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The Growing American Fertility Divide
September 27, 2011 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Knocked Up & Knocked Down Why America's Widening Fertility Class Divide is a Problem

You hear about the "haves" versus the "have-nots," but not so much about the "have-one-or-nones" versus the "have-a-fews." This, though, is how you might characterize the stark and growing fertility class divide in the United States. Two new studies bring the contrasting reproductive profiles of rich and poor women into sharp relief. One, from the Guttmacher Institute, shows that the rates of unplanned pregnancies and births among poor women now dwarf the fertility rates of wealthier women, and finds that the gap between the two groups has widened significantly over the past five years. The other, by the Center for Work-Life Policy, documents rates of childlessness among corporate professional women that are higher than the childlessness rates of some European countries experiencing fertility crises.
posted by modernnomad (89 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
When you're young and poor with few prospects, it's very tempting to achieve success at something, such as having a kid. Also, if your mom had kids at a young age, it's likely you will, too. If you're not taught something as basic as birth control, or how babies are made, or don't have access to birth control, or your partner doesn't want to use birth control...

On the other hand, both of my sisters are professionals (a prosecutor and a geneticist), and have basically given up having children in order to enjoy a successful career.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:11 AM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Interesting article but I think there's more to be said on the topic that the author just skims over.

Research shows that women with unplanned pregnancies are more likely to smoke, drink, and go without prenatal care. Their births are more likely to be premature. Their children are less likely to be breastfed, and more likely to be neglected and to have various physical and mental health effects. Then, reinforcing the cycle, the very fact of having a child increases a woman's chances of being poor.

Yes, and? This article falls into a trap that a lot of articles on this topic do- they spell out why it's bad for the women in question but not society on the whole. "Women's issues" affect everyone. You don't have to have a grand imagination to see the consequences of having a society with large numbers of impoverished, uneducated, unemployable young people. It's just not bad for them, it's bad for everyone.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:15 AM on September 27, 2011 [25 favorites]


So, my family is a bit of mixed bag, class wise; my parent's generation mostly found good solid middle class jobs and had kids in their late 20s/early 30s. My generation is having a lot more trouble finding that comfortable middle class groove, and it features some very early childbirths.

Whether this is a cause or effect, I can't tell you; what I can tell you is that the outsiderness that comes from being the only cousin without children is bizarre when you experience at age 20. I keep getting things like "oh you'll understand once you have kids" and I want to say "I don't have kids because I'm in college. You work at SONIC. Stop acting like I'm some weird immature outlier." I guess the next time I go home I'll get a lecture about how young I am because I have gotten divorced yet.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:19 AM on September 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


Previously.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:20 AM on September 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think it's overall culture of the educated and those who can get an advanced education. As women we are encouraged to go to college. Then our jobs encourage us to get an MBA/advanced degree. Then we are told "meh, you have plenty of time to get married" so we do so by our 30s. Then the baby thing is discouraged so you can spend time with your partner. Well, biology doens't work that way. Fertility drops significantly at 35 (I was 36 going on 37 and used ART) and then drops again big time at 40.

I just got a work up because I just had to know. Well, a significant test called AMH basically told me I have premature ovarian failure---I may be 40 but my ovaries think I'm over 45, so there goes a chance for a biological child. And it sucks.
posted by stormpooper at 9:24 AM on September 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Their births are more likely to be premature. Their children are less likely to be breastfed, and more likely to be neglected and to have various physical and mental health effects. Then, reinforcing the cycle, the very fact of having a child increases a woman's chances of being poor.

In Canada, 20% of children live in poverty; the majority of these children live in single-parent families; the majority of these families are headed by women.

Much, much more needs to be done to help these women escape poverty, such as providing free quality childcare, and free skills-upgrading so these folks can get better jobs.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:31 AM on September 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you're not taught something as basic as birth control, or how babies are made, or don't have access to birth control, or your partner doesn't want to use birth control...

I'm pretty sure most kids over the age of 11 know how babies are made, and probably long before that.

This particular trope always irritates me, because it's so paternalistic, you know, the poor are just too stupid to control their fertility.

They (we) are not stupid. They are simply not willing to forego a basic human drive in order to strive towards (what seem to them) unlikely goals. If you're looking down a long dim tunnel with no real hope for getting a good job, a college education, a way out of where you are (and where will you go, without friends, family, without money? Might as well plan on moving to the moon) then what's your incentive to abstain from having kids? In fact, the younger you are when you have kids, the more likely you are to be in better health and to have more access to help from younger grandparents.

We have this myth that if poor people just stopped having babies, they'd stop being poor and become successful white collar middle-class workers. Many of the poor themselves don't really buy into this idea, perhaps because they have a slightly better grasp of the obstacles arrayed against them.
posted by emjaybee at 9:38 AM on September 27, 2011 [51 favorites]


Actually, a lot of poor women don't have a good sense of the options around birth control. I know two sisters who have 3 and 2 children respectively, unplanned and without partners. Their mother says that they are allergic to hormonal birth control - but none of them had heard of non-hormonal birth control options (and even if they had condoms, probably don't have the strength to make their partners wear them). Non-hormonal birth control (IUDs, diaphrams & spermicidal jelly) are not widely promoted, though they are very important.
posted by jb at 9:47 AM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Rich, privileged people have always wrung their hands over poor, marginalized people having too many children. Always. Sometimes from a point of view of outright bigoted paranoia and sometimes out of supposed well-meaning concern. Very old story.

If you don't like it, eliminate the privilege and wealth disparity. Problem solved!
posted by edheil at 9:48 AM on September 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


>I'm pretty sure most kids over the age of 11 know how babies are made, and probably long before that.

This particular trope always irritates me, because it's so paternalistic, you know, the poor are just too stupid to control their fertility.


I'm going to disagree with you here, and I am also going to defuse the poor (you) vs rich (me) dynamic by saying that I'm the son of a plumber.

I've taught for 10 years, including middle school. Some kids get the concept of how babies are made, but some don't, and some (at least in the US) are never taught, thanks to a shitty education system or by actual design.

Some kids are not mature enough to have the intellectual ability to understand that if you have unprotected sex, you will have a child. Other young women/girls are pressured into having unprotected sex by their male partner - what is more important, spending money on booze and cigarettes, or condoms?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:49 AM on September 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


The wrong people are having babies, get your shit together white collar women!!!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:50 AM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


We have this myth that if poor people just stopped having babies, they'd stop being poor and become successful white collar middle-class workers. Many of the poor themselves don't really buy into this idea, perhaps because they have a slightly better grasp of the obstacles arrayed against them.

Also, um, everybody can't be rich - everybody can't even be middle class. Poor folks could all abstain from having kids and bootstrap their way though college en masse, and there'd still be a reserve army of labor and low wages for them when they looked for work. It would just be that you needed a BA to work at Sonic.

I don't understand how people think that most people can overcome poverty when we have a system that is class-stratified in its very nature. Rich folks need poor folks to work for them; capital needs vulnerable labor to maximize profits.
posted by Frowner at 9:52 AM on September 27, 2011 [23 favorites]


We have this myth that if poor people just stopped having babies, they'd stop being poor and become successful white collar middle-class workers. Many of the poor themselves don't really buy into this idea, perhaps because they have a slightly better grasp of the obstacles arrayed against them.

Totally, and to take it further: When you are truly poor, your family is your wealth. It's your social safety net, retirement plan, and hope for the future. In some cases your children are your "coworkers" or at least a source of income. Why would you possibly give that up?
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:53 AM on September 27, 2011 [9 favorites]




Some kids get the concept of how babies are made, but some don't, and some (at least in the US) are never taught, thanks to a shitty education system or by actual design.

Add to that the fact that teenagers tend to overly discount the likelihood of undesired outcomes generally. Mix the judgment of your average teenager with a few beers and you have a lot of poor decision-making, whether its about unprotected sex or getting behind the wheel of a car or "oh hey let's go steal the flag from in front of the police station" or whatever. Class and income will inevitably shape the consequences, but teenagers being stupid cuts across all demographics.
posted by ambrosia at 9:56 AM on September 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Its alright though, I'm sure that this larger demographic of dispossessed and put-upon children growing up in or near poverty will have more opportunities as the sound of rich kid's laughter vanishes.

Aw, who am I kidding, Idiocracy here we come!
posted by Slackermagee at 10:03 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Promises I Can Keep is a good read if you want to understand the reproductive choices of poor women.
posted by vespabelle at 10:03 AM on September 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


I recall a friend mentioning that the de-funding of Planned Parenthood in some states priced birth control pills out of their reach....
posted by eviemath at 10:04 AM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure most kids over the age of 11 know how babies are made, and probably long before that.

I don't think so. It's not as easy as "Insert penis into vagina, get a baby". I'd bet most teenagers and even a lot of adults don't know much about fertility cycles, about only being able to get pregnant during certain times of the month, about fertility symptoms (like temperature and cervical fluid), about how "pulling out" is almost better at getting you pregnant then at being a way to not get pregnant, etc.

Just last month, I had married friend ask me about me trying to conceive and such (I'm 4 months pregnant) and she actually said, "but how do you KNOW when you're in your fertile days???".

So no, not everyone, educated or not, know how babies are made. Or avoided.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:07 AM on September 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


everybody can't even be middle class. Poor folks could all abstain from having kids and bootstrap their way though college en masse, and there'd still be a reserve army of labor and low wages for them when they looked for work. It would just be that you needed a BA to work at Sonic.

Everyone can, and should, be middle-class. An economy, even a capitalist one, is not a zero-sum game. The problem is woefully inadequate labor organization and income distribution, which can be fixed with stronger unions and stricter taxation - so yes, the solution is always more education.

Unfortunately, the aristocratic class has started to figure this out, and are ramping up the cost of education to protect their strata.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:08 AM on September 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


I have to admit "Idiocracy!" was our initial reaction when I shared this piece with my husband last night. (That's our defensiveness, I know.)

From the article:

The fact that our extremes seem to almost magically balance each other out is only part of the reason we've failed to recognize these problems. The other part is that we've applied a distorted notion of choice to both trends. Certainly many professional women opt out of motherhood because they want to—and because that choice is now less stigmatized than it once was...

But as much as we'd like to see our decisions about pregnancy and childbirth as straightforward exercises of individual will, or choice, there are clearly larger forces at work here, too. "Whether it's the lack of services and education you experience because you're poor or the corporate pressure because you're successful, the broader society's organization of work and support completely affects something as personal and intimate as whether you have children," says Wendy Chavkin, professor of clinical population and family health at Columbia. "These latest numbers show how the macroeconomic trends are lived out in people's personal lives."


It's the inevitable conclusion of: not providing enough education; not providing enough services; not valuing the needs of families and parents; not caring enough to have empathy for those in different positions than you; a profound insecurity that someone, somewhere, might take advantage of you and we can't allow that by any means. Yet so many are all too happy to focus on those below - bullying those that can't fight back to keep their own precarious balance - instead of be forced to examine and perhaps admit they're being manipulated by those above. (And manipulated with exactly the strings telling them that of course they are too smart to be manipulated! Sigh.)

It seems a common reaction these days to so readily dismiss societal trends as individual and discrete choices; I've found it very hard - swimming upstream, pretty much - to try to argue otherwise with most people I've dealt with. I see many people in North America are very invested in this idea of humans as strong individuals, masters of their destinies, mostly uninfluenced and unaffected by larger trends, able to boldly shape their lives to whatever they want them to be - sounds inspiring on the outside, but it's rotten at the core. To me, it's some kind of coping delusion. I suppose people find it weak or disenheartening, making them unconsciously insecure - and therefore defensive and angry - to admit we *are* influenced, we *are* shaped, and we *are* affected by society. Angry people won't listen or try to understand; they just react.

And of course this hurts us all in the end, probably too late - because it brings forth the "fuck you, I got mine".
posted by flex at 10:12 AM on September 27, 2011 [21 favorites]


This particular trope always irritates me, because it's so paternalistic, you know, the poor are just too stupid to control their fertility.


The wrong people are having babies, get your shit together white collar women!!!


Yeah ya know with all due respect to you and emjaybee up there, I think the reason we have a problem with it is because its not like saying you cant have a puppy. It's a person. A brand new human being that doesnt have a choice in YOUR poverty.

I grew up poor and it is only by a tiny sliver of good luck in the haystack of bad that I was able to escape that (and Im still struggling at age 37) and get into a sorta-kinda middle class existence that its taken me 15 years to claw up out of. Knowing you lack the resources to raise a human being well and doing it anyway, especially doing it multiple times over...well Im sorry but — biological drive or no biological drive — how is that anything but extremely selfish?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:21 AM on September 27, 2011 [16 favorites]


The problem, once again, as she does point out but doesn't get to emphasize as much as she probably would have liked to do, is lack of affordable high quality daycare and paid parental leave.

These would solve several problems:

1) Women's ability to get paid equally to men.
2) Work/life balance issues
3) Lowered empathy: decrease stress on parents and kids and you increase empathy and health
4) Part of unemployment: high quality daycare means lots of jobs!!! Paid family leave provides temp jobs.
5) Part of health care: high chronic stress increases risk for all forms of illness from mental illnesses like schizophrenia to heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Nurture actually physically reduces high levels of stress hormones linked to these issues.

Oh, but it's hopelessly idealistic to think America could have what much of Europe considers basic necessitiies.
posted by Maias at 10:22 AM on September 27, 2011 [23 favorites]


Sharon Lerner is misreading [his or her] sources, and a key premise of the article is not supported by the research it references. Lerner's byline is "Why America's widening fertility class divide is a problem" and the article asserts"[A new study] from the Guttmacher Institute, shows that the rates of unplanned pregnancies and births among poor women now dwarf the fertility rates of wealthier women, and finds that the gap between the two groups has widened significantly over the past five years".

However this study does not discuss the fertility rate difference between classes, only differences in unintended pregnancies.

In fact women with advanced degrees are now significantly more likely to have children than they were 10 years ago, so the claim that class fertility differences are "widening" is unsupported and dubious.
posted by dgaicun at 10:33 AM on September 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


I don't see a "problem"--I see part of female society doing what it wants to do and the other part doing what they want to do.

The "problem" is that everyone is starting to realize that you really can't do both successfully unless you are as rich as the family in Mary Poppins.
posted by resurrexit at 10:43 AM on September 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


What I tend to see left out of these articles is the intentions/desires of the women. Do those childless rich ladies want children? Do the poor mothers wish they didn't have their children?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:43 AM on September 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Any evolutionary biologists around who could comment? I'm not one myself, but I wonder if there is a evolutionary justification for organisms with fewer resources to have more offspring, and vice versa.
posted by scottcal at 10:52 AM on September 27, 2011


Everyone can, and should, be middle-class. An economy, even a capitalist one, is not a zero-sum game. The problem is woefully inadequate labor organization and income distribution, which can be fixed with stronger unions and stricter taxation - so yes, the solution is always more education.

No, people can be less immiserated - ie, you can have healthcare and a television and retirement while still working at the gas station if there are leveling social policies in place, but what you can't have under capitalism is a country full of self-actualized people doing meaningful work. In a nation full of gas stations and SuperTargets, someone has to be the cashier, and being a cashier sucks. We've so structured our society that there are a LOT of shitty jobs out there...and if everyone has a college degree, that doesn't mean that there are suddenly more "college-worthy" jobs. Instead, there are suddenly more people who have lots of education competing to work at Dunkin' Donuts. That's why, frankly, I've noticed that people who interview for the extremely small number of jobs on offer at my employer have to leap through about fifty more hoops than they used to - we have a large army of highly-educated people competing for a small number of non-horrible jobs, so now instead of a college degree and some experience to get in the door, you need at least a Master's and a raft of internships.

It's an education arms-race - individually, you need more education to compete with the progressively more degreed-and-credentialled masses out there, but collectively, when everyone is scrambling for one more certification no one can stop without risking their employment.

And "more education" - if what you mean by education is "training", well, back in the day the corporations used to do that. Now we pay to get trained so that they don't have to. We can all "educate" ourselves in human relations and sales and so on, but that doesn't, again, mean that we'll get better jobs out of it.

I'm fine with education for the sake of learning, frivolous BAs, etc, but the idea that if we have a nation of college-educated citizens we'll suddenly all get jobs with healthcare, benefits and at least $40,000 a year....
posted by Frowner at 10:52 AM on September 27, 2011 [18 favorites]


I've been meaning to write a sci-fi short story about a society where careers have gotten so competitive and complex that middle-class people typically have to stay in school until their thirties (and work until their eighties). So a person doesn't really become an adult until age 40 at least. It's a social crisis! Few women can have kids while they're still fertile! The population is dropping fast!

Then a wise social engineer invents a brilliant solution: everyone gets a mandatory multi-year break from the career ladder at age 18 (sort of like a rumspringa?). During this time, they are, uh, "encouraged" to have a few babies, and give those babies to their own grandparents. So each woman loans children to her parents' generation, in exchange for the promise of children from the next generation when she comes of age. Sort of like social security, but with babies instead of money!

The story would be about all the interesting drama that would inflict, since everyone would be raised by "stepdad" and "grandma" while "mom" is out of the picture.
posted by miyabo at 10:57 AM on September 27, 2011 [16 favorites]


I don't see a "problem"--I see part of female society doing what it wants to do and the other part doing what they want to do.

How do you know that's what those women really want? How do you know that some of those women don't feel that their options are extremely limited, if not non-existent?
posted by ambrosia at 10:59 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's an education arms-race - individually, you need more education to compete with the progressively more degreed-and-credentialled masses out there, but collectively, when everyone is scrambling for one more certification no one can stop without risking their employment.

There are these things called Unions... you may not have heard about them, as they're pretty rare these days.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:00 AM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


miyabo, nice story idea. A woman I know has her child staying with her mother (in another city) a lot. She says that her mother insists "it's done this way in Cuba where we are from" and she lets her mom take care of her daughter a lot because she's quite busy running a chain of her own brand stores and is quite young. She misses her daughter, but her mother can provide a stability she doesn't have herself right now, since she works and travels a lot.
posted by dabitch at 11:18 AM on September 27, 2011


"Abortions for all!"
posted by Sys Rq at 11:27 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Then a wise social engineer invents a brilliant solution: everyone gets a mandatory multi-year break from the career ladder at age 18 (sort of like a rumspringa?). During this time, they are, uh, "encouraged" to have a few babies, and give those babies to their own grandparents. So each woman loans children to her parents' generation, in exchange for the promise of children from the next generation when she comes of age. Sort of like social security, but with babies instead of money!

Sounds a little bit like Iceland
The comfort of knowing that, come what may, the future for the children is safe also helps explain why Icelandic women, modern as they are (Iceland elected the world's first female president, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, a single mother, 28 years ago), persist in the ancient habit of bearing children very young. 'Not unwanted teen pregnancies, you understand,' said Oddny, 'but women of 21, 22 who willingly have children, very often while they are still at university.' At a British university a pregnant student would be an oddity; in Iceland, even at the business-oriented Reykjavik University, it is not only common to see pregnant girls in the student cafeteria, you see them breast-feeding, too. 'You extend your studies by a year, so what?' said Oddny. 'No way do you think when you have a kid at 22, "Oh my God, my life is over!" Definitely not! It is considered stupid here to wait till 38 to have a child. We think it's healthy to have lots of kids. All babies are welcome.'
My best friend had a pregnancy scare at 21 and her mother, a nominally pro-life person, said she needed to get an abortion because it would ruin her life. I don't think she's ever forgiven her for that. She's pro-choice, but one of those people who didn't ever want one herself. Her family was quite rich, but it's pretty taboo on our culture to have grandparents supporting children (it's really common among poor Americans).
posted by melissam at 11:27 AM on September 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Maias, I don't think parental leave is the end-all you propose. Consider, for instance, a woman who has been raised in poverty, who has heard the pro-get-married-have-a-child propaganda we're all showered with. This woman, maybe in her late teens or early 20s, falls in love with some guy, has bought into the "love conquers all" story, and decides to have a kid with him. Heck, maybe they even decide to have the kid because they think the kid will save the relationship.

Then the relationship goes to hell, maybe he ends up going to jail for one reason or another, and she's on her own with a kid.

So she divorces him, and tries to claw her way out of poverty, but the structure of social services in this country means that if you get a job you have problems. Somewhere in there she meets another guy, being his wife is a hell of a lot easier than building a career and independent identity for herself, so the cycle repeats.

Now she's in her late '30s. Her experience in life is waitressing. The only thing she knows how to do is to try to have a relationship, but at this point, with a number of kids, let's say 5, she's struggling to raise on her own, she knows that's a bad idea.

Now let's toss in some truly horrifying aspects of her upbringing. We don't need to go into detail here, but somewhere between her abusive step-father and her choice in husbands over the years... yeah, she's got some pretty dramatic PTSD issues. So she freaks in crowds, has all sorts of esteem issues, is working hard with various social workers to overcome things and do better for her kids than her mom and step dad did for her, but feels judged by therapists and psychiatrists, and... yeah...

If you'd like to meet any number of women like her, there are numerous volunteering opportunities in your neighborhood where you provide emotional support for her, or her children, and work to break the cycle. If you're in the North (SF) Bay area, drop me a memail and I can introduce you personally.

But no amount of parental leave from the waitressing job she had when she was 20 is gonna help her kids achieve more than she did.
posted by straw at 11:30 AM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I also think if we expand the benefit options equal to women who give birth (FMLA + STD + PTO) then we would have a lot more understanding and support of having options earlier no matter our economics.

For the most part, men can get up to 5 days for the natural birth or adoption of a child.

If you adopt--straight, married, gay, single--, you are eligible only for 5 days leave + you PTO (so if you want a break, are sick, etc. you are screwed if you take your entire bank as "maternity")

If you are a parent(s) and you use surrogacy--again, YOU did not get birth so YOU do not get equal benefits.

I think all of those "well YOU are not on medical leave" are bullshit reasons not to give men, women, single, married, gay, surrogate, etc an EQUAL opportunity to bond, love, and take care of that child. I'm thinking about adoption and because of which, I would not be elibigle for three months off let alone anything beyond ALL MY 25 PTO days. So what am I supposed to say to the baby/maybe an older child "well it's great knowing you, here's a nanny/daycare, I'm off to work to pay for you."

That's bullshit. Straight up bullshit. A child, no matter it's origin, and the parent deserves quality and addequate bonding, love, support, adjustment to parenthood etc. I had a very generous three months off and two days before going back my son needed double hernia surgery. Does anyone think I was friggen ready to go back to work in two days after that? After we almost lost him to breathing complications at 6 weeks? F no. Even with adoption I dread thinking about less than three months. If I had a choice, I would LOVE to have a year off and I think everyone should have that option if their job allows for a work from home job. I mean, I manage a friggen website. People pass me PDFs, Word docs via email all day long. I don't even notice when a worker has a new haircut because I don't even see them. No one NEED me in this office all the time.

I think with the world moving to exclusive digital, there is a justified case for everyone, child or not, to have more options.
posted by stormpooper at 11:42 AM on September 27, 2011


Poor women are doing something rich women aren't, they are having children at ages when it is biologically easier to get pregnant in the first place.
If you wait until you are old enough to be in a stable career, you've got the house, the car, the insurance and you are 35+ you WILL need expensive medical interventions. You will have fertility issues because D'UH you are older!
That's just the way the cookie crumbles. Either ditch the mentality that you can somehow 'have it all' and be able to have children, or ditch having children, or stop bitching about the expensive medical interventions required to achieve pregnancy at the time you are entering peri-menopause.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:48 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are these things called Unions...

Not really sure how that's relevant. Having a union might make life easier for the people who have jobs, since it creates entrenchment and reduces competition with those stuck outside the metaphorical factory gates when the labor market is slack, but it just exchanges a competitive arms-race for a lottery system based on having an 'in' with the union.

Branches of my family grew up steeped in that milieu, and it creates its own sort of class structure.

The key isn't unionization, it's reducing unemployment and getting rid of the reserve army of labor. (Which tends, historically, to promote labor organization, since it puts workers in a better bargaining position relative to capital.) All else, including education, is just window dressing if there's huge structural problems in the economy creating widespread unemployment.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:02 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Either ditch the mentality that you can somehow 'have it all' and be able to have children, or ditch having children, or stop bitching about the expensive medical interventions required to achieve pregnancy at the time you are entering peri-menopause

Are you kidding me? Being financially sound, stable, and good insurance to raise a child is is "having it all"? And if I were poor and on Medicaid w/ SCHIP I would be deemed a mooch off of society because I was poor and was soooo irresponsible in having multiple kids.

And I, for one, am not bitching about "expensive" medical interventions to have my child. Mine is covered up to 80% and I live in a state where it's manditory that my company has insurance that covers it.

Finally, premature ovarian failure means that my body is acting older than what it should. At 40 I SHOULD be able to conceive again. I am not just as PCOS, endometrosis, low sperm count, etc. at ANY age causes significant problems in conceiving. It's not always an age thing. For many it's a biology thing.

I'm sorry but I found your comment quite offensive and ignorant on how infertility in general works because it wasn't a "have it all" scenario for me nor for a lot of women/men who sit in the infertility office.
posted by stormpooper at 12:21 PM on September 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


C'mon folks, it's not enough that the rich/poor gap grows in every way, including childbearing/rearing. I think we are ready for the rich and poor to actually become different species. Here's how. Being older when you have a child (30+) is suboptimal for our species from a biological point of view - the offspring tends to be less hardy. Yet, it is also true, that species that delay reproduction are on a higher evolutionary plane - mice breed already at 5-8 weeks of age, dogs, 1-2 years, rhesus monkeys 2-4 years, chimpanzees 8-10 years, humans 12-15. See the pattern? So by only having pregnancies in older women, we are selecting for the better-off to keep reproducing later in life; now, older age is associated with more reproductive failure - how to reconcile that? Simple - we're selecting for that as well - only the successful pregnancies pass on the genes, and as this becomes stabilized, eventually the older reproduction pattern will normalize for health outcomes of the offspring - just as healthy as the younger ones of the other "poor relative" species. Only it gets better - because now you are also selecting for longevity. By shifting the reproductive age to later years, any of those who fall victim to fatal diseases are eliminated from the gene pool. Whereas if everyone can reproduce at 20, the ones who die of hereditary morbidities at, say, 25, pass on their genes. If it shifts to, say, 40, all the reproducers are at least show that their genes allow them to reach 40 and they pass on that to the next generation. How to limit cross-breeding? We already do that quite well - social classes are separating, the poor tend to pair with other poor and the rich with other rich; the way things are going, the separation will only grow greater.

And in time, we have two species generated by society, for the first time, evolution being driven by money. The poor, shorter lived species, with more disease, earlier reproduction and earlier graves. The rich, longer lived species, healthier at older ages, later reproduction and older age at death.

Take that Idiocracy - you're not the only one who can engage in meritless speculation!
posted by VikingSword at 12:36 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think they already gave Eugenics a go. Most people figured out it was just thinly veiled racism.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:57 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


(in my proposed science fiction novel...) Then a wise social engineer invents a brilliant solution: everyone gets a mandatory multi-year break from the career ladder at age 18 (sort of like a rumspringa?). During this time, they are, uh, "encouraged" to have a few babies, and give those babies to their own grandparents. So each woman loans children to her parents' generation, in exchange for the promise of children from the next generation when she comes of age. Sort of like social security, but with babies instead of money!

Science Fiction writer Robert Heinlein had an alternate solution in his novel Podkayne of Mars. In that novel, women had their babies shortly after marriage, popped the babies into cryogenic suspended animation modules, and thawed the babies out of cryo-sleep decades later at the end of their successful careers upon retirement. Since retired people do not have to spend all their time working, they had plenty of time to raise their offspring.
posted by Nyrath at 1:07 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's just the way the cookie crumbles. Either ditch the mentality that you can somehow 'have it all' and be able to have children, or ditch having children, or stop bitching about the expensive medical interventions required to achieve pregnancy at the time you are entering peri-menopause.

There are places that make it possible to have it all because governments have figured out that it's important to keep the tax base up and even out the demographic bubbles. Big age cohorts moving through society are economically and socially destructive. You don't want too many teenagers all at once, nor do you want too many retirees.

C'mon folks, it's not enough that the rich/poor gap grows in every way, including childbearing/rearing. I think we are ready for the rich and poor to actually become different species.

There are already genetic variations between poor people and rich people here in the USA. Not a causal thing, and definitely controversial, but for example a rich child adopted by a poor family will be less likely to become obese than their adoptive siblings, while a poor child adopted by a rich family will be more likely to be obese than their adoptive siblings. This is out of the mouth of a biostatistician at a conference and irritatingly I can't find a good source article on it so may be that particular factoid is total bullshit (though there are other studies of genomics and poverty).
posted by pjaust at 1:18 PM on September 27, 2011


Science Fiction writer Robert Heinlein had an alternate solution in his novel Podkayne of Mars. In that novel, women had their babies shortly after marriage, popped the babies into cryogenic suspended animation modules, and thawed the babies out of cryo-sleep decades later at the end of their successful careers upon retirement. Since retired people do not have to spend all their time working, they had plenty of time to raise their offspring.
Isn't that the novel where Heinlein had to change the ending, because the original tragedy of "latchkey son's sociopathy is only tempered when latchkey daughter's naivete leads to her death" was a little too harsh for the Young Adult publishers of the time?
posted by roystgnr at 1:24 PM on September 27, 2011


but for example a rich child adopted by a poor family will be less likely to become obese than their adoptive siblings, while a poor child adopted by a rich family will be more likely to be obese than their adoptive siblings. This is out of the mouth of a biostatistician at a conference and irritatingly I can't find a good source article on it so may be that particular factoid is total bullshit (though there are other studies of genomics and poverty).

I'll theorize that it's bullshit. If there's anything that has a huge environmental component, it's obesity. Go to upper class strongholds like Ivy league colleges, high schools in the wealthiest suburbs, etc. and you will not see A-N-Y obese people. It's astounding, really.
posted by zipadee at 1:32 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't see a "problem"--I see part of female society doing what it wants to do and the other part doing what they want to do.

The "problem" is that everyone is starting to realize that you really can't do both successfully unless you are as rich as the family in Mary Poppins.


Um, this "problem" doesn't occur in Scandinavia, nor did it occur for the vast, vast majority of human history, where, guess what? WOMEN WORKED WITH THEIR CHILDREN NEAR THEM!!!!

Our environment is unnatural for human child-rearing not because we don't have 50's stay at home moms. That's even more unnatural than the current situation. Our environment is unnatural because we don't accommodate the fact that it takes multiple adults to raise a child and child-rearing is a collective, not individual or nuclear family endeavor.

Regarding poverty and early childrearing: the most successful programs to lift people out of poverty all focus on improving early childhood outcomes. For example, the Nurse Family Partnership (provides baby nurse for first time pregnant women once or twice a week up thru end of 2nd year or so), Perry Preschool, well-designed Head Start and Early Head Start programs— good early childhood education, when started young enough and coupled with resources to help parents cuts crime, high school dropout, unemployment and virtually all bad outcomes, basically.

Our problem is that we don't recognize we have a collective problem: we think everyone should solve daycare, healthcare, work/life balance, unemployment, poverty for themselves.

that's really really silly when other countries have found ways to do it better for larger proportions of people *without* stifling freedom or innovation.
posted by Maias at 1:33 PM on September 27, 2011 [18 favorites]


I'll theorize that it's bullshit. If there's anything that has a huge environmental component, it's obesity. Go to upper class strongholds like Ivy league colleges, high schools in the wealthiest suburbs, etc. and you will not see A-N-Y obese people. It's astounding, really.

Obesity is a signifier of socio-economic class. Being fat means you will most likely earn less in your career.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:35 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


but for example a rich child adopted by a poor family will be less likely to become obese than their adoptive siblings, while a poor child adopted by a rich family will be more likely to be obese than their adoptive siblings. This is out of the mouth of a biostatistician at a conference and irritatingly I can't find a good source article on it so may be that particular factoid is total bullshit (though there are other studies of genomics and poverty).


Wrong, wrong, wrong. See here for how childhood poverty affects stress hormones and leads to obesity, which can actually be mitigated by high levels of maternal nurture.

Sadly, our policy is basically let's stress poor mothers as much as possible, leaving them little time to nurture as much as most would actually love to do.
posted by Maias at 1:36 PM on September 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Our environment is unnatural for human child-rearing not because we don't have 50's stay at home moms. That's even more unnatural than the current situation. Our environment is unnatural because we don't accommodate the fact that it takes multiple adults to raise a child and child-rearing is a collective, not individual or nuclear family endeavor.

It reminds me of something my anthropology professor once said:
"Conservatives are so worried about children with no fathers or no mothers, but I'm really worried about all the children without five mothers and five fathers."
posted by melissam at 1:57 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is only one real compromise between career and biology, women need to have kids before they have a career, meaning the kids must be raised by either the state or the grand parents. We must drastically reduce career imposed relocation of course, especially for the grandparents option.

We might achieve this through two financial incentives. First, there should be financial aid for pensioners who serve as primary caretakers for children, or provide other useful services to society, perhaps funded by an overall reduction in pension benefits. Second, there should be government backed apartment complexes with free 24-7 child care. Access would be based upon merit and need, i.e. the lawyer gets it before the store clerk, but not before the writer. Any such reforms will remain impossible where the Christian conservatives retain power, but Europe could make such progress.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:04 PM on September 27, 2011


What I tend to see left out of these articles is the intentions/desires of the women. Do those childless rich ladies want children? Do the poor mothers wish they didn't have their children?

This is a valid point, but one viewpoint that I've never seen represented in these discussions* is that of the potential children. If you've got a difficult, unhappy life, does it really seem right to create a new, helpless human that will be forced to deal with the same circumstances from birth? That's a question I would ask any parent, whether father or mother. I know a lot of people regard having a child as an inalienable individual right, but my intuition screams at me that that can't be the case when that choice has such an immediate and radical set of effects on another human being. As it stands I've met too many people whose sentiments about having been born into pretty bad situations is sadly reminiscent of the last two lines of Dream Song 28.

* Not just ones about having children as it relates to poverty, either.
posted by invitapriore at 2:04 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wrong, wrong, wrong. See here for how childhood poverty affects stress hormones and leads to obesity, which can actually be mitigated by high levels of maternal nurture.

That there is an environmental component to something does not mean that there is not a heritable component. Obesity is very heritable. That MZ twins are more similar than DZ twins which are pretty close to full sibs argues that the heritable component is large. That adopted infants become very like their biological parents and not like their adoptive parents says the same thing.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 2:10 PM on September 27, 2011




Um, this "problem" doesn't occur in Scandinavia, nor did it occur for the vast, vast majority of human history, where, guess what? WOMEN WORKED WITH THEIR CHILDREN NEAR THEM!!!!


Part of the reason "WOMEN WORKED WITH THEIR CHILDREN NEAR THEM!!!!" for "the vast, vast majority of human history" is because the home was the economic engine of the family and where living and working happened in the same place. It's not anymore, for many people in the "developed" world, and may well never be again. So as unnatural as the current circumstances appear to be, they are also conditioned by something else, and the complexity of this makes your emphatic tone a little grating.
posted by liketitanic at 2:11 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


What I tend to see left out of these articles is the intentions/desires of the women. Do those childless rich ladies want children? Do the poor mothers wish they didn't have their children?

One of the best writings on this subject is the Kindle single, The Baby Chase. I wrote about it here. Yes, it absolutely terrified me. I didn't realize how quickly fertility declines and I can't see myself being able to afford children on my salary before the major declines unless I have help from my parents or I have a rich husband. The author of The Baby Chase is rich, but she doesn't say at what age she started to be financially sound, but sadly she seems to be using all her savings on IVF. I'm more upper middle class, but yes, I'd like to have children before I'm 30, but I'm pretty unsure it will happen.
posted by melissam at 2:14 PM on September 27, 2011


Maias says, "Our environment is unnatural for human child-rearing not because we don't have 50's stay at home moms. That's even more unnatural than the current situation. Our environment is unnatural because we don't accommodate the fact that it takes multiple adults to raise a child and child-rearing is a collective, not individual or nuclear family endeavor."

I don't see how a '50s stay-at-home mom is inconsistent with your collective notion (which I don't even buy as being necessary if a mom's sole job is to raise her own kids--while it's certainly ideal to have lots of family around, it's only necessary if she's working outside the home). At least they're not working outside the home to earn money to pay someone else to raise the children outside the home, which seems to be the plight of many American women. If I'm picking my mom, I'll take the '50s stay-at-home mom over the work-to-pay-for-daycare-and-allegedly-"fulfilled" mom any day.
posted by resurrexit at 2:33 PM on September 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


We're a single-income family. While we cannot afford a house (median house prices in this part of Canada are about $550k) or, at this point a retirement, at least we have happy, well-adjusted kids.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:38 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Um, this "problem" doesn't occur in Scandinavia, nor did it occur for the vast, vast majority of human history, where, guess what? WOMEN WORKED WITH THEIR CHILDREN NEAR THEM!!!!"

Nothing stopping anyone from strapping on a papoose and starting a subsistence farm in their yard or stuffing envelopes or selling Cutco knives.

But if you're referring to helping mom pull herself up to the level of sitting in a cubicle filling out TPS reports downtown all day before returning to suburbia to pick up little Johnny from daycare and thaw out his frozen dinner, I'd say that your argument misses the real problem: we Moderns have our priorities mixed up, which is not a "collective" problem at all except for the fact that everyone's priorities are mixed up.
posted by resurrexit at 2:42 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"If I'm picking my mom, I'll take the '50s stay-at-home mom over the work-to-pay-for-daycare-and-allegedly-"fulfilled" mom any day."

Mr. S had that 50s mom. She was the typical "little wife." Now that there are no kids to care for she's very lost, needy and unfulfilled. Her life revolved around catering to her family, and now they don't need that. She's intensely unhappy in her marriage, but has no resources to leave. I had that other mom. She encouraged me to attain a higher education. She showed me how important it is to be a whole person and not just a mommy. Her job contributes to the lives of many people. Her income allows her to have a nice car & house, and kept her out of the poorhouse when my father suffered a very expensive terminal illness. She has hobbies, many friends, and an active social life. She was also one of these people who put off having kids into her mid 30s so she could complete her education.

I'm not saying my childhood was perfect--far from it--but I wouldn't trade.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 3:00 PM on September 27, 2011 [16 favorites]


I don't think there's any reason a 2 person working household can't do a great job with kids, but the level of intense organization and effort it takes starting the moment you get in the door until lights out is something that eludes most people, perhaps moreso at the younger/less educated/less mature end of the spectrum. A family where one parent stays home and the other comes in the door at six and plays the bullshit "I worked all day" card is going to be a nightmare of dysfunction. You have the day job, you have the night job. The night job is the one that has more long-term importance in most cases.
posted by docpops at 3:02 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


She showed me how important it is to be a whole person and not just a mommy.

That's the ticket. Though I worry that too many people thinking of the stay-at-home mom think back to one particular mom's sad personal issues and come away with a sense that it's either/or, that one is either a whole person or just a mom. That dichotomy is certainly possible, but not at all a guaranteed outcome of staying at home.
posted by resurrexit at 3:37 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


If there's anything that has a huge environmental component, it's obesity.

The prenatal environment is still an environment.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:57 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


@kitty stardust I fully agree. My mom wasn't 'allowed' to work. And when it comes to the stay at home mom w/ no skills education and combine that with domestic violence, you leave many women with no education, skills, self confident, nor finances to leave. At least in the end, I may be some 40 year old working mom who can ONLY have one kid but at least I have choices. Plus I do show my son that I can and do it all not because I wanted it all but because I wanted options in life.

Plus I can't cook. People would starve if they relied on me.
posted by stormpooper at 4:02 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


We don't need anything as complicated as government daycares, to start; we could provide incentives for independently-run daycares to be located in any office building above a certain size (run by a local company or a chain) with the daycare and the companies in the building collaborating to offer a reasonable rate to working parents in the building. I could work happily if it was possible to go down and check on my kid once or twice a day, I could breastfeed without pumping if I wanted to, and I would still get to work. It would also cut down on commutes and pollution.

But something so sensible must be socialist, so right now, it's unthinkable.
posted by emjaybee at 4:52 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mr. S had that 50s mom. She was the typical "little wife." Now that there are no kids to care for she's very lost, needy and unfulfilled. Her life revolved around catering to her family, and now they don't need that. She's intensely unhappy in her marriage, but has no resources to leave.

Self-fulfillment and self-actualization have to be core to the decision for either parent (including same-sex couples) to stay at home with the kids, rather than societal obligations. Personally, I can't recommend living as a single-income family. It's too risky financially.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:56 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


She showed me how important it is to be a whole person and not just a mommy.

Whether or not one has paid employment doesn't have anything to do with being a "whole person," any more than does the question of whether or not you've had kids.

Personally, I can't recommend living as a single-income family. It's too risky financially.

Arguably, being a single income family might be more secure, compared to a situation where both incomes are essential to keep things running. In that case, either person losing their job will result in disaster; in your case, the breadwinner losing their job could be covered, if required, by the other person reentering the workforce. Two people earning, and saving a lot of money, is obviously the most secure, but a lot of two-earner families I know are pretty well maxed out, with no safety margin.
posted by Forktine at 5:25 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Arguably, being a single income family might be more secure, compared to a situation where both incomes are essential to keep things running. In that case, either person losing their job will result in disaster; in your case, the breadwinner losing their job could be covered, if required, by the other person reentering the workforce.

Elizabeth Warren has argued this in her lecture on household bankruptcy.
posted by jb at 5:28 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Having a child is murder. You are bringing into the world a being that is mortal, and conscious of that fact.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:03 PM on September 27, 2011


There was never going to be a demographic crisis. Native-born American fertility hasn't been sufficient to fill the demand for any class of American workers for 40 years, and the ability to dial up immigration at any particular desired level of education or professional qualification is essentially limitless.

In any event, younger women spent a decade seeing their older sisters and co-workers experience the biological falsity of the "I can have it all, and then start kids at 39" program. Nobody believes it, and nobody practices it, anymore.

This is only anecdata, but I just can't believe that the authors of these pieces have alumni magazine or Facebook reading experiences so different from mine, which teaches that educated women are overwhelmingly get married in their 20s and early 30s, with kids at an orderly pace thereafter; and when they get married in their mid-30s, the kids come at a somewhat more urgent pace.
posted by MattD at 6:17 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't see how a '50s stay-at-home mom is inconsistent with your collective notion (which I don't even buy as being necessary if a mom's sole job is to raise her own kids--while it's certainly ideal to have lots of family around, it's only necessary if she's working outside the home).

Actually, no. The setting of one parent alone all day with little children is completely out of line with evolutionary history, no matter what that parent's gender is. It is highly stressful to be home alone with no one but young children for company and high stress does not make for good caregiving. Good caregiving requires the adult to modulate the child's stress; to do that, the person must be able to modulate their own stress, which is difficult if not impossible without social support.

Ask any parent—male or female— about what it's like spending most of your day, every day, with only young children and no adults for company. It makes people crazy because it's a situation we're not biologically set up to handle. There's a reason there was massive drinking, smoking and tranquilizer use in the 1950's!

We can be biologically respectful of adults and children if we provide paid family leave of about 18 mos to be split as parents prefer and high quality daycare for older kids. Societies that do this are not only happier but healthier and just as productive. We're also running out of jobs to keep everyone employed, with most people feeling stretched and unable to spend enough time with family and friends. It's not rocket science to solve this by more family leave and daycare and fewer working hours. Oh yeah, but we couldn't do that because that would mean admitting that 80% of women actually already work outside the home and the 1950's aren't ever coming back. So, instead, we pretend we don't need to support families.
posted by Maias at 6:21 PM on September 27, 2011 [17 favorites]


The problem Maias is that you are picking and choosing selective elements of evolutionary history to support particular social policies that matter to you today. It's also part of "evolutionary history" (at different selective moments) that most women died during childbirth, that slavery was commonplace, and that strong men ruled communities. Hewing to those elements of our sociobiology may lead to rather undesirable policies today.

My point is simply that you can argue in favour of social policies that ease the burden of parenting -- and I agree with your suggestions re: family leave, daycare, etc -- without resort to "we should do this because it's closest to our evolutionary history." I think it's more compelling to say "we should do this because it's fair, it's just, and it results in happier families and an overall more just and healthy society."
posted by modernnomad at 6:56 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maias, will you be my president, please?
posted by jfwlucy at 6:59 PM on September 27, 2011


Modernnomad, I'm not picking and choosing evolutionary events that I happen to like. Death in childbirth wasn't a social policy, for one. Slavery is modern, as far as we know: hunter/gatherers may have taken captives but they didn't have the technology to keep slaves in the way that "civilized" people can. And the rule of strong men in hunter/gatherer societies was far more egalitarian than any modern strongman because if he didn't at least pay some attention to the needs of others, people would leave or depose him.

That's not to say early human life wasn't more violent than today's civilization: I think Steven Pinker makes a quite good argument as to why that's true in his new book. My belief on being "biologically respectful" is that we should fight our evolved tendencies when they are harmful and yield to them when they are helpful. Yielding in the instance of childrearing support seems to have all upside and no downside: yielding in terms of say, supporting our "us v. them" evolved tendency to have little or no empathy for "them" is both costly and immoral. Same thing with yielding to a tendency to repress women!

After all, we want things to be fair and just because of our evolved tendency to cooperate to raise children ;-)

Jfwlucy, I would be happy to if a former IV heroin and cocaine-addicted journalist who recognizes the evidence for evolution would be a remotely plausible candidate ;-)
posted by Maias at 7:39 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


We can be biologically respectful of adults and children if we provide paid family leave of about 18 mos to be split as parents prefer and high quality daycare for older kids. Societies that do this are not only happier but healthier and just as productive. We're also running out of jobs to keep everyone employed, with most people feeling stretched and unable to spend enough time with family and friends. It's not rocket science to solve this by more family leave and daycare and fewer working hours. Oh yeah, but we couldn't do that because that would mean admitting that 80% of women actually already work outside the home and the 1950's aren't ever coming back. So, instead, we pretend we don't need to support families.

Again, sounds like Scandinavia. Lots of women raising other women's children. Not many stay at home mothers, but I wouldn't be surprised if the % of women spending their days taking care of children is pretty much the same. I don't know...call me idealist, but while I don't want to be home by myself with a bunch of kids, I also really don't see the point of even having them if other women are raising them.

Is there a third way? Both of my parents were stay at home, dad was a telecommuter, mom ran her own business from home. Looks like I'll be a second gen telecommuter myself. It's not an option for everyone, but it works for some.
posted by melissam at 7:42 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Um, in Scandinavia "other people" are not raising the kids! They get 18 mos parental leave at 80% salary, so for first 18 mos, mom or dad is at home full time, at least in Iceland. They also tend not to have to work insane hours and the daycare is staffed at a ratio of something like 1 to 3 for the youngest and 1 to 5 for the 3's and up. That's hardly having someone else raise your kids!

They also seem to spend lots more time with extended family than we do, but that's also because they are much smaller countries and more homogeneous. That, of course, makes it easier to develop such policies because everyone is "us" they aren't paying for services for "them," those horrible lazy poor people.

And it's not like there's a rule that you can't stay at home in such places: it's just that they make it so that more people have more choices at far less cost to children's health.
posted by Maias at 7:53 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm educated enough to know that to raise children properly you need a lot of freakin' money and poor enough not to have enough to start a family with the support and security I consider "necessary" to do so.

Sucks to be me.
posted by bardic at 8:09 PM on September 27, 2011


Canada has also has a parental leave program that allows both parents to take time off work for 12 months at about 80% pay. I did that with the birth of our second son (but I only took 2 months off for fear of "harming my career" - as a government manager, I was laid off because of a budget deficit about 3 months after returning to work, among the most miserable 3 months of my life).
posted by KokuRyu at 8:26 PM on September 27, 2011


educated enough to know that to raise children properly you need a lot of freakin' money

I don't agree.

I'm 40 and my partner and I are about to have our third child.

For the second and third child we have money, but when we were raising our first, 17 years ago we didn't. I don't actually believe kids need to cost very much, for starters they don't eat much for the first ten years.

But we live in a inner city Melbourne with access to parks and good public health and education services. Of course all those things cost money, but it is money invested by the community, not money that needs to go directly from the parent.

However If we lived in a place where we did not have family, and did not have good public parks, schools and hospitals, and I needed to compensate for that with resources I paid for it would have been very difficult.
posted by compound eye at 8:32 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Um, in Scandinavia "other people" are not raising the kids! They get 18 mos parental leave at 80% salary, so for first 18 mos, mom or dad is at home full time, at least in Iceland. They also tend not to have to work insane hours and the daycare is staffed at a ratio of something like 1 to 3 for the youngest and 1 to 5 for the 3's and up. That's hardly having someone else raise your kids!


So you get to raise your kids for only 18 months? I don't really see what the ratio has to do with anything, that's still other people even if there are more of them per child than in the US daycares. I do agree they have generous vacation and fewer hours at work, but children still often spend a majority of their waking hours with other people. I lived in Sweden, almost became an immigrant there by marriage and never got the impression that people were close to their families or that they spent very much time with their own children, but I'd be interested to know real statistics.

I liked it there in many ways and miss it often, but there are things you are expected to do there and other things that you are not allowed to do...and yeah, I didn't want to do some of those expected things (daycare) and I did want to do some of the forbidden things (homeschooling). I'm just not interested in having children if they spend their youngest years with random other people, it seems illogical and pointless.
posted by melissam at 8:55 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Melissam:

I didn't want to do some of those expected things (daycare) and I did want to do some of the forbidden things (homeschooling). I'm just not interested in having children if they spend their youngest years with random other people, it seems illogical and pointless.

Does this mean that you want your kids to spend most of their time with you and only with you, until they're, uh, 18? That you don't want them cared for or taught by anyone else?

I'm sorry, but that's not caregiving, that's suffocation. I was raised by a stay at home mom -- who only was one because she had MS and thus couldn't go back to work, although she wanted to -- but I had more freedom and more diversity in my contacts than it sounds like you're giving your kid.
posted by jrochest at 11:13 PM on September 27, 2011


melissam, homeschooling is not illegal in Sweden, it's just very rare. Only around 200 families do it. One can choose schools too, so if you'd prefer your kids to go to say, a religious school, or an alternative school of some other kind (montessori, main study language or similar) and one is available near where you live then you can do that as well.
posted by dabitch at 1:30 AM on September 28, 2011


Does this mean that you want your kids to spend most of their time with you and only with you, until they're, uh, 18? That you don't want them cared for or taught by anyone else?

What? That's a stereotype about homeschooling. I was homeschooled and spent time with many different people of all ages and sexes, unlike people in school who primarily spend time with people their own ages being taken care of by adult women. I took science classes at a community college, I was on a swim team, sang in a choir, hung out with my grandparents, played in the forest with other homeschooled kids who lived nearby, volunteered at a nursing home, built forts with my sister and cousins, hung out with my dad while he worked...I was hardly suffocated and in fact did many things unsupervised that were probably kind of unsafe.

I didn't plan to homeschool my own children until I taught at a normal school and saw how utterly suffocated those children were, confined on a concrete playground, shuffled in lines from class to class...I know not all schools are like that, but I doubt I could afford ones that aren't.

Homeschooling is illegal in Sweden as of this year.
posted by melissam at 6:00 AM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I recall a friend mentioning that the de-funding of Planned Parenthood in some states priced birth control pills out of their reach....

House GOP probing Planned Parenthood’s records on how it spends taxpayer money

Planned Parenthood Investigation Is An Abuse Of Government Resources, Democrats Charge
posted by homunculus at 9:34 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want to ask every one here who already knows they hate these women who get pregnant and have babies when poor, no I want to BEG you, to please research this phenomenon before you lash out in hate. If you're going to throw out so much hatred, please at least make your opinions informed. Go to wherever you trust getting research and read about the following topics:

-rates of relationship abuse and pregnancy coercion in youth from low socioeconomic environements
-rates of age disparate relationships and condom nonuse in older male partners of adolescents in low socioeconomic communities
-inheritable pavlovian fear responses and human tonic immobility in response to sexual abuse

If you really care about the children born to these terrible parents do you really think spreading hatred will fix anything? If you really care, get involved with adolescents who have no one to help them identify what relationship abuse and non-condom coersion is. Help them identify how to create healthy relationships with peers and adult mentors so their only source of support isn't some abusive guy who wants to force his uncodomated penis on them. If you really care offer an opportunity for such youth to process their difficult life experiences and make sense of it and get help with learning disabilities and school struggles that often arise in youth from broken homes. Help them have hope in some better, help them see the repercussions of finding support form someone who is going to force them to create a child that will then be born into a mess.

If you really care; be the change.
posted by xarnop at 12:25 PM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ask any parent—male or female— about what it's like spending most of your day, every day, with only young children and no adults for company.

This is also the experience for most teachers of young children (technically there are other adults, but its a minority of the interaction). My mom was both a stay-at-home mom and a kindergarden/first grade teacher (after we grew up), so she had that experience for a much longer time than most parents. And she doesn't report any dissatisfaction with it (she recently retired). In fact she misses it now, although she does do other things instead (she's not just sitting around doing nothing).
posted by wildcrdj at 4:13 PM on September 28, 2011


Also, just out of curiosity, those who think girls having dangerous unprotected sex are having an empowered blast with hot orgasms and great time might want to consider that this is not really backed up by research. These tend to be girls with big time trauma, previous abuse, coercive/forced/rape first sexual encounters, absent family members-- who are getting more of the same shitty treatment.

If you think they're just having fun care-free sex; you might consider that opinion might not come from evidence based research but from your own experience of fun hot unprotected sex outside of marriage? How much unprotected PIV sex has been had by some of the same people who leap at the opportunity to scapegoat the ones who wind up in a pregnancy because of it?

You know it's true. Those sheets are dirty and so are you...

(I'm just kidding, stop thinking you're dirty and please stop throwing stones at people who already have harder lives than you can imagine? We don't exist to be scapegoats for the naughty unprotected sex stains(fill in the blank sin) on your own sheets/conscience.)

And of course liberals tend to here back down a bit and say "Oh I'm not slut shaming, it's JUST that she didn't get an abortion."

Ok, so who'se pro-choice? I thought women could decide whether they believe an embryo/fetus was a being worth protecting or not? Now you know the answer for her? I thought science couldn't prove one way or the other and it's complicated so we want to let each person who has a fetus/embryo in their body read about it, do whatever they need to do to process their thoughts on it, and decide for themselves?

Perhaps some people believe that even a difficult life-- the experience of being poor in america--- is still worth living. I know, I know, being poor in America is worse than any other impoverished nations, because surely you don't believe that all poor people around the world should cease having children and extinguish themselves entirely... or... do you?
posted by xarnop at 9:36 PM on September 28, 2011


Having a child is murder. You are bringing into the world a being that is mortal, and conscious of that fact.


Well then
posted by stormpooper at 8:15 AM on September 29, 2011


Something that I haven't seen mentioned much is the extent to which condom use (rather than non-use) is part of the picture. Condoms are not nearly as effective as other methods (hormonal, IUDs, etc) but don't require doctor appointments, don't require any kind of caretaker involvement, and are very inexpensive. They're also alone in providing some protection against STIs. The unfortunate result is that they end up being used as the solo method in low-SES groups, leading to higher rates of unintended pregnancy (which gives higher abortion rates and higher total fertility).
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:07 AM on September 29, 2011


Ask any parent—male or female— about what it's like spending most of your day, every day, with only young children and no adults for company.

This is also the experience for most teachers of young children (technically there are other adults, but its a minority of the interaction). My mom was both a stay-at-home mom and a kindergarden/first grade teacher (after we grew up), so she had that experience for a much longer time than most parents. And she doesn't report any dissatisfaction with it (she recently retired). In fact she misses it now, although she does do other things instead (she's not just sitting around doing nothing).


Five and six year olds are different than infants (no diapers, typically, for one) and teachers go home after 6 hours, typically. Not true of isolated stay-at-home parents. Obviously, people have different interests in and tolerance for spending time with very little children without adult company. However, the fact remains that most people report that doing this is stressful— and it is not at all typical of the way childrearing was done for most of human evolutionary history.

If you want to do it, go for it, but if you want to make policy, you have to consider how it will affect the majority of people and for the majority of Americans, both parents work and they don't have paid leave after the birth of a child, nor access to high quality affordable day care. Providing these things would actually help people who wanted to stay at home (paid leave, particularly!) and would certainly not hurt them (unless they were rich and simply can't bear the thought of paying higher taxes, in which case, I have no sympathy).
posted by Maias at 12:57 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Melissam, I had to check up on the Swedish laws, although I already knew they were a lot stricter than in the other Scandinavian countries. You are right, but you should acknowledge that there were less than 200 homeschooling families in Sweden before the law, and far less private schools than in other European countries, including Scandinavia. The Swedes seem to like their system, and we shouldn't try to impose our values on them.
About the specific story you linked to: I strongly doubt it is as clear-cut as presented here. Again, I am not in Sweden, but authorities tend to be very, very hesitant regarding removal of children. It's expensive, and the results are seldom good. Something can be very wrong here, and obviously, we are not going to get the information.

In general, Scandinavian society is much more collectivistic than American society is. The whole idea is to share wealth and share burdens. Some of the problems with immigrants here is that they don't get it. It makes no sense to someone from Pakistan or from the US, which is fair enough, it's just hard to deal with. Many people idealize The Scandinavian Welfare State becaue they imagine it's a big machine for handing out welfare privileges. But that isn't the basic idea. The idea is that you contribute when you can and recieve when you need. And the collective schooling and military service is seen by the Swedes as part of the contribution.
posted by mumimor at 2:33 PM on October 2, 2011


Here's what harms kids: having parents who are too stressed out, busy, uncaring, uninvolved, in bad moods, unaware of their child's experience of life, disconnected, absorbed in drug addiction/alcoholism, workaholism, avoidance behaviors, clinging to unhealthy behaviors like bad easy food and TV to just make it through the misery.

You think these parents only happen among the poor?

If your mother was poor and you HATE her for giving you a poor life, think about what you're the most pissed off about. Are you REALLY pissed that you didn't have nice clothes, or your clothes had holes in them sometimes? Are you really pissed that your food was on a budget?

Or are you pissed that you didn't have an experience of a meaningful supportive family, that your parents collapsed under the weight of it and their behaviors reflected that they were so overwhelmed with life that they couldn't make you a priority? Is the anger really about the fact that you had to live in an apartment, or is the anger about the fact that your parents were too tired to care how your experiences were affecting you?

The real obstacle facing poor families are the parenting behaviors and emotions that come along with facing suffering, and when the ability to connect with the child's needs and meet them on a daily basis has been lost--- any other detail about that sitution involves neglect and likely abuse. But this is not limited to the poor. The poor are not the only ones so absorbed in their lives they don't have a clue how to connect with and parent their children.

Consider that what you're mad about is probably not the material conditions you were in so much as neglectful or abusive behaviors that came from your parents which you identify as being caused by the poverty--- or that poverty was the obstacle that preventing your parents from improving themselves to the degree they could put you first. Consider that there are in fact parents who are poor who are in fact more emotionally in tact and connected with their children's well being than many wealthy parents. It happens. The kinds of stress that erodes will and ability to positively identify healthy parenting behavior is very common among the american poor right now, but it happens across the economic spectrum.

It is cruel to create a child that you are too overwhelmed or unhealthy to love appropriately. Married and educated people are guilty of this crime as well, but the single mother from an unplanned pregnancy carries her scarlet letter for all to see.

Is it wrong to deliberately create a child when your situation isn't wonderful? Well sure.But what is that line? Middle class american values are not necessarily as great for kids as we think they are. How many authoritarian couples who value working, making money, and material success over being emotionally available and nurturing to their kids have make babies? How many absent parents, busy at the office while their children turn to troublesome peers and harmful behaviors to cope with the utter isolation?

How many married people made babies to "save the marriage"? How did that work out? Yet when couples divorce despite all the bad choices they may have made related to creating children in a bad situation, they do not have such stones hurled at them from communities of people who claim to care about community and social justice. "Oh well it was an honest mistake." Of course.

Anyone who hates me for being intentionally impregnated without consent and deciding I didn't want to go through with an abortion, it's about you and not me. Yes my son might wish he had been aborted and that I made the wrong choice some day. I will carry that wieght if it happens. I lament that I can not give him the kind of father that he deserves, but I can do my best to give him the kind of mother he deserves, even if the journey is not as wonderful as I wish I could make it for him. I deeply respect women's rights to decide how they feel about aborting an entity in her body that science/ethics can't give us a firm answer to. Work through your own issues before you slander others who you don't even know.
posted by xarnop at 8:20 AM on October 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


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