Nearly half the women (43 percent) who make up Generation X (born between late 1960s and 1980) have no children.
This statistic comes from Petula Dvorak’s buzzy column on Gen X women, motherhood and work. She writes:
Attribute it to more opportunities in the workforce, relaxing social pressure, advances in contraception or watching women such as myself slip into an increasingly disheveled state of hysteria for years after childbirth and vowing not to follow suit.
The numbers were gleaned from a study conducted by the Center for Work-Life Policy, which points to college debt, credit card debts and heightened work loads as the reasons for lower birth rates. Statistics like these are making Gen X women, quickly exiting the so-called child-bearing years, reflect on whether or not choosing career over motherhood was the right choice.
These problems overshadow the benefits, particularly career mobility and reproductive freedom, that Gen X helped pioneer for their successors. Dvorak calls this group (of which I’m part) the “E” Generation. We tend to just call ourselves “millennials.”
Though millennial women are faced with the same debt-related, career-related problems as Gen X women, marriage and motherhood aren’t yet full-blown realities: the oldest just turned 30. More than a few millennial women would argue that it’s increasingly normal to have marriage without a baby, vice versa, or neither marriage nor a baby.
In the comments to Dvorak’s story, 28-year-old reader Eleiana said she can’t even remember wanting children:
“That’s the beauty of the fact that women are, as you stated, no longer required to be society’s “incubators” — those of us who don’t feel that tendency can, for the first time in history, forgo it and do something else meaningful with our lives, instead of spending our lives miserable trying to fit into a mold we’ll never match.”
If Gen X mothers are now acutely aware of their decision not to become mothers, what will the choice look like for the next generation of women? After careers and homes, what do you think the millenials’s version of the American Dream will be?
A couple of answers:
From djinnajess: “My husband, probably luckily for me, is from another culture that is still verrrrry pro-popping-out-babies. Sounds horrible, but it was a good balance to my caution ... Not that parenthood as a working mom hasn’t been stressful - it has - but I really cherish my daughter and our family as a whole. ”
From superseiyan (giving us a male’s perspective): “For me I’d be fine with not having kids. I too haven’t had the “you’’ll change your mind as you approach 30” epiphany yet. Selfish? I have a debate in my mind about that sometimes. I don’t know. I just don’t want kids, but I certainly sometimes wonder how I can give back tot eh world and add value.”