Two coincidental events started me thinking about children and their role in modern Western societies. The first was a party I went to last night, where there were three families with children, including mine.
In each case, each family had only one child, and the child was born when the mother was at a relatively advanced age. All three mothers are career women.
Following this, this morning I came across this article in today's Guardian newspaper. This is a report on British families showing that many career women are putting off starting families until late in their lives, when fertility rates drop and the chances of conceiving are reduced. They did this for economic reasons; not because they did not want more children.
The report is significant as it suggests this baby shortfall is destined to have bad effects by reducing the numbers of young people in relation to the elderly.
In the U.S., which is still enjoying an influx of young immigrants, this effect is not likely to be so pronounced. (And I wonder how many supporters of what is becoming an increasingly vocal anti-immigrant sentiment in this country have actually thought through the consequences of their proposed policies.) But in England, and I believe much of Europe, this is more of a problem.
I know from the experience of my wife how hard it is to juggle having a family and a job, particularly any sort of relatively high-powered professional job. She works part time both as a University Adjunct Professor and tutor in the Writing Center there, and that is a good balance for us. But it has quite a juggle, especially when my child was younger, and needed day care. This is not cheap, and often is needed when the parent's income is not that high. Furthermore, we have made career decisions that have cut both of our potential earnings potential to give what we believe to be proper attention to our son.
All of which leads me to believe that much more family friendly work policies are going to be needed, and established as a standard. As these are a long-term consideration, they are not likely to emerge from the world of business, with its often woefully shortsighted focus on short-term earnings.
But, curiously, this important problem really does not seem to be on any politician's agenda. I wonder why this is?