Baby Rate Drops As Gen X Prioritises Happiness - Hope 103.2

Baby Rate Drops As Gen X Prioritises Happiness

Families are getting smaller around the world, as couples in some of the wealthiest nations are having fewer and fewer kids. They're less stressed in the short term, but the question some are asking is: will they be missing out long term?

By Clare BruceWednesday 12 Aug 2015Hope MorningsNewsReading Time: 3 minutes

Families are shrinking worldwide, as couples in some of the wealthiest nations are having fewer and fewer kids. They’re less stressed in the short term, but the question some are asking is: will they miss out in the long term?

Career Dad And Baby

In the UK, the number of one-child families is increasing, while the number of families with three kids is dropping. In Japan, the death rate has outstripped the birthrate, and in the USA, Hispanic couples – who traditionally have had more children than their Anglo counterparts – are now having less children, as they become more Americanised.

In Germany there is, according to the Daily Mail, a “baby drought”. And as for Australia, in 2001 our total fertility rate dropped to its lowest ever, at 1.73 babies per woman aged 15-49. Last year the figure climbed a little.

“Happiness” Levels Decreasing With Kids

Tired parents and baby girl on messy couch

Parenting author Dr Justin Coulson talked to Hope Media about the trend, saying that one of the key reasons Generation X is having less kids is simply that it’s hard work.

“Researchers from about the 1970s have been recognising that child rearing is very hard work and is not linked with happiness,” he said.

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“Data for about 40 years has been telling us that as we have children our happiness levels start to decline and go into steeper decline once our children become teenagers. And we don’t start to become happy again once our children leave home.

“Research shows that people in around their 50s tend to be the happiest people on earth. They’ve got more money than they’ve ever had, the kids are gone, and they can sleep in on a Sunday and have breakfast without any interruptions.”

Juggling Children, Finances And Careers

Working mum juggling career and daughter

Dr Coulson said that in Germany, one of the biggest reasons so many couples are now stopping at one child, is because of the emotional challenges involved.

“A large reason is that they’re finding “this is a lot harder than I thought, it’s really impacting negatively on my wellbeing”,” he  said.

“And there are other factors. I think we’ve got to be realistic about the economic factors. It’s expensive to have children. They cost a lot of money to raise in today’s world and they do require a substantial amount of investment. Not just financial investment, but also social and emotional and academic. We’re constantly investing in our children.

“We want to have nice homes and nice things, and therefore in a place like Sydney it’s almost impossible to survive on a sole income. And so the practicalities of having children and juggling multiple careers and multiple children is very very hard.”

Are We Forgetting The Long Term Rewards?

Family of three generations walking outdoors

A parent of six children himself, Dr Coulson says those who are stopping at one child after discovering that it’s hard work, are misguided.

“What the parents who stop at one may fail to realise, at least in some cases, is that once you’ve got one it’s not really that much harder to have two,” he said. “And by the time you get to six like me you’re so used to them.”

He said those looking only at their happiness levels were missing out on the deeper joys and long term benefits of having more children.

“If we’re trying to get a quick happiness boost, then kids aren’t necessarily all that good for our happiness, but if we want to have meaning and purpose in our lives, it’s very hard to find anything better than having children.  And meaning and purpose don’t always match up neatly with “happiness” in the moment.”

Keep Going – It Gets Better!

Little boy on father's shoulders

Dr Coulson encourages parents to remember the long-term rewards of having a family, when the going gets tough.

“When we make that investment for 20 years, and when we finally do get to sleep in and not worry so much about what’s going on – although we never stop as parents – it’s at that point we finally discover what the investment was and whether or not we’ve invested wisely,” he said.

“We’ve got to be able to push past those emotional lows, because the emotional highs are absolutely unsurpassed.”

He points to his own experience of parenting, which has been highly rewarding.

“While having children may not always make us happy, my goodness it gives us some of the best moments life can offer,” he said.