Two weeks ago, Slate‘s Amanda Marcotte wrote about how glad she is that women today feel free to opt out of childbearing. They’re empowered by “choice,” and that’s a great thing, says Marcotte. The problem, as she sees it, is that Americans increasingly believe it’s bad for society — the numbers are up 10 per cent in just two years, according to Pew Research Center.
Marcotte disagrees with social conservatives that abortion is to blame for declining birthrates. I concur — to a degree. Certainly abortion accounts for some of it, but contraception is the bigger reason — and later marriage. And larger numbers of women are forgoing children altogether:
Part of this new self-awareness might mean that women are forsaking motherhood because we’re finally admitting that it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As last week’s New York magazine cover story documented, parenthood is becoming increasingly miserable because of the exploding expectations placed on mothers—making the child-free lifestyle seem all the more attractive. In 1988, only 39 percent of Americans disagreed with the notion that the childless “lead empty lives.” Now a majority—59 percent—disagree that childlessness automatically means you’re unfulfilled.
Still, a woman who chooses to remain childless continues to face a series of negative stereotypes, from claims that she’s selfish to implications that she’s too career-minded and self-centered to remember to breed before it’s too late. But clearly there are upsides to childlessness. Just looking around my own apartment, I can see the value in furniture that’s gone unruined, cats that have gone unbothered, and a distinct lack of toys cluttering up my floor…
Nice furniture, quiet cats, and clean floors… is this as good as it gets for Marcotte? I think herein lies the problem with her view: it’s so utterly shallow. And the poll results she mentions in her article only confirms this.
It’s true that some women aren’t called to give birth and raise children — and they should be using their gifts elsewhere. But if your reasons for forgoing children are to keep your house tidy and your life self-centered, the rest of society has a lot to be concerned about.