Having kids is good for us and good for America. Millennials should embrace parenthood
New research confirms suspicions that, citing a struggling economy, millennials are delaying having kids and “fueling America’s historically low birth rate.”
Demographers who study how people plan to create families analyzed a recent study that showed the way changes in childbearing goals contributed to birth-rate declines in the United States. They found that “most young people still plan to become parents but are delaying childbearing.” But that wasn’t all.
The demographers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also found that, despite reports that fewer Americans want kids than ever before, that’s only partially true: Just slightly more young people plan to have no children today than the number 30 years ago. About 88% of teenage girls want kids (and 89% for teenage boys, interestingly). This is good news.
While the researchers posit that the birth decline is good news, that’s only in the sense that there may be fewer unintended births than 30 years ago. This is good, but a general drop in birth rates is not good for the country in terms of pure socioeconomic health. China is experiencing a massive birth-rate decline, and leaders there are worried. Why? We need fresh, new people to grow the population, expand the economy and pay taxes to support programs for the elderly.
It’s clear from the demographers’ analysis that the decline in U.S. birth rates seems related to the fact that people are choosing to start a family later in life, so families that may have had several children now have fewer than anticipated. It’s also a fact that the more people wait to have kids, the more they change their minds about it. People get set in their ways; vacations for two are alluring, and the biological clock stops ticking.
That is among the many reasons families should have kids earlier. I’d even posit that, while you’re at it, families should have a lot of kids, if they can. The cost to have more than two kids does not go up exponentially with each child, as one would presume, and a gaggle of children is a lot of fun:
The children have built-in playmates and friends for life, and parents eventually have ready-made babysitters and dishwasher-unloaders, as well as double or triple the baby cheeks to kiss and snuggle.
The struggling economy probably makes millennials feel like it’s an unsafe time to bring children into the world. “We hypothesize that Americans see parenthood as harder to manage than they might have in the past,” the demographers said.
It’s true that we’re currently in a recession, credit-card debt has risen sharply and families’ biggest concern is often finances. It’s also true that the costs of raising children, including expensive childcare and college education, seem enormous and perhaps make parenthood feel out of reach.
Tough financial times might seem like a good reason to delay having children, but millennials should not wait. The cost of children — between $15,438 and $17,375 a year — is a lot, but it’s not a lump-sum bill the moment baby arrives. The cost does not appear all at once. With a little planning, parents can juggle this cost. Plus, things will never be perfect when it comes to personal finances or the current economy. Something always comes up. There’s also a lot more to having kids than a cost/benefit analysis.
If mom, dad or both are gainfully employed in some fashion, there are more reasons to have a baby, or several, sooner rather than later. Moms typically recover a lot faster if they have a baby when they’re young. The chances of getting pregnant again are better for younger mothers. And it’s probably more fun to be a parent when you’re younger and have the energy to play with and stay active with them.
There are many ways families can ease costs, from buying secondhand clothing to ensuring mom works part-time, especially with remote-work options now. Baby showers often take care a lot of the first-year costs, save for the birth itself.
In fact, it’s easier to work from home during the first year, when the baby still naps regularly. That gets trickier until about age 4, when preschool is a possibility, but there are ways to juggle that with family and parttime care.
Beyond all the logistics, children bring joy to a family, and that is truly priceless. Costs or anxieties about parenting aside, children reveal a side of parents unseen before, typically an extra layer of nurturing, tenderness and selflessness — all ideal traits that make aging in a challenging world easier.
We need growth, and bringing babies into the world is a truly life-altering experience for couples. Here’s hoping some millennials eschew the trend, forget about their peers and have a lot of children — sooner, rather than later.