Having it all, for a woman, used to include a fulfilling career, great husband, comfortable house and a couple of kids.
For a growing number of women, having it all now means a childfree life.
The birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in history. From 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which there’s data, the birthrate declined nine-percent.
Pew Research shows that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who are in their childbearing years, but say no to kids. That compares with 1 out of 10 in the 70s.
The largest number of childfree women continue to be white, highly-educated women. Other races and economic backgrounds are catching up.
“Increasingly women are choosing not to have children. That’s really a radical redefinition of who women are,” says Lauren Sandler, who took a look at the trend for a Time Magazine cover story out today.
“For most of human history, women have been mothers first and I think we’re having a hard time coming to terms with that,” Sandler says.
As for the reasons fewer women are responding to the loud ticking of a biological clock, one could be not wanting to interrupt a promising career.
Economist Bryan Caplan says the cost for an American woman who gets off the career track could amount to as much as $1 million in lost salary and lost promotions.
Another reality is that raising a child is expensive.
A child born in 2011 costs an average of $234,900 until age 18, according to the USDA. But the economy may not be the main factor.
Even before the recession hit, in 2008, the proportion of women ages 40 to 44 who had never given birth had grown by 80 percent since 1976.
“A lot of women who I spoke with just simply don’t have the desire for it, and I think that might have always been the case but social factors have often overridden that,” Sandler says.
“However, I do think that we all know how expensive it is to have a kid and how hard we’re all working right now and so if you’re going to do it you really have to want it.”
Another consideration is the relationship between the messages women hear about motherhood and an increasing desire to opt out of it. There’s pressure even before having a child about investing time in motherhood.
There are countless blogs and Pinterest boards dedicated to parenting perfection. If we make being a mom unrealistic, why would anyone want that job?
As you know, it takes two. What do some men think about being childless?
“I talked to a lot of men who want kids and don’t have them. I talked to a lot of men who feel left out of this conversation, but frankly it’s always been an option for men to not have kids and I think society has always supported that,” says Sandler.
“I think it’s time we support it for women too now.
By LINDA THOMAS
I just celebrated my daughter’s 18th birthday. After setting aside my career for many years to raise her and my son, I can’t imagine life without them. I’d rather be careerfree than childfree. How about you?