Fertility rates are falling in most developed countries. According to data from the Urban Institute birth rates among 20-something women declined 15% between 2007 and 2012.
With increased family planning and better healthcare people are choosing to have no or fewer children.
Good for them. With the state the world is currently in it doesn’t seem rational to bring more people into this time of uncertainty. I can see you gasping and reminding me how at the end of the two World Wars the future also seemed bleak and yet people went ahead and had babies by the millions and look at us now.
Exactly, look at us now. Overpopulation is killing our world.
This is an uncomfortable conversation, but isn’t it time we rethink this cultural imperative to have children? Should we have fewer or even no children at all? There are a number of compelling reasons on social as well as personal levels to rethink our obsession with having children.
Little cute babies that grow into adults of all ilk are responsible for the degradation of the environment on an unprecedented scale. We, who have grown from cute little babies to free adults, are behind global warming, poor air quality, environmental pollution, habitat loss, mass extinction of fauna and flora, and the overuse of limited natural resources likes fresh water.
Our habits are making the earth uninhabitable. And the more there are of us, the greater the damage. Is it morally defensible to bring more humans into a damaged and unpredictable environment?
Having a child contributes to climate change
Travis Rieder, the assistant director for education initiatives, director of the Master of Bioethics degree program, and research scholar at the Berman Institute of Bioethics, has written widely on the morality of having children amid global warming and the effect on the environment.
Rieder says there are scientific as well as moral reasons to have fewer children. His view is supported by Research out of Oregon State University that found that having one fewer child would have a far greater effect on carbon dioxide emissions, compared to activities like reducing home energy use, living car-free, not traveling by air and adopting a vegetarian diet.
He argues that having a child is a major contributor to climate change, and the logical takeaway is that everyone should consider having no, or at least fewer children.
“The argument that having a child adds to one’s carbon footprint depends on the view that each of us has a personal carbon ledger for which we are responsible. Furthermore, some amount of an offspring’s emissions count towards the parents’ ledger,” writes Rieder.
To a degree, we are responsible for the carbon footprint of those we bring into this world – until they are autonomous agents and responsible for their own effect on the environment.
On a more personal level there are other, equally compelling arguments for deciding not to have children or at least to have fewer.
Here are only a few of them.
Children are a financial commitment for life
Apart from the fact that raising children is prohibitively expensive, many people start their adult life off with crippling student debt. Add to that the cost of giving birth and you look at years of debt repayments.
And of course, while you are working at paying off your own student loans, you have to start saving for your child’s education!
That’s simply insane – from one debt to another in the blink of an eye – who wants to sentence themselves to that financial treadwheel?
Marriages tend to suffer after the birth of a child
In a meta-analytic review of previous studies, researchers found that parenthood tends to have a negative effect on married couples.
One seminal study found that addition or removal of a family member can force the reorganisation of the family system, which can be described as a crisis: a decisive change for which old patterns are inadequate.
Interviews with parents with at least one child under 5 years old revealed mothers suffer from lack of sleep, chronic tiredness, guilt over not being better mothers, worry about their appearance, confinement to the home. In addition to similar complaints, fathers reported decline in their wife’s sexual responsiveness, economic pressure because the wife stopped working and general disenchantment with parenthood.
Bottom-line: parenthood, if you’re honest, is for the most part, not a pretty or enjoyable experience.
Having a child can be a major damper on a woman’s career
This is one of the ironies of modern life: we put pressure on girls to perform at school, we tell them they can be anything they want, and then when they marry, everything conspires against them. Affordable childcare is virtually non-existent, and workplaces don’t always treat pregnant women or mothers with the same regard.
A recent study that appeared in the Harvard Business Review found that bearing children means others view a woman as less able to bear their workload. It’s a well-known fact that mothers are less likely to be hired for jobs, less likely to be seen as competent in the workplace and are typically paid less than their male colleagues with the same qualifications.