29 June 2008

No More Babies?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/29/magazine/29Birth-t.html?ex=1215403200&en=e59465d5cf651905&ei=5070&emc=eta1

I'm starting to think with this surgery and various other (thankfully non-life-threatening) problems that the baby factory might just be shutting down. I find myself completely OK in giving baby stuff away. Mind you, if I were to turn up pregnant tomorrow, aside from my husband asking a few very detailed questions (like WHO, because with surgery it hasn't happened this "month") I'm sure we'd all do just fine with another child and the kid would be well-loved. We're just not planning on another. We're not doing anything drastic, but we're not planning on another.

So it is with great interest that I am reading about "small" families around the world. You know, compared to all my friends on the MOMYs board, I have a medium to small-size family. Compared to the folks in some parts of Europe, it looks like I have an alarmingly large rabbit-warren for a house. 'Tis all relative.

But apparently there are social and demographic factors that make women "decide" to have more or fewer children. Now, 300 years ago, you were (usually!) married and then you could "decide" to have the children you became pregnant with or decide to go for a risky abortion, infanticide or adoption. Today, we get to "decide" if we want to bother becoming parents at all!

It sure sounds like the glamourous life; both "partners" working with plenty of money to spend at the theatre and on L'Oreal makeup. No children to demand time off from the workforce or money for braces. Uninterrupted dinners. Trips on a whim. A small vehicle. A clean vehicle. No smelly poopie diapers, ever.

But what if lots and lots of other people made the same decision? On the plus side, restaurants and travel companies make a lot more money. Ditto jewelry-makers and artists. Orchestra players. Brillo pad makers (rich people don't re-use Brillo pads; did you know that?). On the minus side economically, fewer public school teachers and diaper sales.

Fast forward fifty years. Who's paying the taxes that supports these high-livin' people in the nursing homes when the jet-setting stops, the money runs out, and they qualify for aid? That's what Europe is facing.

I s'pose that the Europeans could fling open the doors to their neighbours and let lots of immigrants in. Trouble is, most of these immigrants are going to have several children and jobs that don't lend themselves to big money rolling in to the state coffers. That little tidbit wasn't really gone into in any great detail in the article, though it's true. Here in America, I'm against illegal immigration not only for cultural and law-abiding reasons, but for the simple fact that most of these folks arriving are willing to accept low wages and change the "going rate" for certain jobs. From the article:

The issue of immigration is related to “lowest low” [fertility rate per woman] as well. The fears on the right are of a continent-wide takeover by third-world hordes — mostly Muslim — who have yet to be infected by the modern malady called family planning and who threaten to transform, if not completely delete, the storied, cherished cultures of Western Europe. And to venture into even-deeper waters, no one knows how Europe’s birthrate might play out globally: whether it will contribute to the diminishing of Western influence and Western values; whether, as Steyn’s book title suggests, America will have to go it alone in this regard.

YIKES! The idea of being inundated by Hispanic immigrants and their strange food preferences seems like a welcome thought in comparison. I have learned to say "taco" over the last several years. I have also figured out what a "burrito" and "nachos" are. Also that there is a difference between a "burro" and a "burrito."

OK, so these folks are Catholic, and they talk a little funny, but they're not quite as threatening as the thought of having my kiddo being friends with the likes of "Jihad." Yes, "Jihad" was really the name of one of the kids at Emperor's preschool. D forbade me from naming my next two kids "Crusader" to counteract this atrocity, however. Live and let live and all that, but "Jihad" is kinda a bit much.

Annnyway...

So some of the "solutions" to a baby shortage would be immigration and incentives. I know that personally, we had each and every one of our children only for the tax incentives. We know that all of Daddy's little deductions of a whopping $1,000 each pay way more than what we spend on each child. (*snort*) But can you imagine living in Norway with incentives like this...?

"The state guarantees about 54 weeks of maternity leave, as well as 6 weeks of paternity leave. With the birth of a child comes a government payment of about 4,000 euros. State-subsidized day care is standard. The cost of living is high, but then again it’s assumed that both parents will work; indeed, during maternity leave a woman is paid 80 percent of her salary. "

Wow. So... I just need to get a job. Have a kid. Work for a little bit. Next kid... I mean, think how wealthy I could be if I were like the Duggars??

I do understand the notion that I ought to generally stay out of your life and you ought to stay out of mine. But I do wonder at this whole notion that you can socially engineer a good society, whether it be with welfare for single moms or big kickbacks for babies born in a certain year.

The article also talks about how if a woman works, the man involved is MORE LIKELY to help out with childcare. The authors are emerging from some sort of drug trip, because that is NOT what I see going on here in the US. I can't imagine that men in Europe are wired much differently, can you? Sure, I can see where a working dad might be more likely to pick up his kid at school if Mom is working, but most of the housework -- let's not kid ourselves -- is going to be Mom's deal whether she works or not. And I know plenty of passive-aggressive men who "help" with the housework so inadequately that they can say they did it... but... they didn't, and then the Mom has to go redo everything... You know what I mean.

(BTW I am NOT talking about my husband, just to let you know. So happens his standards of cleanliness are a little lower than mine, but his standards of what constitutes a good meal for children are higher. It all evens out somewhere. I think we're a pretty good team most of the time when I'm not sitting on my bottom blogging because it hurts to stand and walk.)

I've talked enough. What do you think about the article? If you've stopped having children, is it for some reason other than menopause? Do you think the whole fertility thing is a "none of your business" area along the lines of how much money you make? Just askin'.

8 comments:

  1. I have a Norwegian friend who recently got married and would love to have a baby..but hasn't been able to yet because of their financial situation. So it can't be that peachy for everyone.

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  2. Wow, the article made it sound like you'd be rollin' in the dough if you had kids there...

    Well, I told you they sound a little "off" in their analysis of men working 'round the house when women work, so I'm supposing it's not surprising if their analysis of Norwegian families isn't perfect, either.

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  3. My impression of European men is that they are akin to 1970's Americans in how much they currently help around the house. So any improvement over "doing nothing but help mess it up" is seen as progress over there.

    As to fertility and kids, well we adopted both of ours, and have decided to call it quits on any more because we are getting older (didn't adopt until several years of trying naturally).

    Joe

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  4. I have two kids. I would have had a few more, but hubby didn't want more. As a more mature Christian at this point, I would go back and let God decide the size of our family. I've seen firsthand what a blessing it is.

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  5. We have 6 children and like you, I am not planning to be pregnant again. 3 c-sections was more than enough, thank you. And I couldn't find a doctor to do a VBAC after 2 so forget about after 3. But that doesn't mean we're done having kids. We talk extensively about the possibility of adoption. I think adoption is as close to the heart of God as natural children. After all, He adopted me, seeing as I'm not Jewish! I greatly admire women who, in the spirit of Psalm 127, have decided to embrace being Quiverfull. But it doesn't make them anymore spiritual. I think couples who choose to open their heart and homes to children they didn't give birth to are awesome also.

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  6. I do feel like I'm a medium size family with only have 5 kids. Other people might think different. I feel like we are so spoiled these days we think we can't afford a kid. Yet you see people with a nice house, two vehicles, eating out all the time, nice clothes. Even with half of that they are still totally blessed. Our standards are so high these days, materilism wise, before having children.

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  7. This article is an interesting contrast to all the hysterical pieces being released about how disgustingly selfish people are ruining the environment by overpopulating the Earth. I just read one 2 weeks ago where the author sounded a lot like Hitler, suggesting "population control" policies so that the Earth can be better off.

    I am glad that, for once, at least somebody in the mainstream media is admitting that there's a population drop in industrialized nations. The idea of Muslims breeding like crazy frankly scares me.

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  8. @ Joe: It's kinda hard to get "surprised" when you adopt, unless the agency gets twins LOL!! I don't know a lot of those ins and outs, but adoption sounds like enough of an ordeal that by the time you get the kid, everyone is really sure YOU'RE sure you want one.

    @ Claire: D and I have had "discussions" on the issue of how many kids to have and when. I think one of the harder things is being out of agreement on that.

    @ Terry: Theoretically I wholeheartedly agree with the "Quiverfull" mindset. I'm not a proponent of birth control, etc... But when I see problems and what-ifs starting to loom as REASONABLE possibilities on the horizon, I get concerned. If something should happen to me, my children will NOT grow up in the church because D doesn't attend, etc. I don't get into that "issue" on the blog much for obvious reasons, but there you go. I'm also concerned that Elf would NOT FUNCTION if he had to go to public school as well b/c of issues with his autism. And if I'm not home, who will do these things and pray for the children?

    Virginia, I don't mean to sound rude and mean, but I think often the fancy house and cars and stuff is purchased on money people don't have even WITH the two incomes. I agree with you on the family-size LOL! We're working on paying down debt each month so we can live better on one income.

    Catherine, I guess it IS positive that some media are actually acknowledging that there is a population shift going on. I'm concerned about the spread of Islam, too, though I know God cares for each of their souls and we should be, too. I am sure there are amazing spritual battles going on for these people. I've heard they consider themselves descendents of Ishmael, Abraham's first born, but don't know if there is any truth to the statement. (I guess it doesn't matter, but I'm just chatting with ya!)

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Non-troll comments always welcome! :)