lullaby now, pay later
I don’t have any children, and parenthood is looking even less interesting to me, over time, than it ever was. Today the BBC has been discussing discrimination against women who become pregnant. The Open University has a plain-speaking article on the financial cost of parenthood, which lays down some possibly unpalatable truths for prospective parents.
I don’t think I’m the best person to be talking about this topic, starting with my position on the male side of the gender divide that polarizes discussion on this topic. I tend to think that, since the Sexual Revolution freed women from unplanned pregnancy, they were free to make choices about whether to have children or not. I see many women exercising that choice, by having children later in life, or not at all.
If you want to build up a career, you can not expect to walk away in the middle of the process, with no guarantees that you will ever return to your previous enthusiasm or ability, and expect there to be no consequences. By way of comparison: if a university student missed the whole of her third year, because she stopped studying to have a child, would she expect the university to grant her the degree as if she had done the work?
I’m not disputing that having and raising a child is work; of course it is, and bloody hard work it is too, but it is not useful work in the context of the society and economy we live in today. It is a decision that people make for their personal fulfilment, and the world does not need any more people – it is already overloaded. Since the decision to have a child is your ticket to twenty years of financial burden and daily aggravation, it is not one to be made lightly, or forced on parents through ignorance or coercion. In an ideal world, that is.
People have noticed how much harder it has become – you only need to look at the demographics in Europe to see how birth rates are falling in general. Most of this decrease can be attributed to the educated classes of society, who are tending to stop at one child, maybe two, if they have any. The lumpenproletariat continue to breed as before, heedless of the cost.
This article has a more detailed analysis of the financial situation affecting working people throughout Europe, and places the blame squarely on increased taxation, which can be traced back to the socialist policies of European governments. With 70% of under-30s in Italy still living with their parents, because it’s too expensive to set up their own homes, is it surprising that the average birth rate, per person is 1.2? (A “replacement level” that keeps population steady is about 2.2.) So much of their money goes into funding the elderly, via the social system, that there is little left for this generation.
This relates to today’s discussion, because support for mothers, to offset the financial disadvantages of having a child, comes from taxes on the rest of us. Why should I pay for someone else’s children? I have friends with children, and they all seem to have gone in to parenthood with open eyes, and seem to me to be getting much more out of it as a result.