Polls show that the views of these proud non-parents are on the ascendancy. The Pew report noted that most Americans now disagree that childless people lead less fulfilling lives, only a minority regard children as very important for a successful marriage and fewer than four in 10 believe that the trend toward intentional childlessness hurts society.
Such statistics can comfort infertile couples weary of impertinent strangers hounding them about their failure to be fruitful and multiply. But the 'child-free' movement and its increasing acceptance in American culture portend something more serious than a relaxation of social pressure to procreate. They signal a serious shift in the way we think about child rearing, from regarding children and the sacrifices they entail as a natural part of life to seeing them as extraordinary, even unreasonable burdens.
It's a subtle shift, not easily detected amid our pop culture's self-conscious celebration of children. The childless-by-choice crowd complains that we live in a 'baby-crazed' and 'kid-centric' society, and in some ways, that's true. Pictures of Brangelina's newborn twins fetch $14 million. Reality TV shows like '19 Kids & Counting' score ratings gold. Parents spend themselves into debt to give their children everything from designer baby clothes and exclusive sports camp experiences to the latest tech gadgets. Parenthood today is an expensive, exhausting and angst-ridden enterprise, perhaps more than ever before. Surely we must love children if we focus this much money and mental energy on the project of parenthood.
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