Yesterday, on a day that I had four hours of childcare help, I still spent roughly an hour or so potty-training my 2-year-old, changed a few diapers, managed two terrible temper tantrums, did several loads of laundry, cleaned up countless messes, and stepped on no fewer than three legos. And according to a new study fewer women than ever will experience this unique kind of… joy. The National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University found that “the percentage of married women ages 40 to 44 who had no biological children and no other kids in the household, such as adopted children or stepkids, reached 6% in the period from 2006 to 2010, [which is] a small but statistically significant jump since 1988, when only 4.5% of married women had no kids.”
Whether by choice or infertility, more American women than ever are reaching their 40s without having kids. While the vast majority of those women remain unmarried, the slight increase in married women who remain childfree suggests an evolving view of marriage. It’s becoming less and less about child-rearing and co-parenting…and seemingly more about — get this! — love and companionship . Crazy talk, I know!
“There’s a resistance to parenthood being the default after marriage,” Childless by Choice Project director Laura S. Scott said. “People are questioning it in ways that they didn’t perhaps 30 or 40 or 50 years ago.”
A Pew Research Center survey three years ago found that “a shrinking percentage of American adults said children were very important to a successful marriage.”
“We’ve moved away from the idea that the sole or even the primary purpose of marriage is to produce offspring,” said Debra Mollen, associate professor of psychology at Texas Woman’s University. Instead, “we want someone to share our lives with.”
Interestingly, additional studies from the Pew Research Center and the journal Demography show that “parents now spend more time and money on their children than they did decades ago” (I believe that!), suggesting that parenthood has become a more intense job — an intensity and challenge that some couples simply decide is not for them.
Another study, conducted last year, found that more Americans agree now than they did in the 90s that “having children interferes too much with the freedom of parents.”
Are people getting more ambitious and finding less time and focus for raising kids? Is the evolving role of women both in the workforce and at home changing their views on parenthood and making it more socially acceptable to remain childfree? Are women simply marrying later in life when their fertility has dropped significantly and it’s much more difficult for them to conceive naturally? Based on pure social observation, I’d say “yes” to all the above.
Still, choosing not to become a mother is still the exception. “Despite the demands of parenthood, the vast majority of Americans — 90% — either have children or want to have them, a recent Gallup poll showed.” And many couples who remain child free either by choice or inability to conceive, often complain of a remaining stigma.
They aren’t, however, complaining of endless diaper-changing or the skyrocketing cost of childcare…
[via LA Times]