When it comes to embarking on the journey of parenthood, lots of millennials are saying, “Meh. No, thanks.” According to data from the Urban Institute, birth rates among 20-something women declined 15% between 2007 and 2012. Additional research from the Pew Research Center reflects a longer-term trend of women eschewing parenthood as the number of U.S. women who choose to forego motherhood altogether has doubled since 1970… In an effort to find out why so many young people are really deciding against parenthood, we solicited dozens of responses from our audience… (Source: 11 Brutally Honest Reasons Why Millennials Dont Want Kids)
does not mention children specifically, but… should it?
Is the modern desire for children, like our want for other new, shiny things, a result of relentless marketing?
The most defensible, obvious answer to both of the questions above is “No”. Biology, instinct, and the innate need to survive and thrive fuel our animalistic drive to procreate. Hormones propel us to copulate and populate, so chow can one lay the blame for overpopulation at the feet of media and advertising?
For starters, in developed countries at least, children no longer have utility beyond fulfilling the (selfish) desires of parents. As many others have reminded us (as in the first story on the following link) children are no longer needed to work the farm or otherwise help support modern families. While children were once a valuable asset, they now appear exclusively on the debit side of a family balance sheet. They are expensive, and the return on capital is not something that can be measured with a calculator. (Nor should it, I promise all the detached, cold calculus leads to something resembling a point.)
So how do we modern, western humans place a value on having babies and raising families? Well, this is where one might reflect on what we see in commercials or hear from celebrities. What about the endless celebration of babies on movie and TV, starting with Disney movies? Which life events are repeatedly, FOREVER, packed with the most drama, joy and possibility? How many babies do you think are born to TV characters every year during sweeps week? More importantly, WHY?
Babies are big, big business. Since the value of children can no longer be calculated, corporations are compelled to fill us with fantasies of a perfect life dependent upon, or punctuated by, a perfect child. The messages we constantly hear and see tell us that babies are priceless, and they make us happy. So, am I imagining things, or is this possibly the western worlds most effective marketing scheme?
Since babies are priceless, there is no ceiling on the amount of money that can/should be spent on them. If you do not spend every earned and borrowed penny on them, you are depriving them, and probably guilty of bad parenting. Your kids probably won’t succeed because you didn’t buy them every possible toy, tool and opportunity. No one is allowed to openly disagree. Parents, especially celebrities, must constantly and publicly repeat the same vague platitudes like “It’s amazing!” or “It’s all about the baby.” or “It gives my life meaning.” If you have 1 child, their birthday better be the best day of your life. (Meaning that it was all down hill from there?) If you have 2, it better be a tie!
Biology does not account for these things, does it? So what does? Marketing? Brilliant marketing?
This item is priceless + it is virtually guaranteed by your neighbors and celebrities to make you happy + fear + guilt + insecurity = ?
What do you think?
The links in the text above provide more links to related stories. And here is one about an actor swimming upstream:
It’s time for a little visual food for thought. Is the stork the bird of war?
“Real reproductive freedom has to include social acceptance of the decision not to reproduce.”
Borrowed from friends at GINK – green inclinations, no kids, this story includes some enlightening statistics, great writing and an apology.
“I recognize that I am the population problem. I’m trying to be part of the solution.”
Here are some of the many highlights:
“Population isn’t just about counting heads, although by this October we will be counting 7 billion of them worldwide. The impact of humanity on the environment is not determined solely by how many of us are around, but by how much stuff we use and how much room we take up. And as a financially comfortable American, I use a lot of stuff and take up a lot of room. My carbon footprint is more than 200 times bigger than that of an average Ethiopian, more than 12 times bigger than an average Indian’s, and twice as big as an average Brit’s.”
“Far and away the biggest contribution I can make to a cleaner environment is to not bring any mini-mes into the world. A 2009 study by statisticians at Oregon State University found that in America the climate impact of having one fewer child is almost 20 times greater than the impact of adopting a series of eco-friendly practices for your entire lifetime…”
“Here in the United States, the Pill has been available for more than 50 years. It’s now almost universally accepted that women will use birth control to delay, space out, or limit childbearing. But there’s not so much acceptance for using birth control to completely skip childbearing. At some point, you’re expected to grow up, pair up, put the Pill off to the side, and produce a couple of kids. Deviate from this scenario and you’ll get weird looks and face awkward conversations with family members, friends, coworkers, and complete strangers.”
“Many women who have not already had children find it difficult if not impossible to find a doctor who will perform a tubal ligation. Doctors warn that sterilization is an irreversible, life-altering decision. But having a child is an irreversible, life-altering decision and you don’t find doctors warning women away from that. The broadly held prejudice, in the medical profession and much of the rest of society, is that becoming a parent is the correct and inevitable choice.
Over recent years and decades, it’s become more acceptable for mixed-race couples to have children, and single women, and gay couples, and women over the age of 40, and that’s all good. Acceptance has been slower to come for the decision not to have children. There’s now a fledgling childfree movement, but some who are part of it say they still feel like they’re violating a taboo.”
If you bristle when you hear four letter words uttered by a foolishly dressed man swilling beer, this video is not for you. You will be offended. Avoid the hurt, and skip this post. There are others…