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How about letting people make their own decisions about their bodies?
Whether or not to have children is one of the biggest decisions many people will ever make. For some, it comes easily—they’ve known their whole lives that they wanted to be a parent, and as soon as the opportunity is available, they take it. For others, it involves weighing certain pros and cons, and sometimes it can end in regret. However, whether the decision to have kids is clear-cut or not, caring for another life is a lot of responsibility, and that’s not something everyone wants.
All that went completely over the head of blogger Elizabeth Broadbent, however, who argues on Scary Mommy that millennials should just get over themselves and get pregnant.
The post, which directly addresses millennial women (as if millennial men don’t have a say in having kids), points out that millennials are increasingly choosing not to have children. She mentions issues like the difficulty of having children while maintaining a career, the expense of children in a country where there’s a horrible federal parental leave policy, and the anxiety of messing up another human for good. And in an act of incredible trolling, she attempts to argue against each of those points in an incredibly misguided, privileged way. Let’s take a look at her infuriating statements.
“Kids don’t actually cost that much.”
Broadbent says kids don’t actually need as much as we think they do. “Kids need a bare minimum of diapers, onesies, and boobs to survive,” she writes, which seems to stop being the case once the kid is potty trained. And while it’s true of that some parents go way overboard, thinking that if they don’t have the most expensive stroller and baby yoga classes that their kid will never get into Harvard, Broadbent’s sentiment inspired a rousing “WTF” among the parents at the Daily Dot. It also just seems factually wrong. You may be able to get stuff for cheap, but the cost of things like day care, or the loss of income if one parent stays at home, takes a toll.
“The world has always kinda sucked.”
This is true, bringing a child into the world has always involved some horrible “What if they die of a disease we don’t have medicine for/go to war/turn into a Men’s Rights Activist?” risks. If you want a kid, America is probably the safest place to do it. Except that our infant mortality rate is embarrassingly high for being the wealthiest nation in the world. Anyway, we’ll give this one to Broadbent, considering that even if we have our problems, there’s penicillin.
“Consolidate your loans.”
Broadbent argues that this works “unless you have private loans,” so it’s not actually good advice. It also ignores the fact that not everyone can consolidate their loans to a manageable bill, and that loans might not be the only financial drain on a person.
“Pregnancy is beautiful.”
Oh, for the love of god, no. You know what? Pregnancy is certainly cool. It’s amazing that a body can produce another body, and there are lots of people out there who would love nothing more than to experience the drastic physical changes and sensations of being pregnant. But guess what, it’s not for everybody! Some people can’t get pregnant even if they want to. Some people will have exhausting, painful pregnancies full of nausea and bed rest. And some people, whether or not they want kids, just don’t want to be pregnant. That doesn’t mean they are “insulting every single one of your female ancestors,” it just means that they’ve taken advantage of birth control, one of those amazing technological advancements Broadbent raved about earlier. Remember, deciding what you want for your body does not mean you’re shaming anyone who doesn’t make the same choice.
“Overpopulation is a myth.”
Oh, boy. OK. Broadbent says that we have enough resources on this planet to keep everyone happily fed. Which is true! (However, those aren’t exactly being distributed evenly.) But starvation is not the only risk of overpopulation. Rising temperatures, polluted air, and dying coral reefs are all things we have to worry about, and more people on the planet aren’t going to help that. That doesn’t mean you can’t have kids (a lot of activists argue having one kid is fine), but that doesn’t mean the entire problem is a myth either.
“Of course, you’ll ruin them with parenting.”
Again, Broadbent is totally right on this one. Even the most considerate, intelligent, and loving parents will do something that their kid will bring up in therapy years down the line, and if you want to be a parent, it’s all you can do to try your best and remind your kid that you love them.
But what Broadbent seems to miss with this argument, and with a lot of others, is that they’re often used as strawmen by people who just don’t want to have kids—people who are pressured for concrete reasons when none exist.
Ask a parent why they wanted to have a kid (and let’s not forget all the people who weren’t afforded the luxury of “planning”). They may bring up a few reasons, but the main one is usually tautological—they just wanted to have a kid and wanted to experience being a parent. The same goes for lots of people who don’t have kids. They may throw out climate change and expenses when pressed, but for many, it’s just not what they want.
Luckily, we’re at a point in modern American society where that’s a decision you can actually make (though, not every woman in every state or cultural climate gets to make those choices so easily). Birth control can put the if’s and when’s of pregnancy into a woman’s hands, and beyond that, societal norms are shifting so that marriage and children are not the only options. Having kids is increasingly a conversation, not an expectation.
How wonderful to live in a world where you can make decisions for yourself instead of having to succumb to societal pressures about what your life should look like! Because that’s the world Broadbent lives in, right? One in which she can do things like get pregnant when she wants and consolidate her loans and make other choices that support her desire to have kids? In fact, she should have even more opportunities at her disposal, like a better federal parental leave policy, or a health care option that isn’t exorbitantly expensive.
But just as Broadbent can and should be supported in the decisions she makes with her life, everyone else should have the same opportunity. A post like this, one that tells young people, “Get out of your hipster jeans and into the bedroom. You got babies to make,” just enforces the idea that there is a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone.
Perhaps someone who really wants kids but has been scared of costs or global warming will read this post and be inspired to follow their dreams. That’s great. But berating someone who doesn’t want kids into having them is not how great parents and happy children are made. Broadbent says to the people worried that they’ll be annoying parents, “They might do it, but you don’t have to.” When it comes to not having kids, she should take her own advice.
Jaya Saxena is a lifestyle writer and editor whose work focuses primarily on women's issues and web culture. Her writing has appeared in GQ, ELLE, the Toast, the New Yorker, Tthe Hairpin, BuzzFeed, Racked, Eater, Catapult, and others. She is the co-author of 'Dad Magazine,' the author of 'The Book Of Lost Recipes,' and the co-author of 'Basic Witches.'