I wrote this piece several months back. It’s long. I’m figuring most readers will frown and not like what I write. Others may find it surprisingly clear and forward-thinking. This piece is my perspective of what I think the next wave and change in societal attitude toward child-bearing and child-rearing. It’s a touchy subject all right. And I think the Octomom brings the subject front and center.
See, every 20 years or so, the adult attitude toward children shifts. Connected to this concept, by nature, is the adult attitude toward child-rearing (which is one of the primary shifts in how generations arise and are so different from one to the next). Connected, as well, is the attitude toward child-bearing. This perspective I have is based first on generational theory and the four archetypes of generations. These are my words and view layered on top of that theory. Here goes:
Boomers in Spring
Boomers, born 1943-1960, are born in Society’s Spring. Spring comes after winter, natch. Spring is about fecundity. Emerging. Mating. Singing (chirping/whatever) in celebration of Spring’s arrival and winter’s departure. Spring is about mating so that babies can be born. The primary feeling during the era when Boomers were born was, “Yay, it’s time to celebrate and have babies. Let’s build a glorious world for our children.” Birth control was hardly an issue when the collective desire was to have babies and make a wonderful world.
GenX in Summer
GenX, born 1961-1981, are born in Society’ Summer. Summer is hot. Lazy days and playing abound. The seeds have been sown in spring. The sun is doing its job to help grow the crops. The attitude of adults is along the lines of, “Hey, let’s enjoy this time. Let’s have some fun. Responsibility? Ugh! Who wants it! They’re will be plenty of time for that later.” The primary attitude toward child-rearing during GenX childhood was hands-off parenting. The attitude toward child-bearing was the passionate fight for abortion rights, access to birth control and – let’s call a spade a spade – the right not to have – and be burdened by — children. ZPG, baby. Zero Population Growth is the solution to the world’s problems.
Millennials in Fall
Millennials, born 1982 – 2004ish, are born in Society’s Fall. Fall is the time of harvest. “Oooh, look at all the food we have! We can do whatever we want. There’s plenty to be had,” seems to be the general societal mantra. Forty percent of Millennials are first-born and/or only-childs. They grow up in an era where most adults feel confident in their personal futures. Child-bearing rights and passion switch from the right not to have a child to the right to have a child! In vitro fertilization clinic ads abound, egg donors are paid out the roof for their “services,” and IVF becomes more commonly offered as part of health insurance plans. Why? Because having a child – especially a special child — is a right during the era in which Millennials are born.
Homeland in Winter
Homeland Gen kids, born 2004ish – 20024ish, are born in Society’s Winter. Cyclically, they are always a smaller gen than their next-elder or next-junior generations. Why? Having babies when it’s cold and dark and bitter outside may not be the best of ideas. Not for the mom, not for the baby and – for the first time in a long time – not for Society. Which brings me to the Octomom drama and my perspective of what I believe will be the dominant conversation about adult attitude toward child-bearing in the next 15 years or so.
Prepare yourself: this isn’t meant to land softly on your sensibilities, values or feelings: I believe the era we are just now-entering will be one in which the conversation about “which” children are born and raised, and why, will become front and center. I believe that attitudes and values — health insurance policies, government monies, and non-profit organization funding and resources in general – will be painfully and passionately discussed to evaluate and determine which children will be allowed to be born and raised.
Why? Because we aren’t in Spring anymore. We aren’t in Summer. We aren’t in Fall anymore, despite the hope of many that we just need to “recover.” Nope, we’re in Winter. And in winter, all decisions have to be made inside of the very real environment of winter. Societal cohesion and ability to face decisions as a collective unit becomes desired over individual rights to pursue “the harvest” of fall.
The Octomom – as she has been dubbed – with her how-the-hell-did-she-get-IVF-for-six — count ‘em, six! –prior children, is the poster child (all pun intended) for this cultural shift in conversation. And, I’d predict, there will be a shift in policy and law coming around the corner. People are actually willing to talk about irresponsibility of her choices and her doctor’s choices. And they will talk not only of the impact on the children, of course, but the impact on The Whole of Society. See, in the Millennials’ childhood era (Fall), she would have been celebrated for her good soul in wanting so many children. Good Samaritans would have volunteered to help her. Corporate PR departments would be clamoring for press about how they were helping with cash and donations to support this supermom.
But not at the onset of Winter; the Octomom is the poster child for the shift. Even her name sounds a bit villainous.
I do expect, fully, that over the next 15 years, decisions about child-bearing, which children are born and the resource costs to society will be evaluated through an entirely different lens that would have been unfathomable to envision 20 years ago.
This is all, of course, just a perspective. Time will tell.