When you hear the phrase “the American Dream,” what do you think of? Do you see a white-picket fence in front of a cookie-cutter house that has a perfectly green lawn? Do you see a mother and father standing side-by-side with their children in front of them, all smiling?
If you do, then you and I have something in common. This was the abstract idea that was ingrained into me since I was in grade school. Though, I want to say that this notion of “the American Dream” has shifted and evolved so much since the term was coined in 1931 by writer James Truslow Adams.
There are entirely too many aspects of the ideal American life that have changed to be able to address in just one opinion piece and because of this, I’m going to discuss one of the giant puzzle pieces that I’ve seen shifting and disappearing all together: children.
The old notion of the “American Dream” would be incomplete without the presence of children. But I’m here to tell you that in this day and age, the opposite is coming to fruition. There’s a plethora of reasons that could explain why young adults are putting off having children or deciding to not have children at all.
I’m going to start with the elephant in the room and say the most obvious reason as to why having children has shifted down on the to-do list: money.
We all know that the current economy is in the trash can right now. The cost of living just keeps on climbing and wages are staying the same, if not dropping. I have friends that have to work two or more jobs just to keep the electric on and put food on the table. Young adults in the 20-25 year age group are working their asses off while making barely enough money to keep from drowning.
Financial security is one of, if not the most important, “prerequisite” to successfully raising a child that is happy and healthy. I don’t see how adding a child into the picture makes a financially struggling adult’s life better. Thus, explanation number one as to why having children is being put off or discarded.
When people are young, some would rather spend their time, energy and money on themselves rather than raising a child. Raising a child is a huge responsibility, but some want to focus on their career, travel the world or just enjoy their young adult years without the responsibility that comes with having a child. And there’s a real possibility that a portion of these people don’t view having a child as fulfilling as others might.
I’m in that boat. I don’t think children could ever make me happy, so why bring them into my world if I don’t truly want them? Sure, I could have children just to appease my parents or a significant other, but that would be to appease them, not me.
As much as I say I have a distaste for children, I’m not completely heartless. I may not understand the desire to have them, but I feel that bringing a person into this world when you don’t truly desire them is one of the most cruel things you could do. A child should be wanted, loved, nurtured and bonded to a parent willing to put that child first. I thank my parents for raising me in such a way.
Personally, I don’t think I have the capacity to care for and nurture a person in the way you should a child. And I have a feeling that I’m not alone in that sentiment.
I have one more log I want to throw on the fire: I don’t think that women should be labeled as selfish if they choose to not have children. The expectation of children from women is very damaging. It communicates that a woman’s time clock on her life runs out before her heart gives out. It communicates that at some point, her life should be lived for someone else. Maybe some women are more than OK with that, but I guarantee that not all are.
Children are a puzzle piece of the “American Dream” that is shifting for some or was never there to begin with. The inclusion of children in today’s young adults’ lives is largely affected by money as well as desire. In the end, it’s a personal choice. But it can be said that the trends in having children have shifted in recent years.