A childless generation
When a popular love team like JaDine (James Reid and Nadine Lustre) admitted in an interview that they don’t see themselves raising children in light of today’s unpleasant times, I was admittedly pleased that some celebrities were sharing my thoughts. It didn’t take too long for me to realize that this generation has been silently sharing the same reluctance for child-rearing, although for various reasons. As Anna Louie Sussman wrote in The New York Times, it may very well be “The End of Babies.”
A comprehensive Bloomberg report marshals statistics showing that the average fertility rate was five births per woman in the 1960s. This has fallen to only 2.43 as of 2017.
This drop is even more evident in some countries where the fertility rate has fallen to around 1 per woman. Such is the case for a municipality in Finland called Lestijärvi, where the government gave “baby bonuses” that entitled a resident to receive 10,000 euros for a baby. Countries like Estonia and Japan are also providing incentives for child-bearing.
In the Philippines, of course, this is not a problem. We may even be considerably way too populated for our own good. But it’s a scenario that’s truer for those in the lower economic classes—a big contributor to our fertility levels as a nation.
Many in my age group do find ourselves averse to the thought of raising a human being. It becomes stranger still when we realize at what age our parents started having children. I can’t believe my Momma had me at 19, while 25-year-old Susan at the water counter is a proud mother to some 15 succulents. While we celebrate the news of a new parent among our former schoolmates, these milestones are far apart and don’t come around too often. This year saw more breakups even.
What seems to be the matter? Sussman wrote that our economic environment has provided us with longer working hours and smaller pay, leaving us too busy and too unavailable for falling in love and reproducing. Why even bother when we have to pursue grander ambitions: career advancement, world travel (or domination, you choose) and further studies?
But also, for many, global unrest has created an environment too unfriendly for raising children. For instance, the widely shared October 2018 UN report about the few critical years we have left to reverse environmental damage has worried us considerably. The news of forest fires in the Amazon, Australia and Indonesia were gut-wrenching. Speculations about a looming American recession a decade after the last global financial crisis is also creating ripples of worry.
It’s scarier to think what value systems are in store for the next generation, when there have been unfair criticisms over rigorous methods of discipline even in schools. Mind, too, the noticeable rise in overworked students and burnt-out young professionals. If the trend continues, just what tribulations lie for us in the not-too-distant future? Doesn’t it make sense to spare our children from all these things by actually not having them?
I was thinking of these questions as a 5-year-old toddler reached out to my arms for help—a complete stranger who just wanted to go down from a high bench. I extended my arms to him, lifted him and placed his small body on the ground. He looked at me like I was his hero.
Surely, there are a lot to worry for the children we might have in the future. The grave realities we face and the seeming absence of solutions to address them have frozen our reproductive pursuits. Likewise, societal pressures and modern depictions of success have contributed to our decision to postpone raising families. The thought of bringing a human being into this world now feels unimaginable for some—quite an unkind act, honestly.
But what generation hasn’t faced such grave fears? When was the future ever clear and definitive for anyone? What child was born into a perfect world?
I gave my little friend a high five. It felt amazing to be needed like that. I suppose we can’t really protect our children from harsh realities even if we postpone having them. But with a harsher world in the offing, they will need us nonetheless. We will have to toughen ourselves up for it.
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