You have set your glory in the heavens.Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger- Psalm 8:1b-2 NIV
In recent weeks I have come across a plethora of articles all with a shared theme. Each one features women and/or men who have either:
- Chosen not to have children. These folks universally feel really awesome about their decision and think everyone should do the same.
- Chosen to have children and wish they hadn’t.
These articles are not a once in a blue moon kind of a thing. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t see a testimonial from someone who either wishes they had never had children or someone who is thrilled beyond words to be childless. Statistics prove this trend is not a figment of my imagination. In 2021 the birthrate fell by five percentage points to the lowest in a century. The birthrate continued to drop in 2022. The 2023 birthrate appears to be on track for another drop.
There are a couple of things that trouble me about this development. First of all, our willingness as a society to allow these articles to be published reveals a disquieting approval of both callous and narcissistic behavior. I, for one, cannot imagine the deep personal trauma I would have experienced if I had just happened to find an article written by my mother all about how giving birth to me was her supreme regret in life. I do not think I am extraordinarily sensitive to feel this way. In a culture obsessed with personal trauma, one would think there would be an understanding that these feelings (as real and valid as they may be) should never be made public or spoken of within earshot of the child. Period.
Furthermore, parenthood is an onramp to adulthood that causes human beings to think deeply about issues outside themselves. When a young person becomes a parent, all of a sudden they begin to care a great deal about how their beliefs, political views, relational interactions and spending habits will affect future generations. I cannot help but wonder: if a majority are no longer having children will most of society stay stuck in a state of perpetual adolescence? Will enough people be capable of thinking about future generations to keep society from spiraling out of control? Seriously. This is real stuff we should think about.
There are some practical reasons for this trend.
The economy sucks. Life is far more expensive than at any point in my lifetime. Many large corporations have become greedy (James 5:4, Malachi 3:5). They are cutting back on employees and expecting the remaining employees to work harder and smarter for less money and fewer benefits. Inflation has made it nearly impossible for a family to survive on one income. The cost of housing in many areas makes it difficult to survive on even a “decent” salary.
Those issues combined with higher societal expectations about what constitutes “being comfortable” and “financial stability” has made childlessness more attractive to many people. Others have delayed marriage to focus on educational and career goals, or because they have struggled to find a suitable partner. There is without question an expiration date on female fertility. Postponing childbearing will mean childlessness for some people. Additionally, people have become much more self-focused. Taking care of the needs of others and acting selflessly are thought to be at best, a bit silly, and at worst a sign of mental illness. Self-care, me-time and cutting toxic people out of our lives are believed to be the apex of good emotional health. Unfortunately, kids (especially young kids) are naturally kind of toxic (Proverbs 24:15, Proverbs 29:15). Furthermore, me-time is in short supply in the early years of childhood. In a civilization where selfishness is thought to be a virtue a falling birthrate is almost inevitable.
There is a spiritual reason as well.
Christianity teaches every human life is sacred. Humans, regardless of age, social status or physical health are to be cherished and cared for because human beings are made in the image of God. Without the imago deo life is only sacred if we want it to be sacred. Without the imago deo all of a sudden “being human” is a terrible thing. After all, humans are draining, they use resources and sometimes they just kind of suck. This reality makes procreation a selfish act rather than obedience to the command to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28). As a result, the earth becomes more important than the people on it. One of the weirder consequences of this belief system is the insistence humans do dehumanizing things in order to atone for their humanness. This is one reason why there is a demand for people to live in smaller, less comfortable conditions and eat bugs. Many believe humans are bad. Therefore, humans should be punished for being human. Humans should live in cramped apartments, never experience the joy of parenthood, feast on creepy-crawlies and be happy about it.
Unfortunately, the anti-kid movement will only worsen the condition of our world. It will make people more selfish, less future focused and increase depression. Christians can help change this trend by celebrating children, making family a priority and flat refusing to jump on the “kids are bad” bandwagon. As we choose to live obediently to Scripture the world will see a quality of life in Christianity that will make them thirst for “The Living Water” (John 4:1-24) and giver of life.