Is having babies socially and environmentally responsible?

I seem to be at the stage of life when everyone around me is getting married or having babies. I’m a few years younger than most of my friends, so this hasn’t worried me unduely. But it has set me thinking.

There are plenty of arguments against having children: social (there are children in the world already that need our love and help), environmental (the world population is 60 billion or so) and financial (they’re expensive). Given that the world population is ballooning and is arguably a serious element of unsustainability world wide – can we justify having children? Surely there are plenty of children needing adoption or fostering who would need our care. Isn’t this better than bringing another mouth to feed into the world?

So that’s it. No children.
But life is never that simple.

The most environmentally aware and determindly un-broody friends of mine are having or considering babies because of two things: biological pressure and social pressure. Biologically, the 35 mark has become the cut off point. And women feel this two fold. Not only are their biological clocks begining to make babies an attractive proposition for possibly the first time ever, but they feel like this is the final chance. Horror stories about adoption and fostering put them off that, or they just can’t think of loving a child not of their own flesh and blood so much. Totally understandable. And this wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the social pressure. Sometimes from their partner (yes, I know a case of the father being the one that was keen for kids – seriously) but mostly from family.

It’s expected. One of my friends said this to me the other day, and it was an epiphany moment for me. I guess I thought (niavely) that in this day and age and society that women were free from the constraints of homemaking/motherhood/etc. But it’s not really true is it? Women aren’t legally or otherwise compelled, but it is still the norm, it’s still expected. As my friend put it, if you don’t have children, you need to have a good excuse. Something significant that you’ve done with your life instead of having children. No pressure then…. Of all the women in my family, there are two over the age of 30 who don’t have children. Both of them have a good ‘excuse’. There are a similar number in the boyfriend’s family. I’d like to say that this is due to the generation gap and that my generation is different. But I don’t think it’s true. There are plenty of women of my age who just want to settle down and have babies.

So I leave you with two thoughts: if women in their twenties want children and women in their thirties who didn’t want children suddenly have them, how are employers supposed to keep a consistent work force and pay women equal wages to men? And why are women considered selfish for not having children, when it is the rationally responsible thing to do?