Simplify your family?

I believe that we are all better off when men and women become parents because they choose to.

But when there is so much cultural pressure to have children—to pass on your family legacy, to be legitimized as an adult, to fulfill your destiny as a woman—not having children may not feel like much of a choice. (There are similarities with the assumption that everyone should aspire to own a home.)

This week’s Time magazine cover story The childfree life: When having it all means not having children noted two points that I relate to simplifying:

  • For today’s parents (especially mothers), there’s a constant cultural message that we need to invest more in our children.
  • This year the baby-product industry is worth an estimated $49 billion.

It’s useful to be reminded that embedded in cultural influences are industries invested in you and me having children and continuing to grow as consumers. “Before there was a mommy industry, before there was product to move, you’d never hear how it was the hardest job in the world,” says a New Yorker interviewed for the Time article who develops e-commerce sites targeting mothers but chooses not to become a mother herself. “If it’s the hardest job in the world, I’m damn happy I don’t have to do it,” she adds, sounding just the way you think a saucy New Yorker should.

In a world with too many people, especially too many resource-depleting rich people (fellow Americans), we should be glad that some men and women prefer not to add to the population and support them in making a decision they feel is right for their lives. Then those of us who already have or want children can focus our attention on managing outside influences that in some cases are less about doing what’s best for our children and more about consuming in ways designed to make us think we are.

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