Motherhood, as almost any mother will tell you, is one of the hardest things women do. Especially because she’s rarely doing just that.
Most women are juggling it all: Careers, intimate relationships, friendships, health, home, and then, of course, the kids.
This could be part of the reason why a new Pew Research report, “Public Has Mixed Views on the Modern American Family,” showed that men and women are choosing their careers over having children. But it’s not the whole picture, and it’s too bad for society and for potential parents.
Only about 26% think having kids is an essential part of fulfillment and just 23% think being married remains part of a key component of happiness. Americans now think high job satisfaction and close friendships are more fulfilling than being married or being a mom or dad. In fact, over 70% of people said having a career will help them achieve life fulfillment. This is unfortunate.
There’s two things at play here, although both may carry different weight with different women. The first is that due to the economy, it probably doesn’t feel like it’s as easy to be a mom as it was for our mothers and grandmothers. Inflation is still hefty, grocery prices are skyrocketing and child care costs are extraordinary.
Without a support system or even a supportive, selfless partner, a lot of women are probably looking around at their environment and their wallet and saying, No thanks, I can’t be a mom. That won’t be fulfilling. It will be impossible.
This is understandable to a degree. These are tough times, and Republicans and Democrats alike need to figure out if there are policies that can better help families without plunging America into more debt.
But it’s not all on the government to help us do what humans have been doing for millennia.
And this brings me to a second, far more prickly point, directly related to these new numbers: We’ve become a culture that likes things quick and easy. From food to wealth-building, relationships to careers. We want what our parents had faster and we want to do it with less work.
Thanks to a number of factors preceding our era, including women who paved the way for us, we’re more technologically advanced than ever, women have more education and can earn more money than previous generations.
Discounting the struggling economy, a lot of life is easier than ever before. America is no utopia but compared to some other places and previous eras, it’s a great time to be a woman — and a mom.
So then why do people think parenting isn’t fulfilling? Why are men and women choosing to be childless? Parenting is a lot of hard work and effort doesn’t guarantee success.
In today’s DoorDash society, 18 plus years seems like a long time to see if the seed you planted bears fruit. Parenting is a wait-and-see process without a manual, a receipt, or in some cases, tangible rewards. After almost two decades of sleepless nights, almost $300,000 per kid, and countless trips to soccer, band, football, piano, and more, no parent really knows if their bird is going to take flight or crash land.
Parenting requires a level of effort and selflessness people today simply don’t want to give willingly. That, coupled with the economy and structure of parenting — like a lack of affordable child care — and potential parents have decided it just won’t be fulfilling enough to even try.
But gauging whether one should become a mom (or a dad) based on whether it will be as fulfilling is like deciding not to eat fruits and vegetables because they just don’t taste as good as chocolate cake. Data even supports this. In her book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing,” author and former palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware said people on their death bed always wished they hadn’t worked so hard.
Parenting wasn’t designed to be fulfilling. It’s not meant to fill an adult’s need for love, it’s designed to give love and care to another being, a vulnerable child. It’s designed to give adults a purpose that can go far beyond a career.
This often turns out to be exciting and fun, excruciating and difficult, simultaneously. Good parents do the best they can, embrace the hard times and savor the moments of joy. They often find that the journey and relationship with these special human beings goes far beyond the mere idea of fulfillment, but is purposeful and meaningful both to parents and children.
It’s disappointing to see so many adults choose a career over children. Both are important, but men and women shouldn’t opt out of parenting just because they’re hoping their job will be more fulfilling.
It likely won’t be and, by the time they realize this, it will be too late.
Nicole Russell is an opinion writer at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. ©2023 Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.