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Having kids much more than lifestyle choice


A woman’s right to choose not to have children is becoming more and more acceptable in our society, and this is an important, necessary feminist advancement. I celebrate this achievement, because it empowers the individual to opt into or out of what happens to her body.

But the latest Statistics Canada news that there are now more seniors than children in this country has got me thinking a little bit differently. As I sit here nine months pregnant awaiting the arrival of my second child, I feel, with every kick, an equally strong ping of doubt surrounding the assumption that the choice to have kids is on equal footing with the choice not to. Although I support my childless peers, I also know deep down—literally, in my belly—that while theirs is often a lifestyle choice, mine is so much more than that.

Having children not only continues our lineage and provides us with joy, fulfillment, transformation and love, it also helps society. My children will be the ones who help pay for your health care in the future. So, the childless will benefit from my choice to have children, and, conversely, my children will face certain consequences (financial, mostly) of your choice not to have children. But this is not your fault.

Currently, the challenges are great for parents and choosing not to have kids—when it is a choice, and not an impossibility – is practical. Parenting is expensive (almost a quarter of a million dollars per child) and can delay or limit your career. It can be hard to find a partner that you want to raise kids with, and there are not enough support systems in place for single parents. These are just the tip of the iceberg.

What, then, is the solution to the nationwide decrease in children and ensuing economic malaise? Neither the childless nor the child-rearing is more “in the right” than the other. While I don’t agree with the out-dated idea that having children is one’s adult duty to society, I do think that the way our social services and tax systems are currently set up, the voluntary choice of many to be childless will create problems for our society in the coming decades.

The solution, then, lies in the hands of politicians and voters who have the power to remove the challenges that parents face and that appear, to childless-bychoice people, to outweigh the benefits of having kids. This will encourage people to have more babies. Alternatively, they can restructure our social services and tax systems to fit better with the trend of continued declines in working-age adult populations.

This will balance out the cost to the next generation of supporting the large proportion of seniors. And finally, we should always welcome immigrants. Immigrants are responsible for P.E.I.’s increase in population and they, as fellow Canadians, generally improve our culture and our economy.

 

Natalie Pendergast, Ph.D., of Oyster Bed Bridge, works as a communications manager in Prince Edward Island. She shares her unique perspective as an anglophone working in the francophone community with Journal Pioneer readers, and reflects on current affairs pertaining to la francophonie in her bi-weekly column.

 

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