The modern vision of working motherhood is not working out for a lot of women. In a big way. The number of babies being born in the US is dropping, to the lowest levels in 30 years! In 2017, 3.8 million babies were born. That’s a huge number, unless you consider that it’s a 2% drop from the year before.
Initially, the dropping birthrate was thought to be due to the 2008 recession, economic woes and fears. That would be academics and data guys (mostly men) extrapolating from charts.
But what about working women? Arranging expensive childcare, juggling drop off time with early morning meetings and the much needed morning coffee, and often pumping at work—if that’s even an option? Maternity leave? It’s not guaranteed in the US and can vary from zero days in some states to 6 months for employees at Google.
That being said, as women take control of their positions in their social settings, the concept of “choice” has changed. The “pressure” women traditionally have felt to have a certain number of children by a certain age is changing dramatically. There are more and more women delaying childbearing until they’ve attained some of their professional goals, others who are banking eggs to plan for pregnancy when they are more ready, still others who are becoming single-mothers by choice and then those are “child-free” by choice.
As the recession has ended, the economy grows and the birthrate fails to match the data and numbers analysts are expecting, we need to look around at the changing social pressures and choices women face every day. Society needs to continue to work towards ensuring every woman has the power and resources to make the best choice for her. When that’s having another child, there needs to be social and professional support—not consequences—for that choice. And when it’s “child-free” that has to be welcomed and supported too.