My mother reports that when she was a newlywed (she married in 1959) you weren't seen as fully a member of the adult world until you had kids. Nowadays to have kids means something closer to an expulsion from the adult world. People in the suburbs buy SUVs instead of minivans not because they need the four-wheel-drive capabilities, but because the SUVs lack the minivan's close association with low-prestige activities like parenting, and instead provide the aura of high-prestige activities like whitewater kayaking. Why should kayaking be more prestigious than parenting? Because parenting isn't prestigious in our society. If it were, childless people would drive minivans just to partake of the aura.If this means a damaging decline in the birthrate, what can we do? In Russia, Vladimir Putin is working on economic incentives, but Glenn isn't promoting that. He thinks the change should come from the culture. But how? You can't make it cool to have kids just because we need kids. And the people with the kids aren't helping. Aren't they the ones who do the most to make folks without kids see raising kids as an unattractive proposition? It's a deep, deep problem, and it's not going to change.
May 24, 2006
Glenn Reynolds has a Wall Street Journal op-ed on the dwindling incentives to become a parent. He thinks the standards of caring for kids has gone up -- we supervise them all the time and strap them into car seats -- which increases the burden of parenting. Back in the old days, parents let the kids roam around the neighborhood. (I note that they also didn't waste any time slathering sunscreen on our little bodies. I got sunburns every year that I think they'd arrest the parents for these days -- the kind with blisters and sheets of skin peeling off.) And the rewards, Glenn says, have declined. He doesn't say the kids won't love and amuse you but the rest of society doesn't reward you so much anymore:
Posted by Ann Althouse at 6:43 AM