Choosing to be child-free
Sorry, Ma and Pa—you may have to wait a long time before you see your first apo. That is, if a growing number of millennials are to have it their way.
Any sample of 20- and 30-somethings in 2019 might look like this: Half are proudly documenting their babies’ every burp and quip, while the other half is flinching at the mere thought of having kids themselves.
It’s no secret that more and more millennials across the globe now choose to be childless. Studies show declining birth rates in our age bracket, accompanied by a general acceptance that it’s okay to be single and child-free at 30.
This might come as a shock to our titas and friendly neighborhood busybodies, but it’s not just a Western thing. Pinoy millennials agree with childlessness, too. The total fertility rate in the Philippines actually dropped nearly 60 percent in the last 60 years. (Total fertility rate being the average number of children a woman is projected to have during childbearing years—not the rate of people who are fertile.)
There are any number of reasons behind Generation Y’s reluctance to have kids. Their life priorities are different. They’re not ready for the physical ordeal. They don’t get that fabled motherly instinct. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. In the first place, nobody should have to justify why they’re not having children. There is absolutely nothing questionable about it.
But I’d like to highlight in particular three lines of reasoning that would hopefully help couples and older generations consider reproduction from more perspectives other than tradition.
First, bringing forth a child is a decision that not only affects one family but ripples out into society at large. It’s one more child to enter into the school system (or, God forbid, the juvenile justice system), one more person to leave a carbon footprint, one more living body to take up resources. One more child, times the millions of Filipino couples who choose to have them.
Many parents would glower at this “brutal” view of their sweet, innocent infant, but it’s an inevitable truth, especially in an overpopulated country like ours. You only have to look at a barangay public school or a government hospital to see how reproduction is not merely a family affair but a societal matter.
A second argument against childbearing may be more difficult to swallow. It is antinatalism, or the philosophy that the only guaranteed way to protect a person from suffering is to not bring that person into the world in the first place. Put another way, being born is an involuntary experience that introduces a person into a world full of unnecessary suffering. Antinatalists prefer not to initiate that at all.
Of course, this concept is riddled with potholes in terms of philosophy and science, but it’s worth pondering reproduction from the perspective of the would-be child. What would their life be like? Would they be grateful for the experience of living, or would they end up going under the weight of their circumstances?
A third argument for not having children is fairly straightforward and should hit hardest: If you’re not financially and emotionally capable of raising an entire human person, then don’t. Being a competent, responsible parent is far more important than fulfilling some tradition or continuing your bloodline.
In this regard, plenty of my Gen Y peers have proven they can step up to the all-consuming challenge of parenting. But numerous other parents across generations are ill-equipped for it, and watching the upshot of this, the rest of us millennials are hyper-aware that it is so hard to afford raising a child, more so raising a child well.
These three reasons are worth noting because they illustrate that, contrary to popular belief, choosing to remain child-free is not selfish or self-centered. Many decide to avoid childbearing precisely because they consider its ramifications on the world around them or on the person they could potentially bring forth.
So apologies to our Baby Boomer relatives who never miss an opportunity to try to guilt-trip us with “Why wouldn’t you want kids?” The concern is appreciated, but maybe the better question is, “Why should we want them?”
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