Childlessness: The New and Unexpected Trend in America
With a few variations, women have been expected to give birth since the beginning of mankind. Long ago – and some cultures still practice this – people married to produce heirs and continue bloodlines. Therefore, pregnancy was the only intended outcome. Becoming a mother has never been a question of “if,” but a matter of “when.” Now women are beginning to ask questions like, “What if I don’t want children?” or “What if this isn’t right for me?”
Attitudes toward children have shifted; some women delay motherhood until middle age, while others bypass it altogether. Birthrates in the United States are at an all-time low, lower even than during the Great Depression. A growing number of married couples are even choosing to live their lives as families of two – without kids altogether.
One of the reasons for this is fairly simple: Child rearing is exceptionally difficult because of economic burdens. The cost of living continues to rise even as real wages have stagnated or dropped. Added to this are worries of safety in public schools and the future welfare of all citizens – health care costs are soaring and job demand is iffy. People who don’t want to or are unable to accept these struggles have no choice but to live without children.
Sometimes, merely wanting children is not enough to make a person or couple capable of raising them. Diapers, bottles, day care, furniture, clothing, school supplies, health insurance, and myriad of other things put the average cost of raising a child for 18 years at $241,080, according to CNN Money. This figure excludes college tuition, which could take on another 100 grand in four short years.
Critics of childlessness say motherhood is equal to womanhood. A female cannot truly be feminine if she doesn’t have children, because she isn’t embracing that deepest and most basic instinct to nurture a baby. Couples who decide against kids are described as selfish and near-sighted, meaning they aren’t considering the consequences of their actions.
It's entirely possible that forcing men and women to raise children they don’t want is actually detrimental to society. Every day, numerous accounts of child abuse and kidnappings are aired on news channels all over the nation. These incidents would not be improved by “convincing” families to have children for the sake of our nation. What kind of childhood would an unwanted child have? Sure, women become pregnant accidentally every day, but a vast difference exists between the accidental child and the one who is unwelcome.
A baby can be unwanted for a number of reasons. Perhaps a woman – or man – is more intent on professional success than domestic duties. Perhaps he or she doesn’t like children and the fuss, noise, and endless demands that come along with such a responsibility. Or maybe both members of a couple feels complete and content without kids.
Society impresses upon each of us that we are on earth to procreate. But adults are starting to see the choice to have children is just that, a choice that may not apply to everybody. This does not mean these people are self-centered, malicious, or strange. They aren’t trying to inadvertently kill off the American population. What they are is mature enough to understand that children are not accessories, and that everyone doesn’t have to be a parent to live life to the fullest.
Women are no less womanly for choosing to refrain from motherhood. They merely exercise their rights to live life on their own terms without conforming to others’ expectations. Ultimately, people with children deserve the same degree of respect as those that do not. Both groups are preserving society in their own ways – one by procreating and the other by exploring new paths.