Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Competitive birthing

NPR had a story this morning that is at turns poignant, outrageous and creepy. It concerns how birth rates have shot up among the ultra-wealthy, with the fourth baby being used as something of a status symbol.
Some say the trend is driven by a generation of over-achieving career women who have quit work and transferred all of their competitive energy to baby making.

They call it "competitive birthing."
What really struck me was how one woman who was interviewed agreed that having lots of babies helped justify her decision to be a stay at home parent, because she "wasn't working."

Think about that a minute. She presumably already had three kids she took care of full time, and she still needed to justify her existence. Guess that Ivy League education didn't include any women's studies after all. How sad. I don't care if you're "only" taking care of one child, it's work, even if our society traditionally treats caregivers badly and gives little economic value to the effort.

The other obvious part of the story was how this trend seems to be limited to a narrow slice, as NPR put it, of the population who can afford large houses in places like Connecticut. In other words, income inequality has unexpected consequences.

How many children to have is a very personal decision, of course, and many factors affect that decision. Sometimes it's not a decision that humans get to make, as not everyone gets to plan exactly how things work out. Some couples struggle to conceive, some women have miscarriages, and so on. So the idea of having babies as a status symbol certainly seems rather whacked out to me.

There are tons of positive reasons to have kids, but "trophy child" doesn't sound like a recipe for a positive outcome. At least the super-rich can afford analysts.

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