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This makes me sad - Journal of Omnifarious

Apr. 5th, 2008

11:58 am - This makes me sad

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This is a really excellent article on why our birthrate has been falling: The Baby Boycott by Stephanie Mencimer.

Sadly, I think the article is pretty close to correct. I've been really sad to notice that women who are smart and capable (the ones I'd most like to have children with) are generally not very interested in having children.

One reason I've become interested in polyamory is that I feel it offers a partial way out of this problem by distributing some of the burden of raising children over more people. But it still is a real issue.

I'm not so much for all the government mandated stuff since I generally feel that lots of government mandated stuff is both inherently unfair and tends to backfire in unexpected ways. But I am interested in changing this situation in some way.

Current Mood: [mood icon] sad

Comments:

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From:joyous_tiger
Date:April 5th, 2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
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This is one of the difficulties I face as well. I really want to have at least one kid and at most two, but I keep landing primary partnerships with people who don't want any. I'm not ready yet, but hopefully in 2 or 3 years I'll be looking around for a partner for the purpose of raising kids. It's a topic within polyamory that excites me for all these reasons.
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From:omnifarious
Date:April 6th, 2008 03:33 am (UTC)
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My ideal is a small poly household of 3-5 adults and a bunch of kids in a big giant house. :-)

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From:foxfirefey
Date:April 5th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
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Humanity is going to have to face a reduction in birthrate and population sooner or later, and I prefer sooner and voluntarily than later and tragically.
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From:omnifarious
Date:April 5th, 2008 07:45 pm (UTC)
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I don't think that's a bad idea. But making it happen this way is.

I think a healthy birth-rate for that purpose is something like 1.9 per woman, not 1.3. 1.3 is scarily low. But that's Japan. It's not that bad here. I don't know what the exact statistics are, but I think it's like around 1.8 for US born women.

But we do have a different problem. The higher your class and the more educated you are, the less likely you are to have children and transmit the values that got you those things to them. It should be the other way around.

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From:akashayi
Date:April 5th, 2008 11:25 pm (UTC)
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I've been thinking about that recently too. For the human race to better itself, the smarter people are the ones that need to be breeding. We're experiencing a sort of reverse darwinism.

Almost all the intelligent people I know are simply choosing not to have children, including myself. Burdening oneself is not exactly the smartest thing to do.

The closest thing I have is a desire for my code to continue on, but that's more out of a fear of death and would probably have to involve cloning myself.
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From:hypatia_j
Date:April 6th, 2008 03:55 am (UTC)
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Reverse darwinism? Not really. In fact, if you adjust for changes in IQ tests over the past 100 years, there is a real and steady (although small)increase in the average IQ in the developed world. (I think it is a point or two per decade.)

There are a lot of attempts to explain why: better nutrition, better education, kids are simply exposed to more situations... Or possibly something I'll explain in a moment.

Lots of people seem to assume that "humans are getting dumber". It's a convenient argument for lots of people on both sides of a lot of arguments, but the data just don't back it up.

Here's the theory I learned in Ed Psych - the people at the lowest end of the intelligence curve are frequently not capable of having an adult relationship and having children. Everyone at the top of end of the curve is capable of having children and some percentage of them will. Since there is a correlation (though smaller than some people assume) between a child's IQ and that of her parents, and since more people at the top half of the curve have the option to have kids, the curve will trend higher over generations.

Sorry for the lecture, this is a topic dear to my heart.
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From:eonen
Date:April 5th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
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The right-wing has a death grip on what American life is "supposed" to be; until it is loosened, this will continue to be a problem.

They believe that if you allow anything other than the "normal" Leave it to Beaver "traditional family"--or even suggest that such a thing exists or can work--then nobody will ever have, or even attempt to have, that "traditional family". Hence all this legislation and lack of legislation that attempts to force people into a very specific lifestyle.
It's the same thing that fuels anti-gay sentiment as well; absolutely anything that might create, allow, or even suggest a non-mainstream family model is instantly, dogmatically rejected by the right-wing.

And, alas, much of the left-wing isn't doing a whole lot to fight against this exclusivity. There's nothing wrong with living like the Cleavers if that floats your ducky, but it's the left-wing's job to say you don't have to if you don't wanna. And they're not doing it. Not really.

What that all adds up to is pigheaded determination by the right-wing to get their way even if it brings everyone to ruin, and the left-wing rolling over and taking it as usual...and in the end, everyone loses. Ain't democracy wonderful? *rolls eyes skyward*
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From:somewoman
Date:April 5th, 2008 08:51 pm (UTC)

Maybe

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It could also be that more and more people are realizing that having children is actually a choice, and that they can opt out of it.
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From:sassy_54
Date:April 5th, 2008 09:01 pm (UTC)
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Idiocracy was kind of a dumb movie, but it definitely addresses this issue. People are choosing to have kids later and later in life, and their bodies are starting to shut down and not allowing it. So the majority of kids being born are by low income, uneducated people. That's not saying that smart kids can't come from low income, uneducated people. I'm not trying to be prejudiced.
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From:omnifarious
Date:April 5th, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC)

I don't think you sound prejuidiced

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That's not saying that smart kids can't come from low income, uneducated people. I'm not trying to be prejudiced.

The thing most responsible for the values and future success of a child are the values of their parents. It's a cycle. People can and do rise above their backgrounds, but it isn't common. So I don't think you sound prejudiced at all, just realistic.

IMHO, one of the worst effects of closet racism in our country is that it makes reasonable discussions about the effects of class and poverty very hard because our politicians are so very fond of using those as a code for talking about race and so we feel like racists when talking about them.

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From:leora
Date:April 5th, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
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I think it misses that for some people it really is a choice they want to make and can make more reliably now. Especially one they can make if they are female, because they do not have to be supported by a man who will expect them to have children for him.

However, the other points are also true. I would have had a child years ago, and probably be contemplating starting a second (I wanted two to three) if I could afford to have children. I can't. So, we delay and hope we will be able to afford children later. At this point, 3 is pretty much out of the question unless I end up with a multiple pregnancy, since I simply don't have enough time to have 3 before the risks of birth defects start climbing, especially as I want to breastfeed each child for a fair bit, which means keeping a decent interval between pregnancies. At this point I am worrying that even if we do get to have a child, having a second child may become a very difficult decision - forcing me to either have the child later than I'd like to or shorten breastfeeding more than I'd like to. And that assumes no difficulties getting pregnant should I try. Every single day increases the risk of birth defects for me already, and I am quite aware of that.

However, people often think we need a birth rate of 2 kids per couple to keep ZPG, but we don't necessarily. When you have your kids is as relevant as how many you have, and with longer life expectancies, fewer children can keep us at ZPG. Personally, I'd like to see some way of helping people in their early to mid twenties to have children, because then you have better health for the children than with older mothers and it's better on the woman's body. Physically, the late teens are actually best for women to have children, about 17-21, I think. But I think pushing it back a little to get increased maturity and experience in the parents is a good idea. But currently that's pretty much financially ridiculous for everyone I know.
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From:omnifarious
Date:April 5th, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
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Personally, I'd like to see some way of helping people in their early to mid twenties to have children, because then you have better health for the children than with older mothers and it's better on the woman's body. Physically, the late teens are actually best for women to have children, about 17-21, I think.

I've thought about this as well. Ways for fairly young women to have children without wrecking their lives.

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From:oniaka
Date:April 6th, 2008 02:02 am (UTC)
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Honestly, I dont care... I myself will be working till the day I die. There wont be any social security for me. They will raise the age for it, while not changing the benifits which means they will be worth less and less as time and inflation goes on. I wont ever be able to afford to simply retire and live on my social security, and unless I retire, I wont ever get it. Sooo, whats the point...

I would rather see a decline in the population. Maybe it will rattle some cages. Get a few things changed. Plus as someone said earlier. Better it be now, and voluntary, than later and tragic.
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From:la_pasajera_k
Date:April 6th, 2008 03:21 am (UTC)
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From:omnifarious
Date:April 6th, 2008 03:31 am (UTC)
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Intelligent people might not necessarily make the best most nurturing caregivers because hanging out with children is not exactly intellectually stimulating. Believe me ;-)

As a counter-example I give you memegarden. :-) And you yourself seem fairly bright as well. Your long introspective posts betray a lot of careful thought on your part.

I think our personal accomplishments are often more important to the world than the ones everybody esteems. I enjoy putting my work out there and seeing people use it or get excited about it, but what I really want is a family and children of my own.

I have a friend who's a foster mom and is thinking of adopting the child she's fostering. I don't think I'd be able to deal very rationally with the child she has. She has sometimes feared for her life because that child has so many problems and knows well how to manipulate the system against my friend.

I strongly suspect there are very few babies available for adoption.

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From:hypatia_j
Date:April 6th, 2008 03:40 am (UTC)
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I didn't read the article, but I noticed the date was 2001. Things have changed.

Here's an article from this year about the current "Baby Boomlet" that is occurring. 2006 was the highest birthrate year in the US since 1945.
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From:hypatia_j
Date:April 6th, 2008 03:40 am (UTC)
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Sorry forgot article:
http://www.citizenlink.org/content/A000006285.cfm
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From:omnifarious
Date:April 6th, 2008 03:44 am (UTC)
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Interesting. :-) I was thinking that various forces may change this. For example, the working from home thing and helping out with chores I think is big. Also, I think employers are starting to get more flexible with their schedules and not insist that employees be full-time.

Several women on my friends-list are having kids. Most of them are poly though, which is something I think also helps.

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From:hypatia_j
Date:April 6th, 2008 04:00 am (UTC)
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Your comment reminds me... I recently picked up a book by a former Bell Labs engineer and executive at Xerox (female) who says she's found a correlation between being a parent and higher positions and respect from colleagues among female executives. (She interviewed over 50 from fortune 500 companies (she contacted 100)). (Sorry, title and author escaping me...)

If that's the case, over the next few years, I think there's going to be a huge shift in how corporate America views motherhood.
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From:nikith
Date:April 6th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)

Just an observation

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For example, the working from home thing and helping out with chores I think is big.

I'm going to assume you mean women receiving assistance with housework from the partners in their life, and say this...

It's not helping, it's being a part of something. I also hate when women say their husbands are "babysitting" the kids. They're not babysitting, they're PARENTING.

I think a lot will change when people realize it takes 100% from everyone to make a household work, with or without children, and that until they give it all they have, people will continue to look for the easy way out. It's much easier to be a woman, maintain a home, and not have kids than to have kids, take care of a house, work, and have a partner who thinks putting away 2 loads of laundry or starting the dishwasher really makes it any easier.

Sorry, I get soap-boxy on this. I live with my extended family (by love, not blood) and mom runs a business, is home with the kids, keeps up on the house and finances, while dad is gone 5 days a week, and puts in MAYBE 2 hours effort a day when he's home. The rest of us in the house make up for his lack of effort. I'm not ok with it, but it's also not my relationship to change.

/end rant
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From:omnifarious
Date:April 6th, 2008 09:32 pm (UTC)

Re: Just an observation

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Point taken. Though I didn't really mean 'helping out' in the sense of 'doing a favor'. I meant 'helping out' in the sense that when you take on a job you are helping the company succeed and could be said to be helping out the company.

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From:kresentia
Date:April 6th, 2008 10:03 am (UTC)
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Interesting article. I agree that it's sad for the people who want to have kids and can't afford to but at the same time I'm glad people are thinking it through and considering the financial aspects of it. And I'm really glad that it has become a considered choice. I hate the concept of "oops" kids. Nothing against them personally but I really believe that every child should start out wanted, not "Oh well, the decision was made for me." I have no intent to have kids partially for this reason. I think kids have too much value and I won't take the risk of damaging one. I adore my nieces and would consider being in a relationship with someone who had their child part time - and I love the idea of a poly family - but kids just are more responsibility than I feel I can handle. And this is coming from a person who does animal rescue, has 8 dogs and a total of 19 different species of mammals (more than one of every species) in my care. It sometimes scares me that I think kids are too much responsibility with all of this and so many people have them just because they want a baby...
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From:jennyeblock
Date:April 6th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)

I love it!

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So many people have the ridiculous idea that it is bad for children to have parents who are polyamorous. I just love how you turn that on its head and offer it as the solution rather than the problem. And I think you are right on!

Wishing you all the best,
Jenny Block
Author of "Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage"
www.jennyonthepage.com
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From:omnifarious
Date:April 6th, 2008 09:40 pm (UTC)

Re: I love it!

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Not to be too combative, but one thing that I do find distressing is the "nanny I get to have sex with" phenomena that seems to be popular in polyamorous couples. I see a lot of couples advertising for a girl to join them with this idea in mind, and I think that it's a problem of a class I call 'environmental problems' in which any one instance is fine but the behavior in aggregate leads to serious problems. In this case the problems being both having polyamory just degenerate into being another name for polygyny and the possibility of a lot of single men with no prospects for finding a partner.

It's not just women who can contribute to childcare. Most of the poly families I see in which this works out well have multiple male members as well as possibly multiple female members.

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From:jennyeblock
Date:April 6th, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)

Re: I love it!

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Absolutely. It has to be a balanced and equal relationship based neither in sexism nor classism. (Or any other "ism" for that matter.)
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