Children have become a project to manage; decisions are based on economics and the pressure to advance lifestyle in our culture is pervasive. This is a new trend that is sweeping across the developed nations and is also true of India. More couples are saying ’no’ to bringing offspring into the world. The birthrate in United States fell to a record low of 66 births per 1000 women aged 15-44.
The latest census figures show nearly one in five married women are childless. In Europe we are seeing a major demographical shift where birthrates have fallen to dangerous levels and in Japan, schools close due to shortage of children. In Australia, the government is offering couples incentive to have babies in order to stabilize population. Bringing up children these days can be expensive and an onerous task, especially after living as a single person or couple without children for a while.
DINK (double income, no kids) lifestyle is fueled by the freedom it provides and self-serving obsession of our culture. Due to co-habitation and possibility of divorce, many couples choose to remain childless. There is also a growing aversion to children in the Western world. With ‘no kids allowed’, adult-only public places, the disdain toward parenthood is obvious. Even many work places are unfriendly toward young parents and financial policies are unsympathetic.
Derogatory remarks like ‘breeders’ for parents and ‘spawn’ for children are common in some circles. One of the underlying reasons for this trend is self-centeredness. Late marriages, lower fertility and shorter window of child- bearing opportunity also add to intentional childlessness. Young couples are more predisposed to materialism, wealth creation, entertainment, travel, learning etc that they cannot think of mundane task to feeding and cleaning babies!
I am painfully aware of many couples who desperately long to have children, but are not able to conceive due to infertility, miscarriage or other complications. I am not talking about them, but those who chose to remain childless. Though child-rearing takes lots of work and sacrifice, the decision to have children ultimately is very rewarding. I firmly believe that we do not raise our children, but they help us to really grow up.
We look at our own childhood with fresh eyes and our parents with greater admiration. Shunning parental responsibility keeps us in perpetual state of adolescence. Parenting helps us to become selfless and mature. By raising another generation, we gain deeper insights into meaning and purpose of life itself. Parenting is a life-journey fraught with potential heartaches and disappointments, but also brings unspeakable joy and fulfillment.
It is one of the sure ways we leave our imprint on the world yet to come which we will not see for ourselves. The legacy we leave behind through our children will continue to shape the future of the world. I am so glad your parents and mine did not choose to go childless.