Those little noisy coos and cries. Smiles (even gassy ones). Pulling up on every piece of furniture in the house. Saying “mama” on repeat. Singing along to a theme song or favorite TV show. The first day of kindergarten. Losing front teeth. A first crush — and a first heartbreak. An ‘A’ on a physics test. And, of course, graduation.
Watching your children grow is a highlight reel of amazing milestones that make the experience of being a parent every bit as corny and emotional as a Hallmark cards suggests it is. It’s fulfilling. It’s exciting. It’s joyful. And heck yeah, it’s a lot of work. It also runs the gamut of warm and fuzzy feelings.
But wait — a survey of the 2010 Census reveals that there are now more households with dogs than children. Hold all that other stuff I just said: you mean I could’ve just bought a Shih Tzu and strapped it into a Pamper instead? Blimey.
I kid, I kid. But I do wonder — if children are so great, why aren’t more of us having more of them more often?
If the shift is a demographic trend like a recent USA Today article says, I can see it even in my own family. The two generations before mine are massive. My grandfather was the youngest boy in a family of 13, and each of those brothers and sisters branched off to pump out mini-tribes of their own. Together, my grandparents had five kids and that was chump change compared to what was going on around them. Every other couple in their neighborhood at the time had 7, 8, two sets of folks even had 9 little ones. It was a baby-making bonanza.
Then came me and my era. Population 7. Thank God my Aunt Barbara got ambitious enough to go on ahead and have two babies or there wouldn’t even be that many. We’re a generation of only children, me and my cousins. And so far, that singularity has trickled down to our own kids.
I don’t know what the national stats are but ours is because most of us, through failure to heed our parents’ warnings and lack of responsible condom usage, ended up repeating the cycle of becoming solo parents. The majority stopped at one because that’s all it took to realize that this one-woman wolf pack thing is for the birds (and those who didn’t shall remain nameless because the Fourth of July cookout is coming up and I don’t want to spend my time avoiding folks who may not take too kindly to my commentary).
But I think it’s pretty safe to say that the major factor — not just in my family but with everyone, even across racial and economic lines for a change — is not necessarily a conscious decision to have less kids, but because circumstances and conditions are calling for us to have them later. If, for whatever reason, you’re a woman of a certain age popping your first child out in your late 30s or early 40s, it stands to reason you’re not signing up to be a one-woman population replenisher. There’s just no time for all of that.
Jobs and finances are also big elements for normal folks unlike the 19-kids-and-counting Duggars and other mega-family enthusiasts. Between all of those cutie patooty little tricks and picture-taking moments, kids are expensive little suckers. They’re time zappers, too. And if you’ve got your eye on a dream or your heart set on a goal, you’ve got to prioritize between being a mom later on in life to a lesser number of kids or striking while the eggs are super fertile and running the risk of not achieving your every professional and personal desire. That’s a tough call for the woman who wants it all, but apparently a lot of ladies are sacrificing the big family for the overall big dream.
Or it could really be that they’re just content with Fifi and Fido. One or the other.
Do you have as many children as you originally planned or wanted to have? What happened to stick with or derail your plan?
Image via futurestreet/Flickr