In the past decade, fertility rates in the United States have dropped dramatically. Young adults, specifically college graduates, experienced the greatest decrease in fertility rates, largely due to cultural and economic factors. The Editorial Board was intrigued by this finding and decided to ask some of its female members about their opinions on having children after graduation.
As a woman, choice is something that is very important to me. Since the beginning of time, society has bestowed upon women the weighty responsibility of cooking, cleaning and perpetuating the human race.
Over time, the burden of expectation has been slightly lifted, but even today, a woman’s life continues to be presented as a false dichotomy of work and motherhood.
Not that my reproductive habits are anyone’s business, but I still don’t know if or when I want to have kids. And I’m 19, so I think that’s okay. But the idea that women must choose between a career and children is absurd and, frankly, sexist. Men don’t have to make a choice, so why do we expect it from women? Women shouldn’t be forced to make sacrifices in order to get what they want out of life if men aren’t required to do the same.
If I ever become a mom, I know I’ll be a great one. And I’m going to be a strong, successful working woman, too. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.
But whatever I choose, it will be my decision to make – I’m tired of society trying to decide for me.
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage – right? Not according to the CDC, who released data showing that the total fertility rate is up to 18 percent lower in 2017 than in 2007. This means inability to retire for older generations, as not enough people are born to replace them in the workforce.
Perhaps it is simply too inconvenient financially to settle down — the cost of college is higher than ever, and with so much competition people are staying in school longer to get ahead. Eventually, securing the job that will support a life on your own is one thing — now you have to support the life of another human being? Especially given the fact that full-time childcare in a daycare center for children under four can cost more than in-state tuition. It is no wonder we are so hesitant to start a family; failing to support that family is too great a fear.
Perhaps it is the stigma that strong, independent women must learn to support themselves before marriage — that marriage is a cop-out, an admittance of dependency on another. Are we as women so wrapped up in proving we can make it on our own that we’re denying ourselves the possibility of wanting a family? It is not expected that every woman wants children, but it is also not something that should be considered weak, settling or easy.
There are a lot of reasons why I wouldn’t want to have children. They’re extremely expensive, for one. America’s parental leave and pay policies during it are less than ideal. The future is filled with thoughts of overpopulation and climate catastrophes. And at the moment, all I want to think about is my career.
Can you blame my generation and millennials for the dropping fertility rates in America?
But there’s an underlying societal pressure for me. In South Asian culture, getting married and having children isn’t a wish -- it’s just expected. And I do want that. I want the big Pakistani wedding, kids to buy Eid presents for, a family to fast with during Ramadan. But in the back of my head, I know that if I want this, I’ll probably have to give something equally as important up: my career.
I know in the future, there will be a day where I’ll have to choose between my children and career. I’ve seen it enough times to know. But I’m hoping that by the time that decision comes, our society will have shifted to where I won’t be forced to make one.
Also, I have a great solution for the future, when we won’t have enough births to replace the current population: immigration.
“When you have children…”
I’ve grown up hearing this phrase. From my parents, from my teachers, my friends, my friends’ parents, my grandmother, my pastor, my babysitters — the list goes on. It was almost always said with a tone of endearment, never intended to hurt me, always meant to predict the best. But when did I ever say that I wanted kids? I’d been raised to prioritize my education, to love sports, to go on playdates with my best friends — to live the suburban dream. There are so many things I had to worry about as a young female. The last thing I needed to carry in the back of my mind was the future of my shredding uterus.
There’s this assumption in society that all women are going to have children. I’m sorry, but it’s just not true. Not all women are ready to have kids, and some of them can’t. Fertility rates are going down, yes, but not enough to wipe out the human race. Think about the things we can do to ensure continuous reproduction: reducing carbon emissions and nuclear waste, minimizing warfare and providing safe homes for refugee children.
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