Slices of Life: Parental instincts
You shouldn’t have to explain why you do or don't want children or have to justify your feelings. They just are.
It’s the American dream: A home, job, spouse, two-car garage, dog, cat and 2.5 kids. Or maybe not.
Millennials, it seems, want it all — except for maybe the kids. If you don’t believe me, do the Google. There are at least a dozen articles online that tout the reasons — some brutally honest reasons — why today’s 20- and 30-somethings don’t want kids, their own or anybody else’s.
I hadn’t realized this was the case. A whole generation not wanting kids. But it’s true.
According to data from the Urban Institute, birth rates among 20-something women decreased 15% between 2007 and 2012, and the number of U.S. women who don’t have children has doubled since 1970.
Millennials were born (roughly) during the last 20 to 25 years of the 20th Century, and according to the articles I read, have numerous reasons for not wanting children. I’ll get to that later.
First, as a mother of four, I’d like to say no one needs a reason for not wanting children. If you don’t want children, you shouldn’t have children. It should be as simple as that. Don’t worry about explaining yourself. We’ve all been there. Honestly. And made the — often difficult — decision ourselves.
Outlining reasons, as though they are new and unique to this generation is not new and unique to those of us from another generation because we already lived them. There have always been logical and resounding reasons not to have kids. Some of us just chose to ignore them.
There are actually dozens of articles listing dozens of reasons not to have children, but as I read one after another, I noticed a handful plus one were referenced most often. Here are the six along with my thoughts about them:
1. The number one reason why people today don’t want kids is because kids are not financially feasible. It’s hard to afford both a kid and the latest iPhone. Priorities have to kick in somewhere.
It’s true. Kids have never been financially feasible, even before iPhones were invented. Kids are expensive. Have been. Always will be. If people waited until they could afford kids (or the latest iPhone), no one would have either.
2. Pregnancy is hard and potentially dangerous.
Yes, it is, as it has been since the dawn of time when it was even more dangerous. Giving birth in a cave without an epidural had to be nearly as dangerous as texting while driving.
3. The idea of carrying a child makes some people nauseous.
If the mere idea makes you nauseous, try pregnancy, and I won’t even get into the subject of the actual birth.
4. There is a ton of pressure to be the perfect parent. Why even try?
I’ll give them that one. I mess up as a parent every day. And there is guilt with that. Guilt and pressure. But guilt and pressure are a part of life. We feel guilty when we don’t take the dog for a walk or when we sleep in on a Saturday or call in sick to work. Guilt is everywhere, including parenting.
5. Not all women have maternal instincts.
Here’s the best justification so far. You don’t feel maternal, so you don’t want children. Finally, some honesty.
Having said that, I wasn’t born with maternal instincts. I didn’t like holding other people’s babies. When they sent us home from the hospital with our newborn daughter, I thought, “Now what?” When she was one week old, I gave myself a silent high five that we’d all survived. I had no idea what I was doing and found instinct lacking. With practice, however, I become maternal. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but being non-maternal isn’t a lifetime sentence. At least it wasn’t for me.
6. Kids don’t fit their lifestyle.
Of course they don’t. Kids don’t fit into any grown-up’s lifestyle. They change it. They make it more chaotic and unpredictable and boo-boo prone and sticky. Sometimes those are good things.
I struggled with the decision to have children. It’s a biggie. The issues being touted as unique to millennials are perpetual; they have been for generations. I do believe there may be a difference in mindset and focus and priorities, however, and this is causing the shift.
Bottom line, if you don’t want kids, reasons aren’t necessary. The same goes for if you do, or if you choose to have more than your allotted 2.5. You shouldn’t have to explain why or justify your feelings. They just are. And we shouldn’t be judged for that — either way.
It isn’t right or wrong. It just is.
J ill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.