Are you delaying parenthood until conditions are perfect?

I have heard that in nature animals will not reproduce if conditions are not right, if there’s not enough food or a safe place to nest. Plants don’t grow and reproduce without the right mix of nutrients, sun and water. What about people?

During the Great Depression (1929-1939), birth rates dropped to 1.9 per woman in the U.S. Couples could barely feed themselves; how could they feed their children? The birth rate went up to over 3.5 during the baby boom that followed World War II. At that time, the economy was booming. People could get good jobs. They could afford to buy homes and raise children.

During the “Great Recession” that started in 2007, birth rates dived again, back to 1.9, and they have not come back up.

I got to thinking all this after reading an article at Jezebel by Madeleine Davies titled “With Environmental Disasters Looming, Many are Choosing Childless Futures.” She discusses how some people are deciding not to have children because they worry about the environment and the world into which these babies would be born. That world includes the wildfires, floods and hurricanes that devastated much of the U.S. last year. I would add mass shootings like the one yesterday at a school in Florida, terrorist attacks, political upheaval, wars, and families living far from each other.

Workers in my dad’s day were reasonably confident that they could stay in the same job and live in the same house until they chose to retire. Now, who can count on that? In Silicon Valley, high tech companies pay high wages, but they also lay people off by the thousands. The cost of living is ridiculous. It feels like we have to keep changing jobs and keep moving just to keep up with the bills. How can we add a child to this situation?

But let’s go beyond the big-picture issues. How many of us with reluctant-to-parent mates have heard variations of “conditions are not right”? We need to finish school, get better jobs, save more money, buy a house, etc. In other words, we need to make everything perfect. But time is passing, and perfection is impossible. Maybe we can have it for a moment, but then the job goes away, a tree falls on the house, or someone gets sick. Maybe we should try for “good enough.”

I could be wrong, but I think men generally worry about the money part more than women do. They feel the burden of supporting a family, even when their partners provide half the income. Women, full of hormones and watching the biological clock, are more likely to say, “We’ll figure it out.” Am I totally wrong on this?

Let’s talk about it. Are one or both of you putting off having children until conditions are right? What would need to change? Do you worry about the world into which they would be born? Do you know others who are having these feelings? I await your comments.

4 thoughts on “Are you delaying parenthood until conditions are perfect?

  1. While this isn’t the reason my husband refused to have children, I have thought of this before. Sometimes it makes me feel a little better about the fact that I didn’t bring a child into this messed up world. I feel like I spared “my children” from a future that isn’t looking very good for anyone.


  2. In my life, I’ve always been waiting until things feel “right”. Those who have lived with an alcoholic might understand. Who wants to be pregnant and have to get out of bed to pick up hubby/daddy-to-be at the bar? Right. Weeks of sobriety turn into months and you start to feel “right”. Then a family wedding or the Super Bowl happens and you have to start all over again. And you are thankful that you didn’t get pregnant that month that you thought you might have been. Months of that cycle turn into years and suddenly your clock is ticking louder than before. You lost track of time but your body sure didn’t.
    These days my marriage is solid. For years and years it’s been solid and wonderful. I’m stronger and better than I’ve every been. But somewhere along the line I must have conditioned myself into not playing that game. We seem to be holding our breath. Waiting for another week of good. Another month of sobriety. Another year of trying to save money.
    I have a cousin who can never arrive anywhere on time. She tries hard, sets an alarm, puts her things by the front door, etc. But she’s always late. Everyone knows she will arrive after the bride has been down the aisle. She slides in after the toasts at a retirement party. Her kid is always the last to shrug off his coat and “catch up with the others.” Some people just can’t get it together. I sometimes feel like the “expectant mother” equivalent of my cousin. I just never got it together.
    There is a point in your life when a person at a party might reasonably ask, “so how many children do you have?”. Then there is the point in your life where people feel comfortable saying, “So you never had any kids, huh?” The timeline between these two gaps is full of possibility and uncertainty. I think I’m waiting to bridge that gap. To get securely to that other end. To know. To finally feel right.


  3. Put simply, my situation is that I was never in a relationship to have a child until I was “too old” after marrying my absolutely wonderful husband. My husband has three adult children and has had a vasectomy. I knew from the beginning of our relationship that having another child at his age was not of interest to him. The thought terrified him and why wouldn’t it? I completely understand where his head was at and I was prepared to be practical and realistic about our future as middle-aged adults. I certainly didn’t wish to be in my late 40s and running around after a toddler, although my yearning for a child is still as real as ever. I find now that whenever I hear of someone I know who has had a child, I spiral into a few days of depression and I find that I cannot admit this to my husband. I am now facing the possibility of having a hysterectomy and am struggling very much, coming to terms with this likelihood. I feel as though once this has occurred, if it does, I will have permanently closed the chapter, on what has been a most fruitless adult life of dealing with the monthly burden of menstruation, which has never amounted to anything.


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