The marriage rate is lower than ever (56% of Millennials, aged 25-40, are unmarried). People are having less sex (the number of sex-free young men 18-30 has tripled since 2008), and they are having fewer children (25% of adults in Michigan are childless by choice, deaths outnumber births in half the states, and in San Francisco, there are more dogs than children). And a growing number of young women are making sure that they will never have children by getting sterilized.
So reports journalist Suzy Weiss in her article ‘Humans are a mistake’: Why more young women are getting sterilized.
Part of this is “antinatalism,” the view that it is immoral to have children, a topic we have blogged about. As Weiss puts it, “The message from this young cohort is clear: Life is already exhausting enough. And the world is broken and burning. Who would want to bring new, innocent life into a criminally unequal society situated on a planet with catastrophically rising sea levels?”
She quotes psychologist Clay Routledge, who says that many young people have sense that “humans were a mistake.”“They’re saying that the future isn’t a good investment,” he says, “And if there’s no future, why would you be anything but hedonistic? Why would you donate to charities? Why would you try to make the world better or care about human progress?”
One 28-year-0ld woman Weiss profiles reflects this view, saying, “I think it’s morally wrong to bring a child into the world. . . .No matter how good someone has it, they will suffer.”
But the other women getting sterilizations whom she profiles do not seem particularly concerned about the fate of “new, innocent life.” They tend to speak pretty callously about children. In fact, the same 28-year-old, a Texan, who says it’s wrong to have children because they will suffer says she is rushing to get sterilized because she fears that her state’s Heartbeat Bill will prevent her from getting an abortion. “I can’t take the risk of getting pregnant and not being able to abort.”
Other reasons for getting sterilized are bad experiences with their own parents. “My generation is very aware of the ways that our parents traumatized us,” a young woman told the reporter. “My mom smoked a lot of weed and did her own thing, and my dad was away a lot for work.”
Others express a fear of pregnancy and giving birth, a psychological condition known as tokophobia.
Others have an aversion to children. One young woman commented that kids “kind of gross her out.”
A big reason, though, seems to be the desire to not be tied down, to be free. To the question whether she might come to regret her decision to get sterilized, one woman responded, “What’s there to regret? That I’ll be too happy? Too free?”
Another interview was especially telling. The reporter asked a 19-year-old about her plans for the future after she gets sterilized. The young woman was annoyed. “It’s kind of hard to ask someone who is nineteen and hasn’t finished college what they want their life to look like.”
Exactly! She herself doesn’t know how her life will unfold. Our lives change. And she herself will change. Which is why it is so unwise for women so young to take such a drastic and permanent step. When she gets older, she may well yearn to have a child.
The accounts in the story give a picture of young women happy with their lives now and wanting to perpetuate their current way of living. But that won’t last very long, whether they have children or not, as their friends who do have children move out of their orbit and as they outgrow their social scene. They fail to factor in growing older. And that children grow older.
When they think of having children, they think of babies. But babies, however “gross” they might seem, grow up into toddlers, school children, adolescents, and young adults much like they are now. In fact, for parents, some of the biggest satisfactions of parenthood come when one’s children reach adulthood.
Meanwhile, the parents themselves have grown older. Their adult children–and, importantly, their children–become an important and treasured part of their lives. This extended family becomes their prime social outlet. And gives them the security that they will not die alone.
Not everyone needs to be a parent, just as not everyone needs to get married. Some people don’t have those vocations, and that is fine.
I’m just sad for these young women, not so much for rejecting motherhood but for the reasons that they give, their narcissism and their nihilism.
According to the article, 39% of Generation Z (aged 9 to 24) is hesitant to have children “for fear of the climate apocalypse.” This phenomenon does have an apocalyptic dimension, but it’s not that global warming will destroy the human race. (Those who really believe that “human are a mistake” should welcome that prospect, not try to prevent it by environmental activism.) Rather, this mindset is a sign of the genuine apocalypse:
And there followed [Jesus, being led to His crucifixion,] a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’” (Luke 23:27-29)
Illustration: Jesus Meets the Daughters of Jerusalem (8th Station of the Cross), photo by Damian Gadal via Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0. No changes.