Friday evening we went to Glen Arbor beach to watch the sunset as our vacation draws near its end. We had our family plus my husband’s parents and aunt, his brothers and their wives, and all the young cousins. I sat in my beach chair watching the children romp in the evening waves, chasing sand pipers and plovers, collecting pretty stones, and laughing together. Come on, you know you want to see a couple of my vacation photos:
Such happy scenes of family fun will be increasingly rare in the future if present trends in childbearing continuing:
As I understand it, over the intervening few years since this Pew report, the rate of childlessness has continued to increase, with about 1 in 5 women ending their reproductive years never having had a child. This is an incredibly high rate of childlessness – 20%.
In an article from this past fall by Jessica Valenti entitled Not Wanting Kids is Entirely Normal and published at The Atlantic, a woman named Gianna is quoted as saying:
“I love my son, but I hate being a mother. It has been a thankless, monotonous, exhausting, irritating and oppressive job. Motherhood feels like a prison sentence. I can’t wait until I am paroled when my son turns 18 and hopefully goes far away to college.” One D.C.-based mom even said that although she was against abortion before having her son, now she would “run to the abortion clinic” if she got pregnant again.
How can such a self-centered attitude arise among women? If one is a Christian, one naturally considers that a woman’s primary concern will be for her family. The Proverbs 31 woman is the quintessential example of this:
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
In all things, including her business “career”, she is concerned with caring for her family and household. Although she engages in many tasks, some domestic and some paid, her main goal in all of it is not to gratify her ego but rather to serve her family.
Laura Wood at the Thinking Housewife recently posted this picture:
Mrs. Wood writes:
TIME magazine chose an image of a couple lying on a beach for its latest promotion of childlessness by Lauren Sandler. Imagine if the magazine had chosen an image of old people languishing in a nursing home instead.
Mrs. Wood is referring to the recent Time magazine article with this cover:
Christians who actually follow the Bible believe that most women’s primary concern will be serving their husbands and caring for their children. We understand that a woman who voluntarily chooses not to have children is generally going against her God-given nature and calling, unless she is part of that small group of women whom God chooses to fulfill other purposes. We understand that voluntary childlessness without a God-given calling to it will warp a woman’s personality, causing her to become unhealthily self-focused.
But what if one is not religious? Does a woman choosing to be childless (now euphemistically called child-free) make sense as just another lifestyle choice for these women? No, it does not. If one is an atheist or agnostic, one almost certainly believes in the entire Darwinian religious creed of the origin of the human species from the same common ancestors as all other life via evolution. But how then can remaining childless make any sense at all? The urge to reproduce must be intense – and in women, this is not the same urge as men have, which is primarily an urge for sexual intercourse. In women, the desire to nurture offspring is (as it must be, under the Darwinian religion) innate and indeed, the entire focus of life. A woman without this strong drive being biologically built in would not reproduce and would be weeded out of the gene pool very quickly.
Therefore, it is the same whether one is religious or irreligious: women have an intense, innate desire to bear and nurture children. To suppress this desire requires cognitive machinations that have serious repercussions not only for the childless-by-choice woman but for all women around her. She will become self-obsessed, chasing after fleeting and illusory pleasures, and by doing so, she influences the female herd around her, even the ones who have children.
This is a problem because the women with children would have been satisfied fulfilling the deep need women have to nurture their children if they did not see the illusion (for an illusion it is) of a childless-by-choice woman sipping fruity drinks with little paper umbrellas in them on an exotic beach. This gives the women with children the illusory feeling that they are missing out on something sooper dooper fun that would have been more fulfilling than wiping running noses and cooking dinner. They would not actually be more fulfilled, I think, but even if they were, nevertheless it warps a woman and turns her into a narcissist to chase after self-fulfillment rather than to focus on family nurturing.
A 2011 global study found that the more children couples over the age of 40 had, the happier they were, and their happiness level increased with each additional child. However, there are also a number of other studies that have shown that parents of young children are less happy than non-parents. Focusing on self-reported happiness measures at one point in time is not an accurate way to assess the effect of voluntarily childlessness on women.
A more accurate way of understanding the effect would be to look at rates of mental illness over women’s lifetimes. Given that it is so very unnatural for women not to have husbands and children to care for, it takes an enormous amount of cognitive energy to maintain emotional equilibrium in that state. I predict that we are going to see increasing rates of depression and other mental illnesses in older women as these trends continue. Not only will women suffer the ill effects of remaining childless but because many of them will not be married, they will also have infrequent sexual intercourse as they hit middle age without a husband and their youthful beauty has faded. These two factors will cause women to try to assuage their misery by becoming even more self-involved and materialistic; the emptiness of a life spent chasing after momentary, meaningless pleasure and vanity will ultimately be revealed in large numbers of older women who are depressed or otherwise mentally unstable.