feel passionate about. I am Canadian and grew up in the same area as Ryan Gosling at around the same time. Just as there was an audible gasp when Gosling and Rachel McAdams split up, I also heard the gasp from this land when we saw that Gosling’s wife criticized sweatpants. This is a land where sweatpants are just shy of being our official national costume, so we come to their defense rather quickly. It’s been great to see that Gosling hasn’t forgotten his roots (pun intended) and also came to their defense.
Martinez, G., Daniels, K, and Chandra, A. Fertility of Men and Women Aged 15-44 Years in the United States: National Survey of Family Growth, 2006-2010. National Health Statistics Reports. April 12, 2012. Retrieved 3.22.15.
Bodenmann, G., Charvox, L., Bradbury, T. et al. The role of stress in divorce: A three-nation retrospective study. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. pp 707-728. October 2007. Retrieved 3.22.15
Dakin, J. and Wampler, R. Money doesn’t buy happiness but it helps: Marital satisfaction, psychological distress and demographic differences between low- and middle-income clinic couples. The American Journal of Family Therapy. pp 300-311
Michaels, G. The Transition to parenthood: Current Theory and research. Cambridge University Press, New York. 1988.
Hawkins, A., Willoughby, B. and Doherty, W. Reasons for divorce and openness to marital reconciliation. Journal of Divorce and marriage. pp 453-463, August 13, 2012. Retrieved 3.22.15.
Gigy, L. and Kelly, J. Reasons for Divorce: Perspectives of Divorcing Men and Women. Journal of Divorce and Marriage. pp 169-188. October 18, 2008. Retrieved 3.22.15.