Are we selfish or smart? Click this link to see the full story in Time Magazine.
Are we selfish or smart? Click this link to see the full story in Time Magazine.
There's been a lot of fretting over America's sagging birth rate, but little talk about the true cause or how to respond. Whether it be from the more conservative Wall Street Journal or the more progressive Daily Beast, articles are popping up all over the media about the dire economic and cultural ramifications of a shrinking population. In the end, they both come to the same conclusion about incentivising mothers with tax breaks and so forth, but these programs have already been tried and failed abroad. Apparently, there just isn't enough tax breaks out there to make a woman who doesn't want to be a mother change her mind on that. But if Capitalism is dependent on a growing number of consumers to purchase things they don't need so big companies can make a profit, then there is something wrong with Capitalism. However, before anyone starts calling me a Communist, I don't believe that capitalism is the problem. Instead, I believe that a lack of vision and creativity, coupled with a very outdated view of how to grow is. In the following excerpt from "No Way Baby! Exploring, Understanding and Defending the Decision NOT to Have Children" chapter 3, two separate European responses to their sagging birth rate went as follows.
“As other nations react to the inherent challenges of a declining birthrate, there’s an opportunity to learn from them what works and what doesn’t work. Two nations actively seeking to remedy the problem of declining birthrates are Germany and Italy, with their 1.3-children-per-woman fertility rates. In a 2008 New York Times Magazine article titled “No Babies?” Russell Shorto looks at the decline of Europe’s fertility rate and strategies for coping with it. Many European states have implemented pro-natal programs that offer incentives and tax breaks to mothers. However, in the city of Laviano, Italy, the mayor actually offered a cash incentive equal to fifteen thousand dollars for each baby born. The result was an extremely small blip up in fertility and an extremely strained coffer that was not going to be able to maintain such a program for long. The majority of the cash recipients were already planning to have children, so rather than increasing fertility the program ended up paying lots of money for what it would have gotten anyway.
While the urgency of making more German babies is a popular platform for some leaders…there are other, more inventive strategies also being implemented, with fantastic results. A consortium of seventeen cities in the former East German province of Saxony-Anhalt initiated a plan to constructively shrink in order to grow. Tearing down unused buildings and empty housing and replenishing the natural habitats on the land has created jobs and made the urban areas more alive while surrounding them in natural splendor. Rather than panicking and trying to bribe women into making babies, the consortium saw an opportunity to embrace the inevitable population decline and redesign cities for a healthy, sustainable future.”
I do believe in supporting those who want to have children in doing so with family-friendly policies simply because too many who want to have a child (or second or third) just can't find the resources to do so. That would keep our numbers from plummeting too quickly.Yet much to the chagrin of religious conservatives, there is no baby boom in the foreseeable future as millenial women struggle to pay student loans and find a decent job. Clearly, finding ways to "shrink in order to grow" is the approach we need to take. It will require innovation, change and yes, there will be a role for government in this national downsizing. However, a failure to recognize the inevitable smaller population of the future and take proactive steps to support it, is a willful betrayal of future(smaller) generations.
More and more Americans are letting down their defenses, taking a fresh look and realizing that including same-sex couples in legal marriage, with its rights and benefits, is just one more evolution in an ever-changing institution. This photo is a reminder of the many ways in which marriage has evolved. Here's some more things that have changed:
Ok, so the truth is that the "Rule of Thumb" expression is often said to trace back to a law stating that a man could only beat his wife with a stick no bigger around than his thumb. A quick bit of on-line research reveals that there's no real historic basis for this, which is a reminder not to just repeat things because they sound true. However, marriage, like nature, like humanity, is growing and changing. It always has and always will. The idea that we have achieved some kind of perfection in our current definition is absurd and to fight so vehemently against the only constant - change - is a waste of energy and time.
Perhaps we could look at what is important to protect in marriage, given our current social values. Love, respect, commitment, honesty, trust, affection, etc. What do you think we need to preserve, if anything, in terms of legal defining family relationships? That could be an interesting conversation.
Mitt Romney's pick for Vice President, Paul Ryan, is a slap in the face to the childfree. A man so against a woman's right to choose that he has both introduced and supported bills that would take away not just abortion rights, but birth control as well. Then he would gut any social system that may exist to deal with the fallout of that, like the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid/Medicare, Social Security, General Assistance, Student Financial Aid, and of course, Planned Parenthood. I am personally outraged and hope that for every Tea Party Evangelical voter who is motivated by this decision, there will be two level headed women or men of either party that will vote Obama/Biden if for no other reason, then to stop this toxic ideologue in his tracks.
After much hard work, the updated version of "No Way Baby! Exploring, Understanding and Defending the Decision NOT to Have Children" has been published! And what better time? Birth control is under serious attack, and it is not just the decision to limit family size, but the decision of whether or not to bear children at all that is at risk.
I don't know why this surprised me so much. Considering what I write about and what I hear from mothers and non-mothers alike, this should have been a given. However, the fact that well over half, 61%, of all abortions in the U.S. are performed on mothers still came as a surprise. This doesn't say much about the so called priveledge of being an American mother these days. To hear the right speak about it, abortion is a form of birth-control used by irresposible whores. The truth about who is walking in the door of the abortion clinics is again obscured because to talk about it is to admit we are failing families in Amercia no matter how much pro-family rhetoric comes from the right. Check it out for yourself right here. This abortion fact sheet from the Guttmacher Institute also reminds us that by age of 45 half of women will have experienced an unintended pregnancy and that half of all pregnancies in general are unintended. It's time to shift the conversation away from religious zealots extreme views on birth control and on to the realities of women's lives and the often very difficult decisions they are faced with in these times. It is the only way to create real change.
I was recently donating blood and struck up a conversation with my nurse to avoid thinking about the 4 inch needle headed for my arm. She was telling me about her two little kids, but she just didn't strike me as the mother type. Turned out she wasn't. This 45 year-old childfree woman was taking care of her brother's children because both he and his wife had their parental rights terminated. Knowing how difficult it is to terminate parental rights, I am sure these kids have already been through a lot in their short lives. Soon she will have to decide whether to commit to bringing these kids up as a single mom, or watching them go into the dysfunctional and often dangerous foster care system. If it were me, the choice would be easy to make and hard to live with. There is no way any of my nieces or nephew would be sent to foster care so long as I am drawing breath. However, to be 45 years-old and looking at the next 20 years as a single mother must be such a difficult thing. What would you do?