An Evans-Manning Award for Excellent Combox Commentary to a new commenter who identifies himself as Millennial Newlywed. Lots of stuff to talk about in this meaty entry, which is a comment on the “Individualism Uber Alles” post from yesterday:
As I was reading this excellent article and the many excellent comments, I was struck by the absence of a response by a big group the article bases itself on – the under 35 set. I’m 28, and my wife of six months is 26 – we were 27 and 25 when we got married. One of her closest friends thought she was nuts and said so, and a couple of my college buddies knew I was nuts, and said so. When I asked them why, I got mostly junk – the end of promiscuity, of ‘freedom’ and individuality, the likelihood of divorce, etc. The one point I got that made me pause was “Dude, marriage is mostly for rearing children. How are you going to afford that – and why would you want to?”
Allow me to branch: Neither of us are religious in any sense of action. I’m a dues paying member of the Secular Humanists of America, and she sees no point in even going that far. I was raised Mormon until I ducked out of that nonsense at 16 and she was vaguely Quaker. Further, we’re ‘good’ Democrats and both work in ‘progressive’ issue campaigns. I realized as I was reading this that I fit into most every category that the article ticks off: young, liberal, individualistic, educated (B.A. only, who can afford a Master’s – the damn undergrad cost us a combined 100k) and we have no plans to have kids. In fact, she had an IUD put in the other day – five year no kid guarantee. I breathed a massive sigh of relief.
I overshare here because this is something I think about a great deal. I’ve always believed that whether you are religious or agnostic or in between, the purpose of Human is to make more Human. Every major religion that I can think of cherishes and desires children, and if one takes the man as animal approach – well, animals exist to make more animals. Yet I’ve resigned myself to not having any kids any time soon if ever, even though I got married. I married my wife because I couldn’t see any reason not to – she is like an arm I forgot I had and I’m not foolish enough to fear the future. I did not marry her to have kids. And I think I know why many my age aren’t doing either.
I’ll try to put it into words: we are an individualistic group, we Millennials. We’re also well aware that America is likely retreating from it’s lofty heights. We volunteer a lot, we create families out of friends. We move all the time. We are mostly broke, and mostly have degrees we paid too much for in fields that nobody needs, and we mostly are waiting for the Boomers to finally make their exit so we can take the stage. A generation in a holding pattern, but a generation that knows it’s got a lot coming towards it – climate change, the price of past foreign interventions, the shifting demographics of America, and so very much else. It’s a lot to think about, and we have a lot of time to think.
Why have a kid, says your average Millenial? They’re incredibly expensive, nobody your own age expects you to have one, your own job prospects are dim and theirs will likely be worse, the social complexity of the current world means you likely aren’t too sure of yourself much less a new person, and if you want a career you most certainly had better get a 1950′s housewife and hope she doesn’t read The Valley of the Dolls or Our Bodies, Ourselves. Burn the library card, man. Disable Kindle Whispersync.
For many Millenial folks religion means Westboro Baptist, Jerry Falwell, Osama bin Laden and People Telling You What To Do because that’s what worked for an vaguely agrarian, patriarchal and warlike society of proto-Jews about 4,000 year’s ago, and also gays are evil and women are breeding tubes. I know that is simplistic, but the Culture Wars and Real Wars have not painted a welcoming picture of religion for many young white folks who do not yet realize that the fears of the elder established white folks may have some truth to them. Families are the underpinning of a healthy society. The more people (larger family) that care about you, the safer you are – from economic pitfalls, from broken bones, from broken hearts.
Without religion to place the family central or to argue for the need of the family, with the ease of divorce and the difficulty of securing palimony or alimony, with a society that does not welcome children or argue in any way for having them (lack of childcare in corporations, women fired or non-hired because they are of childbearing age, education unfunded and often unworkable, lack of affordable or state provided pre-k or daycare, college costs burdening the youth, a society that encourages corporate cultures that discourage children) it’s not terribly shocking that nobody is interested in bringing a kid into the world that they can’t take care of or guarantee the kind of life they themselves are struggling to have. And that’s the crux of it – kids today don’t want to have kids that they can’t take care of or offer a better life; isn’t that what you’re supposed to want for your children? We aren’t a pack of society hating, family destroying monsters – we’re products of divorce and declining wages. Why lock yourself into a life of misery for a kid that won’t get anything out of it?
Apologies for the semi rant – I want kids something fierce, but I know that with my debt, and crap job, and everything else, I won’t be able to provide anything like what I had growing up. I won’t condemn a child to near poverty and god knows what else, just because I’ve been told by my body and my elders that I must have kids. We Millenials aren’t too sure about that.