[Byfield] The Mother’s Day question that one columnist did not shrink to ask

Opinion

Why are so many modern women shunning motherhood, foreshadowing a national disaster?

[Ted Byfield Blog] The western world—or much of it, anyway—celebrated Mother’s Day last weekend with the customary and much deserved paeans to mothers and motherhood and how much we are all indebted to them and how deeply we cherish the woman who served in this role on our behalf. Mother’s Day is observed in about 40 countries, not always on the same Sunday.

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In the traditional media coverage in Canada, however, there was one astonishing departure this year. The Globe and Mail dared to raise what has become a widely unmentionable fact, notably that fewer and fewer women want to take on the motherhood job. It may be a highly honoured function, but women are becoming increasingly loath to fulfill it.

Which of course raises three questions: Why is this happening, how extensively is it happening, and what can be done about it? The answer to the first is known; the answer to the second is debatable; the answer the third is so wholly unknown that few people want to even think about it, let alone talk or write about it and make suggestions.

It was therefore left to the Globe’s Margaret Wente to raise the unsavoury topic, she being one of the few Canadian columnists whose views on any subject are not wholly predictable, like mine. Ms. Wente writes: ” For half a million years, children were a necessity, a duty and a pleasure – more or less in that order… Children were essential to replenish the tribe and contribute to the collective good. They were a source of labour and a guaranteed old-age plan. They were a way to honour God, to replicate your genes, and to perpetuate the family name.”

“But now, they are basically a lifestyle choice. And they compete with many other lifestyles, such as being a celebrated author. Children are not vessels for the altruistic investments of adults. They are means for the self-actualization of adults. Nor can you count on them as productive assets. They represent 25 years, or possibly a lifetime, of sunk costs, with an uncertain return. And now that women have found satisfying lives outside the home, the awful truth has begun to dawn: The maternal instinct can be overcome surprisingly easily.”

The results of this current rejection of motherhood are in themselves statistically shocking. “People used to think,” notes Ms. Wente, “that fertility rates would bottom out once they reached replacement level, which is roughly 2.1 births for each woman. Instead, they just kept going down. Today, Canada’s fertility rate is a miserable 1.6. Italy is at 1.4, Brazil at 1.9, Denmark at 1.7, Germany at 1.4, while Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are below 1.4. Unless these countries can persuade women to have more children (or encourage massive immigration), they’ll go broke. And then they’ll go extinct.”

Ms. Wente does not exempt herself as an instance of the ultimate cause of this foreseeable disaster. She writes: “I took my sweet time to settle on a mate because I too was fond of my career. By the time I got around to contemplating my options, they were gone. Childlessness wasn’t a choice, really. It was more or less an accident, just as it was for millions of other women who had no idea they were creating what the scholars call a ‘demographic transition.’ ”

This article continues at [Ted Byfield Blog] The Mother’s Day question that one columnist did not shrink to ask

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