“When are you having kids?” That’s a question you might be asked a lot if you haven’t procreated yet and happen to be married. Maybe the question annoys you. Why is everyone so concerned with whether or not you’ll add little humans to this planet? I’ll admit that I even ask the question of friends often. Personally, I ask because I wonder – being someone who isn’t having kids – how long this blissful child-free phase of our friendship will last. I know once my friends have kids, it will be harder to carry on the way we do. And that’s okay. I want my friends to do whatever makes them happy, but I’d like to have time to emotionally prepare if my BFF is going to be MIA to be on mommy duty. There is one subtle difference you may not have picked up on though, surrounding future parenting questions. People are now asking if you’re having kids, and not when you’re having kids.
It seems like people are backing away from the assumption that you are, without a doubt, having children. And that’s refreshing. Any time someone asks when you’ll do anything (buy a house, find a man, switch cable service providers) there is the implication that that’s just what you do, and you’re put in an uncomfortable position if that’s not what you planned on doing. Perhaps people are picking up on the stats about millennials having less children. Millennial women and men are, in fact, less likely to have children than previous generations. Some call it selfish (like the pope…and my mom), but have they considered our reasons? They’re pretty valid. Here are compelling reasons a number of millennials aren’t having kids.
People aren’t getting raises
A 2019 survey found that about half of American workers received no pay raise that year. Another study found that many employers are opting for bonuses instead of wage increases, afraid to increase base pay because, once they do so, they can’t take it back down. A bonus is a non-committal way of rewarding employees for their hard work, without making long-term commitments for better pay. Here’s the problem: if we can’t rely on consistent raises and/or only see these one-off bonuses, how are we supposed to plan for our futures? How are we to make calculations about what we can afford (like, you know, a family) if raises just aren’t happening?
Home prices are growing too fast
Here’s another frightening fact: home prices have increased 156 percent since the 1960s, and wages have only increased by 49 percent. In the 1960s, a young couple could pay for a house with roughly 25 percent of their take-home income. Most millennials would laugh (or faint?) at that figure today. And generally speaking, when people want kids, they want a house to put them in. They want a home with several rooms, and maybe a yard for their kids to play in. They want the financial security of an appreciating asset, like a house, before taking on the financial responsibility of a child.
Homes are getting smaller
Homes are getting smaller, too. The lucky bunch of millennials that can afford homes aren’t getting the ones our parents and grandparents had. In fact, over 25 percent of millennial homebuyers purchased a house with less than 1,200 square feet. That’s about the size of a two-bedroom apartment. The average size of homes purchased by older generations was 1,850 square feet. Naturally, you can easily fit another bedroom or two in a home of that size. But the idea of raising not just one child but perhaps several in a 1,200 square-foot home is claustrophobic. What of the days when people of moderate means could afford a home office and a guest room?
The political climate is getting scary
If you’ve been awake for any of the last few years, then you’ve picked up on the fact that the political climate is frightening. The Left and Right are more divided than ever. Or, maybe we just know more about the division because we have social media for people to air their grievances and pick all-out battles in comment threads. Things do feel rocky, and studies have found that people do feel the political climate has increased in toxicity. Perhaps some millennials don’t want to bring children into a world where it seems hate crimes are increasing over political divides. I wouldn’t.
There’s too much judging
Doesn’t it feel like parenting guidelines are changing faster than you can say “gender-neutral bathroom?” It’s no wonder research finds that the majority of parents (moms more than dads) feel judged a lot. Many adults already feel that they struggle to keep up with new societal guidelines on appropriate behavior and speech, so how are they to then teach a child to keep up? Add to that the changing societal guidelines on what it means to be a good parent. In the blink of an eye, what used to be seen as an effective disciplinary action is relabeled as psychological abuse. And with cancel culture alive and well, it seems any choice as a parent could mean your image is suddenly circling the Internet because of one questionable choice.
Employers are hesitant to hire moms
SoFi and Modern Fertility conducted a survey that found the biggest factors keeping women from having kids has to do with money – specifically not having enough of it. Women want more pay before they take on dependents, and that makes sense. But if their plan is step one, get more pay, step two, have babies, that could be to their detriment in the career world. Research has found that employers are hesitant to hire women who they believe will have children in the future. Is it unfair? Is it a bias? Is it unethical? Absolutely. But it’s almost nearly impossible to prove that the reason you didn’t get the job was “May have babies in the future.”
It costs over a quarter of a million dollars
A couple of moderate income will spend over a quarter of a million dollars to raise a child from infancy to 18 years old. A quarter of a million dollars. Meanwhile, many studies have found that Americans aren’t saving for retirement nearly as much as previous generations did. If we’re to get our priorities straight as a generation, we should probably at least make sure we are taken care of before adding a baby to the mix. And it turns out we’re financially struggling to ensure we’ll ever get to quit working. If I might already face being in the workforce until I die just trying to support myself, where would I get off adding a quarter of a million dollar expense of a child to that equation?
Parents of millennials are still supporting them
So now we know that people aren’t getting raises and home prices are skyrocketing, which should make this next fact no big surprise. A lot of millennials are still receiving financial help from their parents. In fact, over half of millennials are still getting help from mom and dad. Our massive student loan debt plays a big role in that. I’m fortunate (and a little embarrassed) to call myself one of them. My dad helps with my student loans. Meanwhile, my mom is asking when I’ll have kids. It would honestly be unfair to my parents for me to add a financial responsibility to my life when I am still a financial responsibility to my parents. We all know I’d wind up asking my parents for more help.
Pensions are extinct
People used to be able to rely on the idea that if they worked hard for about 30 years, they wouldn’t have to work anymore and could rely on a pension to fund their retirement years. They didn’t even have to think about it. They just did their job, and the pension waited for them. Now, more companies are turning to a different type of retirement plan – namely things like 401Ks. The trouble is that puts the burden on the employee to be saving every month, to be calculating what they can afford to contribute, and to be keeping up with increasing contributions over the years. Traditional pensions are almost completely gone. It’s just one more financial stressor that makes having a family feel irresponsible.
We’re the generation that questions everything
Overall, millennials are questioning a lot. The world has really opened up for us in the sense that questioning and challenging norms is celebrated. It doesn’t make you the odd one out anymore. In fact, those who don’t question or challenge old ways are the “weird” ones. So, we don’t just get on the track of marrying and having kids by a certain age because it’s what you do. We ask: Why is it what you do? It’s a pretty major thing to do just because it’s what everyone else does. We are wondering why we should have kids, and we’re struggling to come up with many compelling reasons, but we have plenty of reasons not to.