Social media diagnosed itself with “baby fever” on no better day than Super Bowl Sunday in response to Kylie Jenner’s pregnancy reveal video. Overwhelmed with heart eyes, tears, and memes gushing over the millennial mogul’s passage into motherhood, the Twitter community — both fans and people feel indifferent to Jenner — could not contain themselves.
But this “baby fever” isn’t endemic to all millennial women. Despite how infectiously adorable babies and children are — I admit the video was cute — not all women want to be mothers. In fact, it seems many millennial women are steering away from the traditional role of caretaker, myself included.
I asked some of my friends, many who are in their early 20s, whether or not they want to have children in the near future or at any point in their lives. The most common answer was “not really.” The reasons varied but most were based on the notion of freedom and security — freedom to navigate through the evermore uncertain career world and economic anxiety.
Whether we see ourselves a part of the gig economy or not, one thing is for certain: gaining experience and establishing one’s self in a career still requires a certain amount of independence. A friend of mine who plans to attend law school after graduation and become a lawyer believes that children can be a burden when making career and lifestyle choices like traveling and changing employment locations.
Though it may sound selfish to call children “a burden,” my friend is right. A mother’s decision may be shaped around her children and can ultimately impact career plans and aspirations. Constant presence, nurture, and love are things that every child deserves to have. They are elemental needs. After all, motherhood is not a status; it is a life. Although unnecessary, it is ideal for a child to be in a stable environment which explains why people who opt for traveling and unpredictability may not want a child.
Maybe I’m a cynic, but I can’t personally imagine passing my own personal issues on to my child.
In 2015, MIC conducted a survey asking millennials why they choose to not have children. One of the listed reasons is the fear of passing on mental health issues.
“I’ve struggled with depression and if I passed that pain on I would feel horrid for inflicting that sadness and numbing on another human,” one response said.
Coming from a family with a history of anxiety disorder, I’ve seen the debilitating effects anxiety has on my mother. As a subject I don’t often open up about, there is only one way to describe the impact on my life. It really, really sucks. I can’t imagine someone who I have raised and have loved repeat my experience.
To be clear, just because someone doesn’t want children, this doesn’t mean they hate children. Sure, some people don’t want kids because they can’t stand them, but others don’t want kids because they genuinely care about them. Fear of passing on issues that have impacted the parent is one thing. Another might be the fear of raising a child in our current harsh reality, such as hazardous government and global warming to name a few.
Again, you might say this is still selfish thinking, stubborn, and perhaps nihilistic. Yes, if someone doesn’t want to pass on mental health issues, there’s always adoption. If one chooses to prioritize their career, they could always have a child later in life. If you don’t want your children to be raised in this frustrating society, then raise them to change it, right?
Society often acts as if a woman’s main goal in life is to have children. Women who don’t have any are often questioned and pitied. In fact, if someone doesn’t want a child, they don’t owe society a reason. If a woman chooses to not have a child and then changes her mind, that is perfectly fine too. Millennials, although they appreciate the occasional cute social media baby, are part of a generation that is allowed to make up its own mind.