Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

June 15, 2006

Population and the “Mommy Wars”

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 am

I don’t have time to pull out quotes at the moment, but here are several angles on the dual debates of (1) whether we are headed for overpopulation or underpopulation, and (2) whether motherhood is beneficial/good/enlightened or oppressive/evil/neanderthal.

OK, I’ll pull one quote. Emily Yoffe cites the main benefit claimed for the “childfree lifestyle” and why it’s bogus:

As one woman wrote: “My husband and I are childless by choice and I heartily encourage all younger friends to consider it. It is the most wonderful lifestyle, free of whining and sniveling and mini-vans.”

What is going on when there is so much scorn for parenthood—the way a society perpetuates itself? Fertility rates are much in the news these days. The United States is rare among developed nations in that it is still producing children at a replacement rate. But many countries collectively agree with the people who wrote to me—that children are a tantrum wrapped in a diaper and not worth the trouble. So, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain, among others, are going down the demographic tubes, with shrinking pools of young workers to support growing masses of seemingly immortal retirees.

I noticed something else in the letters from nonparents that I had experienced myself: They have an unrealistic sense of the passage of time—or at least the passage of parental time. They seem stuck on the notion that being a parent means forever climbing a Mt. Everest of diapers (and what happens to these punctilious couples if a spouse ends up needing diapers?). Diapers pass in a snap. It all goes so fast. When our daughter turned 6, my husband and I realized with a pang that we were already one-third of the way through the time she would live with us. And I worry that the writers have an unrealistic sense of their own passage through time—believing they’ll forever feel that nothing is more important than building their career or taking that next trip.

I’ll go you one better. Before we had kids, Different Wife was hoping she’d have triplets or quadruplets — an entire family, without having to go through pregnancy more than once! Apparently, she thought pregnancy was the hard part. I tried, based on my “experience” as the oldest of five children, to explain that pregnancy was the least of it both in time and impact, but what did I know, I was male, how should be be so arrogant…. Pregnancy is, mainly, the only part of parenting that doesn’t have many benefits offsetting the costs, but that’s not what she meant…

One Response to “Population and the “Mommy Wars””

  1. Emilia Says:

    I’ve often questioned the organized childfree movement (note: not people who merely have decided not to have children) on the grounds that they tend to be a bit “cultish” in how they distort data to evangelize their lifestyle. For example, they use the discredited (by professional statisticians) Ann Landers that most parents regret having children to bolster their claims. In addition, they ignore evidence showing, for example, that contrary to what they sometimes claim, couples with children have a LOWER divorce rate than those without them.

    On the other hand, I have to agree with them that if you’re not 100% sure about having children, don’t do it. It’s better to regret not having a child than to have a child and regret him or her later.

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