“To be or not to be” – a parent, that is the question. The thing is, more American women are choosing “not to be.” Research shows that 1 in 5 women are now without children as opposed to 1 in 10 women in the 1970s. Childlessness has increased across most educational groups and all racial and ethnic levels.
Further, most adults no longer think you need a child to be happy. According to Pew Research (via YourTango) 59 percent of adults in 2002 said they disagree with the statement that people who don’t have kids “lead empty lives.” In 1988, only 39 percent of these people didn’t agree with that statement.
There are many reasons for this, such as better contraception options, and perhaps a heightened concern about financial security. But as Dr. Laura Corio told AOL Health, some of it may simply be due to a larger enjoyment of life. “People are enjoying their lives: they’re traveling, shopping, eating out. Putting a baby into the situation is going to change everything.”
What does this all mean? Some parents like to espouse that “when you have a child, you will love in a capacity like you have never known before.” Frankly, I think these are parents who never had nieces or nephews before they had their own children. Because for some devoted aunties and uncles, we’re already at “throwing ourselves in front of a train to protect them.” And you’re telling us there’s more?
Yes, some argue that parenthood opens up a sense fulfillment that you may never have experienced before. But it looks like American women just aren’t buying it like they used to. As we’ve mentioned before, having children is one of the most personal decision we can ever make.
And this is what we should be celebrating – that we have this choice. Yes, reproductive rights are still being assailed by extremists and this is a battle that should never be discounted. But the fact that we now live in a world where you’re not immediately cast in a tragedy as an unmarried, childless woman is pretty outstanding.
We live in a world where women have options to get educated and out of the house, or choose to remain in it. Obviously, due to our cranky uncle socioeconomics, this is much easier for some than others. But opportunities exist for women as never before – and I, for one, say let’s raise a glass to our feminist foremothers for making this happen.
Sure, there will always be the rogue relative who snarks at Thanksgiving dinner that you should be sitting at the kid’s table, or the bridal bouquet toss during which a cousin will insist on dragging you out on the dance floor. But chalk that up next to the burden of bearing 10 or more children or struggle to feed several more hungry mouths than you can afford, and things are off to a good start for women at the beginning of the 21st century. Let’s just keep the momentum going.