So, I read this article that a few of my Facebook friends shared/commented on, because I always like to see what people are blaming on Millennials now. And I had a similar reaction to it as I do the others: resignation that older generations like to blame every problem on us and a simmering rage that they completely ignore the reality of our lived experience and the fact that it was THEIR actions which caused all of the bullshit in the world we all live in today.
The article is titled, “9 Brutally real reasons why millennials refuse to have kids.” The reasons are as follows:
- The world kinda sucks now.
- We’re poor as hell.
- Traffic and high rents make life miserable for the people that already exist.
- Pregnancy is… not… hot.
- Because these days, people have kids for selfish reasons.
- We’ll ruin them up with terrible parenting. (ruin them up?)
- We want careers. So sue us.
- Because they’re not going to fix anything.
- We don’t even need a reason;we just don’t want them, so stop asking!
I agree with many of these, and they do largely represent my views on becoming a parent. I am a Millennial after all, but most of them aren’t actually the deciding factor for me.
For me, really close to the top; possibly tied for first place with number 2 and number 9, is number 4. The others are part of it, but there are primarily three reasons that I don’t want to have a baby. I wouldn’t have chosen that title for number 4, but the sentiment still stands. Have you ever been in a room with a bunch of pregnant women and mothers discussing what happened to their body during pregnancy, giving birth, and after birth? It’s horrifying. Truly nightmare-inducing in a very real way. Not sarcastically. If I hadn’t already been sure of the fact that my body will only ever support my own life the conversation I witnessed between some of my coworkers about giant blood clots after giving birth would have been more than enough to convince me. Post baby bleeding for weeks. WEEKS. I’m inconvenienced by the 3-5 days a month that I have to put up with it already.
Add to that the fact that I know what happens to all of your internal organs as the fetus grows up out of your pelvis. They literally just squish up and crowd your lungs. No thanks. I have asthma, and my lungs need all the space they can get. And your poor bladder. I experience profound, sleepy rage when I have to pee in the middle of the night and can’t just ignore it. Dragging my stumbling self to the bathroom twenty minutes before my alarm goes off just to sit and experience this all-consuming rage at everything only to go back to bed and try my best to go back to sleep at the same time as my head hits the pillow. Because I refuse to get up even one minute before I have decided I have to. That’s not something a parent gets to decide anymore. I remember being terrified of our bathroom growing up. I would walk past the door very carefully not looking at it, and would go and wake my mom up so she could come with me when I had to pee in the middle of the night. And she did it. She got herself out of bed and went and sat on the side of the tub as her child peed and washed her hands, and then she went back to bed. And, because I have the best mom in the universe, not once did she project to my little kid self that she was filled with fiery rage.
I don’t know if I could do that. I might just get really good at cleaning urine out of a mattress or something. That’s how important sleep is to me.
The entire pregnancy/birth/parent process is terrifying and not infrequently disgusting to me. I have watched more than one mom lick food off of her babies hand because it was easier than juggling their squirming baby and the food and spoon etc. so they could reach a towel or wipe or whatever. You know what’s on that hand? Someone else’s saliva and chewed food. And who knows what else. Children have no concept of cleanliness for a lot of years. My nephew still occasionally wipes his nose on me instead of bothering to get a tissue or to use his own clothes. That’s a thing that he occasionally does because he doesn’t understand just how gross that is or adult boundaries. And I don’t even live with him. I shudder to think what substances he might have or still does wipe on his parents.
Which brings me to number 2 (I’m ignoring that obvious parental innuendo.) We’re poor as hell. In many cases I think that too many people say that they are poor with no concept of what it means to be truly poor. But this does’t hold up with many many millennials. We are drowning in thousands upon thousands of dollars of student debt and can rarely find jobs that pay us enough to afford the student loan payments let alone afford rent and food and transportation to and from our sub-par jobs. We live well below the poverty line in many cases. If we’re lucky enough (and this lucky is meant sarcastically, as we’ve just spent 4-8 years getting a degree to make us qualified) to get a job in our chosen field it is underpaid, and we’re often expected to have first had at least two years of experience even though no one will hire us so we can get that experience, so we often do unpaid internships and move back in with our parents if we’re fortunate enough to have that option.
When someone can’t even afford to take care of everything they need to survive, how could they possibly provide all of the things that a baby needs to thrive? Hey, mom, I know that I moved out eight years ago, but can my partner and I and our baby move back in with you? (Yet another thing that millennials often get criticized for doing.)
And finally, I just don’t want to be pregnant or give birth. We were raised to believe that everything is within our reach (a blatant lie fed to 90s kids through popular media) And that we could “have it all.” But I gotta tell you, “having it all” does not mean the same thing to Millennials that it does to older generations. “Having it all” to a Millennial often means having a job that we don’t hate that pays us enough to afford to live in an apartment, buy groceries, take care of our rescue cat, and occasionally do something fun. I often see articles stating that Millennials travel more than any other generation, but that is part of larger, often invisible system of sacrifice. Millennials are buying fewer houses, owning fewer possessions, and there is a reason why the whole DIY movement is happening right now. We can’t afford to buy that cool thing, but we might be able to make it.
We are largely educated, and have an understanding of the impact of humanity on the environment as well as working knowledge of all the harmful chemicals that go into our food. So we grow container gardens in the windows of our overpriced studio apartments and we own three chairs that we found for $10 at a flea market. And we recycle things into other things. And we live communally and without children. We live in the world that our parents and grandparents and great grandparents etc. made for us. Many of the people who are being criticized for not having kids graduated high school just a couple of years before the economic collapse of 2008. We graduated college in a world where B.A. degrees were being devalued, older adults were occupying the entry-level jobs that should have been available for us because they had found themselves recently unemployed, where the US government treats student loans as a revenue source, and where child care often costs thousands of dollars a year if it’s available at all. Gas was also at record highs, and commuting was becoming more necessary to find jobs.
We became adults during the worst recession since the Great Depression in a world that refused to acknowledge the effect this was having on us. So, yes. Millennials are refusing to have children. But it’s not because we’re lazy or entitled. It’s because we understand that we have the right to govern our bodies and it’s because we have lived first hand the reality of just how completely our society has failed us.