Is parenthood still what it used to be?

Is parenthood still what it used to be? Photo: Michele Mossop

Is it babies, not baby-making, that makes you truly adult?

I just turned 25. My father is in his 50th year. I did the sums, and bowled myself over.

‘Not ready for children’, the catch-cry of my generation. A personal default view informed by a relatively infinitesimal social sphere. But then, one of the Hansons is due for baby number five. He’s 29.

When will I be ready? Are you ever ‘ready’? Is a lack of readiness a sign of immaturity?

I wonder, looking around at lads clad in superhero shirts pressing flesh with little princesses. This is the stuff of kidulthood screen scenes, but the stuff proper grown-ups are made of? Have we evolved to a higher level of homonid that cultivates young for longer? Where adolescence stretches far beyond teenage years?

Based on current projected lifespans in big, rich countries such as this, so much would make sense. We’re living to 100, why should the ‘best years of our life’ end when they used to. If 40 is the new 30, did I just turn 15?

Perhaps I should wait a couple of years before doing adult things, like driving or voting. Or losing my virginity. Oh wait...

Latest figures have most women bearing children at 31, first shoot or otherwise. Age 32 for men. Not everyone was married either. Ah marriage, another one of those things that used to be a rite-of-passage, not just a right-to-protest. At what cost I wonder?

My friend with three young children is in his 30s. He thinks that kids make you age you quickly at first. But then they become the small, slightly different yet altogether familiar versions of somebody you used to be. And you regress, slightly, spending hours in toy stores not entirely against your will.

Is it different if you’re buying action men and dolls houses to furnish your empty nest?

According to pop culture’s varied litany of criticism concerning the spending habits of the original childless couple, uncles Bob and Steven, yes; buying things for pleasure without a family plan is sign of stunted social development. Maybe this is a fair appraisal of some, but not at all a general rule.

Much like it is not right to say children make you more grown up. Plenty of children raise children. Some parents remain more juvenile than their offspring their whole lives. Some children are born aged.

But reproduction is becoming ever more optional. We’re not far off a male contraceptive pill. My female cohort was born knowing they could choose. In fact, population is one global problem we know we know how to fix. Declining birth rates might not be a bad thing, long-term.

Unless childlessness undoes mature society – picture a kiddies table groaning with guests demanding ever more from the big people managing with adult cups and cutlery.

I’m not sure I’ll ever have children. I certainly don’t feel an urge to have babies right now, though I enjoy the practice. Sometimes I encounter judgement from parental types because of this. I’m not willing to reproduce just now, so I must have... issues... they probably explain why I’m not yet married too...

How about you? Do you have to have children to live a full life? Will not having kids make you less mature, less able and less equipped? Is dying without offspring the saddest death of all? Or are you happier for the other life experiences your barrenness affords?

twitter  @katherinefeeney

tumblr  Tumblr

facebook  Facebook

kfeeney@fairfaxmedia.com.au