By society’s definition I am a millennial. Millennials are “people born from 1980 to 2000. At 80 million strong, they are the biggest age grouping in American history,” according to an article in Time magazine.
Likewise, my social circle consists primarily of millennials. Looking around my social circle I began to realize the amount of friends, co-workers, siblings and students I have that, at this time in their lives, have chosen to remain childless. Concurrently, the United States’ birthrates are at an all-time low. Over the last decade there has been a decline in birth rates for all American women ages 20 to 29, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In fact, “the rate for women in this age group has declined steadily by 27 percent since 2007, a record low in the U.S.”
This data made me inquisitive. Are there mitigating factors that compel so many of these women to make the decision either to abstain from, or delay the choice to have children? As my friends, peers and family discussed their thoughts and feelings on the subject, I noticed recurring topics between all of the Omaha-area women.
With a larger ratio of female to male students in higher education, as well as higher graduation rates for females versus their male counterparts, we are seeing more women than ever are entering the workforce. Many of my friends felt the idea that women can “have it all” is simply an idea and not a reality. These women are all in varying professions — college professors, lawyers, medical personnel, stylists, and theater practitioners — and yet they all feel that either their careers or their children would suffer with the hours they currently put in to their professions.
“At this juncture in my life I have a career, and a career that demands a lot of my time. I don’t think it would be fair to bring a child into a situation where they aren’t my first priority,” said Kaitlin Jones, 29.
“I think I would end up being absent for most of their childhood, or I would resent them because I would not be able to achieve all I have planned” said Megan Ewing, 24.
“The PhD program, but specifically that my research is in Mexico. With that much time apart it just doesn't seem like the best idea to try currently,” said Sarah Campbell, 30.
With all that education comes crippling student loan debt. Personally, after three college degrees I find myself $85,000 in student loan debt. For many women, having the burden of student loan debt, coupled with various other debts (cars, credit card, etc.), makes it difficult to justify the exorbitant cost of having a child. Just to bring them into this world can run you $16,000 and it only gets more expensive from there.
“Babies cost a ton. I don’t know if I have the resources and ability make cut backs to our current lifestyle,” said Krystal Kelly, 30.
3. Health and wellness
Pregnancy is not glamorous, it’s physically and mentally taxing. That alone is a deterrent for many. The act of labor a delivery scares others. But, more than anything I heard that these women didn’t want to risk passing on genetic abnormalities or poor family mental or physical health history.
"Avoiding passing on some undesirable genes," said Mackenzie McNamara, 33.
“I don’t feel the need to birth my own child out of fear of passing on my DNA,” said Kendra Newby, 24.
4. The world
If you’ve watched the news lately, or even opened your Facebook feed, you’ll realize the world can be a scary place. Political climate, national security, environmental factors, even bullying came up in discussions.
“There are several reasons, however, overpopulation and adding to greater collapse is a huge factor,” said Lora Kaup, 34.
“How can I bring a child into a world so full of hate? Every time my child leaves the house, that anxiety is going to kick in, and I'm going to worry that I'll never see them again,” said Stephanie Steele, 28.
If you’re a woman choosing to either delay or abstain from pregnancy altogether, do you have similar reasons as those discussed above, or do yours differ? Feel free to share your thoughts on the topic.
Shea Saladee lives in Papillion with her husband, Brent, and their three children. She works as the Theatre Department Chair at Iowa Western Community College.