New York Magazine deserves credit for publicizing the science of family planning decision-making while also lauding the growing social acceptability of not having children. But what if there’s a third choice?
Despite the recent findings that having kids might be harmful to your self-esteem, it’s pretty safe to say that American culture is “pronatalist:” As soon as you graduate college, start a career, and find a long-term partner, the next level of the video game called life is parenthood. Whether it’s your mom asking about would-be grandkids over the holidays or the endless parade of domestic sitcoms, there’s an agreed-upon assumption that “family” includes children, and that not having kids must be the result of infertility or just not getting around to it (yet). But these expectations are at odds with changes in the way people are living. From the 1970s to the 2000s, the number of childless women in the U.S. nearly doubled, and national data suggests that 15 percent of women and 24 percent of men hit 40 without having kids.
But the article and underlying study might be missing an important point by narrowly focusing on the all-or-nothing dichotomy of having or not having children.
What if there were a third choice, where people could choose to help raise the next generation — with whom they will share the world — without being sucked into the hip-locked commitment of helicopter parenting or age-group isolation of child-free social groups? What if family planning and parenting were something we all did collectively through sharing time, love, attention, and resources? What if we wanted to do this, given the impact that parenting future generations has on all of us? Would that change our choices about parenting? One possibility is that many more would choose to parent via this community model, and that future generations would benefit from the massive investment that choice would create.
The Fair Start modelis all about embracing this third choice,and you can be a part of it.