Raul Freitas

Child Less

 

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For parents, it used to be a given, or at least expected, that our children would eventually have some of their own. After all, it’s arguably life’s greatest challenge and joy, as only a mother and father could truly understand. Today, the paradigm has shifted, seemingly overnight, but the page has slowly been turning for a few decades. Over the last few years there’s been a tendency for couples to abdicate from having children and those who are having them are doing so at a later age, which reduces the likelihood of having more than one.

According to the World Bank, there isn’t one country in their stats whose birth rate hasn’t dropped since 1950. The word’s rate has gone from an average of about 5 to 2.5, as of 2020. Canada has a fertility rate of 1.4, as does Portugal, with the US and UK at 1.6. None of these countries are maintaining the population by births. Ironically, immigration is the only population booster for countries with a fertility rate of less than 2, (I say ironically due to the current waves of anti-immigration in many developed nations). Statistically, it’s mostly developed, or industrialized, nations with the lowest birthrates. Determining factors like the empowerment of women in society due to better education and an increased participation in the work force have contributed greatly to the drop in the number of children per household. Also, women now have greater control over how many children they’ll have and when, due to better contraception and its acceptance in society as a safeguard to unwanted pregnancies.

While in “western” society prudence, planning and even self-indulgence have become the new normal for couples, developing nations, (whose fertility rates are also lowering, but still significantly higher than ours), are populating the industrialized world with their families and making up the difference. This populational shift may be upsetting to a minority of locals, but is exactly what is necessary. At the current rate, without immigrants, the “west” would eventually cease to be. A population equilibrium is in motion; the peoples of developing nations are easing the burden in their parts of the world by emigrating, thus easing the woes of richer nations.

While what is happening today is mostly due to positive changes in our societies, (equality, education, better health care, etc.), we can’t lose sight of the fact that we exist because we procreate. We cannot survive by simply graduating our courses, doing our jobs, having our fun and retiring. No family means a possible lonely end. The numerous families of old looked after each other, especially in old age. Today, who can say they have the time, or even the will, to look after an old mother or father, or both. Are we all just conforming to the fact that we’ll just end up in shared accommodation with another old soul suffering the same fate? I’m not dissing elderly care, but how many end up forgotten and in the hands of those who never knew they existed until they were dropped off at the front desk?

We all have a responsibility to each other. We cannot spend our entire lives strictly concerned with our own well-being. We’re not ‘mommies’ and ‘daddies’ to dogs and old folks are not all meant to end up in ´homes’. Careers, travelling and dinner parties can be fabulous, but there is room in our lives for much more, and these other things we are ignoring can end up being the most fulfilling aspect of our existence.

Fiquem bem.

Raul Freitas/MS

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