Financial Recovery Dreams Involve No More Babies?

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Financial Recovery Dreams Involve No More Babies?I was just over at Learnvest, a new site devoted to helping people manage their money based on where they are in life.
I haven’t finished looking at everything, but already I’m intrigued. For someone dreaming of financial self-awareness, combined with financial self-control, Learnvest seems like a good start indeed.

While browsing, I came across an article about the fact that the birth rate has dropped in the U.S. alongside  the economic crash. It’s a bit of a coincidence that I saw this, because Virgo Man mentioned to me a few days ago that he has two bright young co-workers, both men and both married, both choosing to remain childless.

Both of these young men are honorable people who work hard, take an interest in life beyond their own boundaries, have positive attitudes and a sense of humor, and are just genuinely nice people. As Virgo Man said, these are the kind of people you hope will have kids, because obviously they were raised well, which means they’d probably raise their own kids well.

And yet both find the world too economically unstable for the introduction of a new life.

Personally, I can respect this. Until I got pregnant with Sir Empath (who is now on the cusp of 17, GASP), I felt the world was too uncertain for the introduction of new life. In my day, it wasn’t so much the economy. It was the culture. The world was in an uproar, what with the flourishing Cold War and Viet Nam and Watergate and all. By the time I got married, it was the 1980s. Glam and the movie Wall Street were, in and of themselves,  just about enough to convince anyone that possibly the time was not right for reproduction. I’m just saying.

It’s easy to understand why people would hold off having children, or forgo it altogether. Adding family members is expensive. Children need stability, which seems in short supply nowadays. As a culture, we want our children to have it better than we ourselves have had it, and right now it’s not a sure bet that will happen. Plus the population of the world is growing faster than the resources of the world can keep pace. Until we figure out how to do more with less, and live a decent life in the process, adding more to the population seems downright irresponsible.

The Learnvest article informs me that as countries develop, their birth rate drops. Interesting, huh? I interpret that to mean, the more you know, the more you fear. The more you have, the more you worry about not having. The more you aspire, the more you resist curtailing your aspirations. In other words, the greater your privilege, the less willing you are to compromise, and the more you focus on “What’s it going to cost me?” Hence, the more westernized among us are increasingly less likely to have complicated, expensive, time-consuming, resource-intensive babies.

I have certainly been privileged in just that way for my whole life. Sure, I can point out hardships. Who couldn’t? But my hardships can’t hardly hold a candle to real hardship. They’ve been more like extremely difficult yet necessary lessons learned – still very much within the province of privilege.

So I was convinced, right up to the very moment that I decided to become a mother, that I should never become a mother. For lots of very good reasons.

Yet I still clearly recall the sequence of events that led to my decision to have children. The thing that stands out  most for me is a sense of, “Is this all there is?” I had done a lot in life. I was well past the age of 30 – I was in fact 39 when Sir Empath was born, and almost 42 when O Psychic One landed on the planet.

Sure, there were plenty of dreams that I hadn’t realized, but there were also plenty of dreams that I had lived.

I just simply got to the place where I wanted to do something deeply meaningful.  I wanted to be accountable to something, and someone, other than my very own self. I wanted to shepherd a new soul (two of them, as it turned out) to seek a place in the world, whatever that place would turn out to be.

Although I have occasionally  suffered intense doubt that I am capable of right motherhood, I have never looked back. Never once. My children are my joy.

So this thing about how developed economies result in declining birth rates throws me for a loop. Also, the thing about how declining birth rates is bad for an economy throws me for a loop. I honestly don’t know how to feel about it.

Learnvest tells me that if societies don’t have enough babies to replace aging populations, then aging populations can no longer support economies. They get older and sometimes they get too sick to work, and then they have to rely on governments because there’s no family coming up to support them. They have less money, because they can’t work as much or as hard, so therefore they don’t spend as much. As people age and die, if there aren’t enough younger people coming along behind them, economies, too, age and die.

Logically, I understand how it happens that privileged economies produce a lower birth rate.

Logically, I understand how a lower birth rate leads to economic erosion.

And what an ugly cycle. We evolve. We gather together as societies and cultures. We overcome our obstacles and thrive. In thriving, we decide to have fewer kids. And then we start withering. Nero, strike up your fiddle.

You know what, though? Emotionally, I don’t buy it. Emotionally, I think people choose whether or not to have children for reasons that can’t be reduce to economy. If you really want to, you will find a way.

If you really don’t want to, you won’t bother trying to find a way. Either way, you’ll express your reasons in the vernacular of the day. But underneath the vernacular is the dream and the choice, which in an affluent society is available to all.


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  • Funny that I’ve had this conversation with my Dad (father of 8) and my close siblings, all with kids ranging from 1 child to 6 children. His wise words always make me smile “If you waited for the perfect time to have kids, you’d never have them!”

    I thought I’d have a big family since I came from one and it is fun having a ton of siblings, and money NEVER came into consideration when I was ready to start. I was very lucky that my family history proved easy fertility – we can make up a small country by ourselves – and after I had my son, could easily had planned on more. Marriages changed, time passed, and just like Remy, I am thrilled to have an amazing senior in high school at 42. I can honestly say that now, I am so happy I didn’t have more children. But no matter my situation, if I did want them, finances would be the smallest consideration in the decision. Now I get my baby fix from all my nephews and neices having itty bitty ones! Thanks for the thoughtful post Jayne!

  • Great post Jayne! I had my daughter in my late 30s also and unlike many friends was lucky enough to get pregnant ridiculously easily. I have a great husband who is a loving father but have decided to stop at just one child. I have struggled with that decision – am I being selfish not wanting more children? Is it just because I want to have financial and physical freedom, especially to travel? But I’ve also struggled with post natal depression and discovered that being a stay-at-home Mom is not my dream, even part time. As much as I cherish my daughter I think it’s better for my family that we just make the most of every moment as a threesome.

  • remy

    My first husband and I wanted 3 kids – and our friends at the time we were getting married were all having difficulties conceiving their own…ice in the pants, fertility tests you name it – so we started trying and wouldnt you know, 8 months after getting married, I got pregnant.  No problems, so it seemed.  When my son was 18 months old, his father left us for a different life, sad at the time, probably better now, looking back….my second husband and I wanted kids, Brian was 7 at the time, and we tried till he was 10.  We hit our generation gap max.  One is all I was to have.  Now that Im 45 and my son is 17 and a senior in HS, I am seeing for the first time a sense of real change and opportunity for the next few decades of my life.  I’ve raised a great kid who will do goodness in the world.  If I would have had 3, in any combinations of husbands or significant others, I would not be where I am now.  So I guess all happens for a reason.  I love being a mom.  But I love being other things too.  GREAT POST!  Rem

  • Another awesome post Jayne!

  • You know, up until I was 28 I too didn’t want kids… and then something inside of me changed.  If my ex husband and I waited until everything lined up then I wouldn’t have my son Brian. 

    He was scheduled to be born on the day the Oaklahoma City bombing happened.  I was up having contractions when it hit the news frist thing in the morning.  I told myself it was no day to have a birthday, so my contractions stopped and i delivered him two weeks later.  He is the best thing that has ever happened to me and somehow we’ve made it work. 

    All kids really want is your love, devotion and attention.  My son will tell you that the most unhappy kids at his school are the onces who have everything given to them.  Quite often, they don’t see one or both parents very much because of the amount of work it takes to create that livestyle.  I’m glad we decided to have Brian.  I am glad I am a mom.  I was almost 36 when I had him too … I would have liked to have had more. — Cath

  • Shellieacroft

    Jayne, this is a marvelous piece!  You’ve perfectly balanced brass tax facts with a loving amount of the emotional drive that some of us have to not just reproduce, but have babies, children, families.

    Bryan and I (mostly Bryan, my U C Davis, winemaking husband with his degree is not in enology or viticulture, but economics) decided that we focus on two children to raise up in the very best possible circumstances we can, over having the passel of kiddies I always dreamed of.

    I’m sure this is the wise thing to do, but I’ll admit to still craving the great big farming family I fantastized about for my whole life. 

    In these challenging economic times some things are crystal clear in regards to choices we can make to live a more monitarily comfortable or safe life and perhaps plan for the future.  Other things, like the persistent tug on my heart to have more children, are not so clear. 

    Why do I wake up every day, still, after spending 24/7 living with, home educating, vacationing with, learning with and loving my two small children and still want more?  Perhaps the answer will come in the form of what I will do with an income when our own small, family wine business takes off. 

    Maybe, I’ll be able to help children who are my own only in the global sense, financially.

    Maybe participating in a really positive way, in the Foster Care system is how I can get my need to share my home and arms with lots of kids met.  It’s also not impossible that we could become financially stable enough for adoption of a child or children that are already here, not from my womb, but born to be part of our family.

    I won’t rob this beautiful day with my little ones worrying about a tomorrow that is not guaranteed, so I’ll close by remaining hopeful about everything, including the future, for us all.

    Thank you for writing this:)