There is no agreement between scientists as to how many people are actually willing to give up the happiness of parenting and why.
Yelena Ivanova, Natalia Seibil
Each new sociological survey throws wood into the fire of an already heated discussion. Recently, the National Agency for Financial Research published shocking figures: 46% of Russians surveyed do not plan to have children, and only 42% said they were ready to become parents. “Among those who do not plan to have children, there are more women than men (51% versus 41%). Young people from 18 to 24 years old are the largest age group among those who want to have children", - the study says.
True, sociologists further say that if Russians could increase their monthly income by 58 thousand rubles, some would reconsider their attitude to childbirth. The authors prefer a glass that is half full and interpret the results as a responsible attitude of young citizens towards children.
"Now the trends are generally shifting. On the one hand, in certain layers, children become a sign of a successful life. They give birth to three, four, five children. On the other hand, there are many families who do not plan parenting in the near future, because the culture of consumption is aimed at making a person more and more focused on getting pleasure. In this case, the birth of a child becomes a challenge for many - you need to abandon the usual consumption of pleasures and invest in parenting, for which not everyone is ready. The level of egoism rises", - says psychologist and writer Anetta Orlova.
Other scholars say that the childfree-oriented group of people is not so homogeneous. Independent demographer Alexey Raksha believes that this is not a Russian problem:
- The childfree trend towards demography has a very weak relationship, because there are very few of them in Russia. Maximum - 1% - 2%. People do not have their first children, waiting for a more favorable period. Now the period is unfavorable - in the country and in the world there is an economic recession aggravated by covid.
In difficult times under certain circumstances, a large number of people say that they will never want to have children. Scientists believe this reaction is highly situational. During a pandemic, when economic difficulties have already arrived and the future is uncertain, young people do not want to think about children.
"There are, of course, people who are disgusted with everything connected with the process of childbirth, there are “rejectors”, there are “affectionado”, but there are not many of them. Biologically, as they say, there are about 5% of them", - explains Olga Isupova, Associate Professor of the Department of Demography, Institute of Demography, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
However, in big cities the situation is more pronounced. According to the HSE, in Moscow this group of people born since 1979 can reach 14%.
This is how a 40-year-old woman, without giving her name, describes her choice in the Childfree group:
“I will soon turn 40 and have not given birth. And I’m unlikely to give birth. I do not care about the demography of Russia, and I am sure that officials at different levels do not care. Otherwise, at least in a pandemic, they would really raise the salaries of doctors, and not steal".
A woman is not shy about calling herself selfish.
“I know one thing. I'm young. I belong to the 21st century, not 13. I want to live up to digital immortality, colonization of Mars and be treated by injection of nanorobots. I really like and didn't even bother showing my passport when I name the year of birth in different places. I like learning and making plans for the future".
Olga Isupova says that there have always been people who did not want children. But before contraception, they had no opportunity to resist it. One of the most important elements in changing behavioral norms is the invention of contraceptives. Unlike sterilization, after which there is no return to fertility, contraception will allow you to change your mind and change your life plan.
"I think that initially childfree appeared in people who could not give birth. The flaw that was in society - if you are not a mother, then you are flawed. For a woman without children, this was stigmatizing. Initially the core childfree - people who could not have children. Those who do not want to have children are either people who cannot and are trying to survive compensatory, do not want to suffer. Or it’s latent self-loathing — I’m not worthy to have procreation. Naturally, this is not conscious. These are the core members. But they began to attract others who do not have such global problems", - says psychologist Orlova.
Unlike the childfree movement in the West, which emerged in the 60s and 70s, in Russia an open refusal to procreate is a relatively new phenomenon, and therefore the pressure of the environment is great. For a family or older relatives, this way of life causes confusion, at best. More often the pressure rises, and the arguments go beyond all boundaries. Here is what another anonymous member of the group writes on the Childfree Telegram channel about her conversation with her mother:
“So, I'm sick, I'm lying at home with a temperature. Mother calls. She usually did not bring up conversations and questions about children. But today, as if on purpose, knowing that I was feeling so bad, it began: "And when are the children? Why don't you want to? All people live like this! Where did you get such thoughts? You are not of this world! And people live in the same room with children and do not complain! But what about after the war? But aunt Lena (Glasha, Masha) all live together in a one-room apartment and smile, satisfied! And you are all negative, pessimistic! You are a copy of your father (what does this have to do with it?), I know that you are not happy with your husband (never talked about it)".
Overall, regulatory pressures are easing. In the same public, when asked whether a wife should leave her husband if she is sterile, priest Pavel Ostrovsky says: “If a wife is a fertile apparatus, then he is a bad husband. The meaning of life is not in children, but in love".
With the increase in life expectancy, psychologists and teachers are faced with the phenomenon of delayed growing up. People shift the age of decision making to later. It is well known that they are in no hurry to marry, the average age of a woman at which she gives birth to children is 27 years. In Europe it is even larger. In Italy, women give birth on average at 31 years old.
"One of the reasons is that the value of your own life and your own freedom is growing, which no one would encroach on. Responsibilities and the models of success that previous generations of people had are changing. One of the main reasons for the transformation of the attitudes of younger generations is a change in success models that have not been studied at all. And the second moment - the disintegration of the connection between the times when we do not understand them is growing, and the younger generation also does not understand us", - Alexander Asmolov is sure.
Young people, for whom their personal freedom is the main value, believe that not having children is great. They often say that the whole world is from the territory. They are free to move around, do whatever they want, and see the child as a fetter. This is how the anonymous poetess sees it in Telegram:
Let the watch go out with a nervous tick -
man is one who overcomes the flesh.
I am a spirit and I am the mother of sixteen books.
I am the popular word - not a stone - not to split.
And someone will say: "you are still so small,
childbirth is no worse than a mosquito bite,
and you are stupid, you are a fool,
and you will die with your black literature".
But the whole point is that for a modern person, unlike a person of the 18-19 centuries, the greatest fear was not the fear of death, but the fear of losing the meaning of life, Alexander Asmolov believes.
A lot is changing in the world now. This is not only a shift to digital communication or a change in work as such. Models of behavior and interaction between people change. With regard to the family, increased demands are placed on parents, while the responsibilities of children are reduced. Children do not offer help to their parents, it is considered immoral to ask children for it, and it has become completely indecent to talk about the notorious glass of water. As a result, parental altruism may simply not be enough.
"I do not urge anyone to whip children or drive them out into the cold. But when the child cannot be asked to wipe the dust at home, or you need to spend a lot of money on his special education until infinite age, because the job prospects are very uncertain among the younger generation ... And if an adult looks at all this rationally, he thinks what It will give me everything", - asks Olga Isupova.
There are many individual psychological factors that lead to abandoning a child or postponing the birth of the first child.
"There is no family, the "prince" is waiting for the "princess", there is no job and is not expected, a gloomy state, I have not found a suitable partner. In addition, an important role is played by the lack of housing or prospects for obtaining housing, the absence of a grandmother who will sit with the child. There are a lot of different factors that will influence when deciding on the birth of the first child. Among these reasons, the economic one is not the most important", - says the demographer Raksha.
The largest group in childfree is the proponents of reproductive justice. They say that, in general, they do not mind having children, but they need certain conditions that are not in society. This refers to economic and political factors.
A child is an expense item, and expenses are increasing all the time. In principle, the state encourages the birth of children. For example, with the help of maternity capital and benefits. Some scientists believe these measures are effective. Others say it's all pointless. Will 58 thousand rubles per month, which are mentioned in the NAFI survey, help to motivate people to have a child? It can help, but indirectly, not directly. But no matter how much the state gives money, it will never fully reimburse all expenses.
"The pandemic that has hit the whole world does not increase the feeling of confidence in the future, does not add optimism. Many adults who planned and wanted to give birth to a child begin to think. Anxiety leads to the fact that the birth of children is postponed", - says psychologist Orlova.
Demographer Alexey Raksha is confident that the pandemic and the accompanying global crisis will affect the demographic situation: "In addition to the increased mortality this year, I think that next year the birth rate will fall in all countries".
Keep in mind that today's 20-36 year olds are the millennial generation. They are fundamentally different from previous generations. Generation Y was the first generation that parents provided and continue to provide a comfortable lifestyle until they are firmly on their own feet. Millennials are focused on maintaining their comfort level. Due to the fact that they were born and raised in an era of both social and technological change, they do not make plans for the future. "Games" enjoy everything that their parents give them. Their parents are ready to spend their last savings on them, but millennials themselves are not ready for such sacrifices in relation to their future children. Therefore, the childbirth process is postponed, and the requirements for the financial cushion for children are increasing.
Gender patterns of behavior are also changing. In the 19th century, He was a knight, and She bent her head on his shoulder. In the 20th century, gender relations were symbolized by Mukhina's statue "Worker and Collective Farm Woman". In the 21st century, the painting reversed the 19th century: He walks next to Her, gently leaning his head on her shoulder.
"A woman has to take on a lot of masculine attitudes, she becomes a "man forced to make decisions." And when she becomes a man, then the question of the continuation of the future, as it has always been, either for love or for sacred reasons, this question is postponed until she reaches her own success, until she matches the models that she wants to match", - says Alexander Asmolov.
How to counter the growing tendency of “selective parenting, the sages cannot say. Some say that it is necessary to create conditions when a person will be afraid to be left without a child. Others think that a quiet life will provide an opportunity to think without fear of future difficulties and will help to make choices for the benefit of the child. And still others, the wisest, like Zinovy Gerdt, believe that each generation has its own future. And they will build it themselves.