An economic trend and a social trend have combined today such that parents are now being judged today by a completely new set of criteria.
With the decline of the middle class, more people than ever before are being judged by the criteria, “No one told them to have children!” In other words, the new criteria means that instead of full adulthood being conferred only upon those who have become parents and householders, that adults are now judged as being irresponsible for becoming parents, unless they can provide a middle-class standard or above for raising their children.
How did this change come about, and in only two generations?
The first element was a social change, with the sexual revolution, with availability and acceptability of contraception and abortion, and more young married adults choosing a child-free lifestyle. A generation ago, those choosing to be child-free were called selfish. Now, they are called responsible, especially if their incomes are not up to an upper-middle-class level.
In today’s America, getting married and having children is no longer the normal progression of adult life. Now, it’s about finding a job or career which pays enough to afford a middle-class lifestyle. Anyone who has children, by choice or mistakenly, without having achieved that, is now judged harshly as being a burden on society.
Thus, the middle classes are very careful now to have only one or two children. A few upper-middle-class families have several children, and can well afford them, but more are having only two children. Lower-middle-class parents, as well as any parents who are struggling financially, are now viewed as irresponsible, and that their problems are of their own making. “No one told them to have children!” is now a common judgement by those without children.
The poor (even the married poor) are judged most harshly for having children, whereas in the past the married poor would have been expected to have children. The poor often have more children, but not always for the reasons (irresponsibility) that the childless or better-off imagine. (Those reasons are not the subject of this post.)
In the past, only Catholics were judged for having too many children and being poor because of it. Now, all poor families are judged for having any children at all.
To other cultures, the new situation in America appears incredible. Other societies view children as the foundation of their growth and family support of the different generations throughout life as a necessity. Other societies place less burden on young parents, whether they provide free daycare for working mothers (European societies) or inter-generational child care for children, or even the support of having maids at home, to enable parents to work.
Two generations ago, the norm was that women were at home caring for children, while men worked. But as women have gone to work, American society has not provided any workable childcare solution compared to other societies. The result is that now, it has become socially acceptable and even common to judge that whole classes of people should no longer be having children at all.
Tags: child free, decline of the middle class, economic changes in America, judging the lower classes for having children, lack of child care in America, selfish to not have children, social changes in America, why the poor should not have children