The subtitle of this week’s Time magazine cover article is pretty clear: When having it all means not having children.
Then again, it could be the accompanying photo of the fit, swimsuit-clad couple looking extremely happy on a tropical beach that really conveys the tone of the piece. The author seems to be stating that people can be perfectly happy without procreating, and that they may even be (gasp!) happier than those who choose to have kids. The nerve!
The author of the piece, writer Lauren Sandler, also wrote last year’s provocatively titled New York Times opinion piece, “Only Children: Lonely and Selfish?” She’s clearly not one to shy away from hot-button topics.
In her newest venture delving into the world of the childfree by choice, she shares some surprising statistics. For example, from 2007 to 2011 (the last year data was available), the fertility rate has declined 9%.
Another telling stat: A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all ethnic and racial groups, with about 1 in 5 American women ending their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with the 1970s, when it was 1 in 10.
These numbers are profound, but what do they really say? Are women waiting to have kids, or are they simply putting it off so long that it may no longer be an option? Are things like freedom, money, careers, and relationships more compelling than motherhood, or is it something else entirely? It sounds like we’ll need more research to know for sure.
The real aim of Sandler’s piece, however, seems to be that we (meaning those who have children) don’t need to worry about the childfree. Not only are they doing just fine, they may even be happier than us. Despite our society’s antiquated attitudes about children ‘completing’ a woman, Sandler indicates that those who’ve made the choice don’t worry about their own selfishness, therefore we don’t need to, either.
Some of those notions die hard, however. Huffington Post reports that Vanity Fair/CBS ran a poll in September on "The Perfect Woman." Out of 1,017 participants, when asked the most important quality in a woman, 39% replied “being a good mother”. This was over a sense a humor, a healthy sex drive, and intelligence.
We agree with Sandler (who is, by the way, a mom herself) that If we’re all going to accept the the childfree lifestyle as a norm, we clearly have a lot to learn.