Empty nurseries.

I don’t want to keep coming back to Canada, but I get away so infrequently, and I notice things. Here’s something else I noticed on our trip: Strollers everywhere. (With babies in ’em! Sometimes when you see them around here, they contain small dogs.) Canadian birth rates are looking about the same as they are for other western democracies, but by contrast with Michigan, the anecdotal street-noticing difference is profound.

If you keep your ear to the ground of conservative media, you hear a frequent drumbeat of concern about declining birth rates. (Certainly it’s behind the concerns over the Muslim influx in Europe — and eventually here.) All over the world, the rule is the same: The wealthier a country gets, the more birth rates drop, until childbearing levels out at just below replacement levels. A lot of this is common sense; while some people like a house full of kids, how soon we forget that for most women, for most of human history, children were a stopgap against genetic extinction, and then they were just something that arrived every year or so, and frequently didn’t survive. I read something recently about attitudes toward abortion, which posited that the full-throated “pro-life” movement didn’t come along until children weren’t at least partly an affliction upon their parents, especially their mothers.

Birth rates, and marriage rates, fell during the great recession. Again, it’s common sense, unless your head is clouded by ideology: When times are tough, babies are less affordable. (Ideologues think a new baby always means a fatter welfare check, so poor people say bring ’em on.)

So what do we need to do to boost birth rates among the middle class? Economic security. Also helpful: Parental leave, decent child care options, especially excellent preschool. Preschool puts kids on a fast track to a good early-childhood school experience, so it’s win-win. And what do we have now? Ideologues who say preschool is anti-family, and that the only person who can successfully raise a child is that child’s mother. Never mind that throughout human history, babies have been handed off to non-parental, even non-family adults, and human history has not crashed and burned as a result. Never mind that no one is advocating Romanian orphanage-style child care. If you even whisper that the government, any government, might have a role, not the only role, just a role to play in making life easier for parents, then you are advocating “warehousing” of children in “government facilities.”

My point being, the next time a conservative complains that women aren’t having enough babies, fish out your pocket mirror and hold it in their faces.

Do I have any linkage for you today? Don’t think so — so post your own.

Posted at 12:36 am in Current events |

44 responses to “Empty nurseries.”

  1. Dexter said on November 5, 2015 at 12:58 am

    Maybe child-bearing-age women and their men are sick of what the world’s become, to wit, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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  2. Dexter said on November 5, 2015 at 1:07 am

    Well, he went quickly, not coming close to the three months the docs at Cleveland Clinic estimated. My brother-in-law died Tuesday of spreading lung cancer , age 65.
    And I’m heading to Ann Arbor in 31 hours for my scope-job. I doubt I’ll even desire my usual Zingerman’s delicatessen sammitch afterwards. As far as the scope, less anxiety than a dentist visit. Just a few years ago, before routine c-scopes, office doctors performed Sigmoid exams w/no anesthetic. I have heard stories…God bless modern constantly improving technology.

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  3. Sherri said on November 5, 2015 at 2:34 am

    Sorry about your brother-in-law, Dexter.

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  4. Jerry said on November 5, 2015 at 2:44 am

    Dexter, my sincere sympathy on your brother-in-law’s death. My brother died of lung cancer 18 months ago. The doctors managed to keep him going for five years after diagnosis. The five years extra was great – he saw. His daughter finally married to a great guy but missed the birth of his fifth grandchild. But the pains and discomforts during the treatments were terrible. So sorry to see him go but relieved he wasn’t suffering any more.

    As for the suspended boy I just don’t know what to say. Boys, and girls, are gonna play fight and a pretend bow and arrow seem as harmless as one can get. Just hope any budding cowboys learn there lesson!

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  5. Brandon said on November 5, 2015 at 4:54 am

    Dexter, please accept my condolences.

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  6. alex said on November 5, 2015 at 5:56 am

    Sorry for your loss, Dex.

    Here’s another passing, one that might bring some cheer: The putative father of conservative activism in America, so vile that even conservatives want us to forget him:


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  7. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 5, 2015 at 6:42 am

    Dexter, grace and peace to you and your family; that’s why doctors really do dislike putting numbers on a prognosis. It can be so hard to tell how quickly these things go once they’ve been diagnosed, and then you get the added shock of thinking you had longer.

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  8. Andrea said on November 5, 2015 at 6:57 am

    Condolences to you, Dexter. Sounds like it was hardly enough time to get your head around the idea that he was ill. I’m sorry to hear it.

    To the post, I have 3 kids and always intended to have more, but age, miscarriages, and the recession put an end to that. However, I frequently get raised-eyebrow comments about my “big family” with a lot of other professional women saying to me: I don’t know how you do it (meaning work a demanding full-time job and raise 3 kids.) it always comes across as slightly judgmental, as if I were irresponsible for taking on so much, and maybe, kinda, sorta, not doing a great job of it.

    My response is always: You can’t let the right-wingers have all the babies. ( I work in human services, which is a fairly liberal field in general.) That usually stops the conversation, and we cringe laugh about the Duggars, or at least it shifts the slightly judgmental balance back to them.

    That said, it IS exhausting as they are all 3 now fully in adolescence with separate and consuming activities. All I do is work, chores, and drive kids around, coordinate logistics, obtain gear/costumes/uniforms, participate in fundraisers, help with homework, etc. And my husband bears an equal share in this effort, but we are outnumbered every day. My comfort is that this time will end, just like nursing and diapers did, and I will be able to look back with at least the sense that we did the best we could. My oldest is a junior, and so the ticking of the clock is getting louder every day.

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  9. Suzanne said on November 5, 2015 at 6:57 am

    So sorry, Dexter. Loss is inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

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  10. Jolene said on November 5, 2015 at 7:16 am

    Am sorry to hear of your brother-in-law’s death, Dexter. Hope you experience the speed with which it came as a blessing rather than an additional blow.

    Alex, that is quite a headline. Hard to imagine the kind of person who would be pleased to have found fame as a bigot, but I guess he did.

    Andrea, a friend once gave a similar reason for hanging a flag on the Fourth of July–that is, she didn’t want to let the conservatives have all the fun. Of course, hanging flags is considerably easier than raising kids!

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  11. Deborah said on November 5, 2015 at 7:39 am

    So sorry Dexter. We had a friend who told us when he thought he had a month left. He didn’t last the week after that. It wasn’t a shock though.

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  12. Wim said on November 5, 2015 at 7:50 am

    I’m sorry for your loss, Dexter.

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  13. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 5, 2015 at 8:08 am

    Bonfire Night across the pond, and since y’all like quizzes: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/how-well-do-you-know-what-happened-during-the-gunpowder-plot-a6721096.html

    I got five right.

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  14. coozledad said on November 5, 2015 at 8:17 am


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  15. Connie said on November 5, 2015 at 8:31 am

    The couple who challenged Michigan’s gay marriage ban did so because they were not able to jointly adopt their children. Today is adoption day for them. http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/formal-adoption-taking-place-for-children-of-couple-in-michigan-gay-marriage-ban-case/36272250

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  16. Lou Gravity said on November 5, 2015 at 8:56 am

    In other news, a political shocker: http://www.americansquirm.com/2015/11/king-of-mars-tops-new-republican-poll.html

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  17. Andrea said on November 5, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Jolene, to be honest, I didn’t have 3 kids out of ideology either. I grew up in a bigger (4 kid) family and I liked it. My brother and sisters and I are all really close. And I wanted that for my kids too.

    It’s only after the fact that I’ve had to defend my choice.

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  18. Julie Robinson said on November 5, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Dexter, that’s just lousy. Please pass my condolences to your family. We lost my aunt to lung cancer on a similar timetable, and it was a very difficult time. As jefftmmo said, I wish you grace and peace. And I hope your testing goes well. That’s a lot to face all at once.

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  19. coozledad said on November 5, 2015 at 9:40 am

    So George Senior has decided Little Boots wasn’t to blame for the disaster that was his presidency. It was the guy George Senior delegated to run Little Boots’ campaign.

    When the Republicans talk about Soviet style disappearance of the truth, they’re speaking out of envy. These people want absolution for taking a shit in the reservoir. The press will bust ass to give it to them.

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  20. Julie Robinson said on November 5, 2015 at 9:43 am

    And speaking of Canada, Prime Minister and hottie Justin Trudeau’s cabinet is half women. When asked why, he said, “because it’s 2015”.

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  21. Bitter Scribe said on November 5, 2015 at 10:27 am

    I don’t understand the hand-wringing over low birth rates. Are they concerned about the labor force? There are millions of healthy young people all over the world who would love nothing better than to come to the United States and work their brains out.

    Or are they concerned about the white “labor force”?

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  22. Icarus said on November 5, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Dexter, please accept my condolences.

    We have 13 month old twins, boy and a girl, at the ripe old age of 46 for me and 41 for Nightingale. Before marriage and children my stance was I didn’t need children to feel complete nor do I not want children if they happen to show up. As you can imagine no one likes that answer because they don’t believe you. You HAVE to be in one camp or the other.

    Being an only child, I am grateful that my kids have each other and we have one of each. But it is hella hard to handle kids at this age with limited resources. Younger parents with one child, or children at different ages have their own challenges too.

    and before anyone asks….


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  23. Dorothy said on November 5, 2015 at 10:42 am

    I’m so sorry to hear about your brother-in-law, Dexter. So far I haven’t lost any immediate family members of my generation, but that could change. My oldest sister is ten years older than me, and her husband is in his early 70’s.

    Andrea I’m from a big family myself. And when I see families who have more than 4 kids, I sometimes smile and say “I’m so glad to see a big family! I love big families!” I get grateful smiles from the parents every time. I figure they hear a lot of negativity so why not give them positive feedback when I notice them.

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  24. coozledad said on November 5, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Or are they concerned about the white “labor force”?
    Yup. And by “labor” they mean get an MBA and get to griftin’.

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  25. brian stouder said on November 5, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Dex, here’s wishing you and yours strength, as you deal with these family and medical events. I’ve been in pondering-mode since the summertime, on all the classic mid-life questions and concerns. I don’t suppose my pondering will lead to a conclusion; at best, it can only produce a sequel.

    Aside from that, I’ve been in a mid-to-late 20th century American political/presidential reading stint. I finally finished the Rockefeller book (On His Own Terms, by Richard Norton Smith) and I finally began Richard Reeves’ book on JFK – and the thing that really struck me was that these guys were policy wonks and political animals. They played the score-settling thing, and enjoyed the policy development thing, and were cock-sure of themselves (so to speak) in all cases…..by way of saying, Donald Trump strikes me as ½ the personage of those guys (Rocky and JFK). He’s got the ego/money/brass; but he lacks any political experience.

    If I could assign a serious journalist to look into Trump, I’d want to learn how he addresses big issues (aside from whether to fire Mookie, as President Obama famously pointed out!), and who his most trusted advisors are, and how he deals with the sort of adversity that cannot be fobbed off in (for example) bankruptcy proceedings.

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  26. Deborah said on November 5, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Little Bird just texted me a photo, it’s snowing in Santa Fe, where I’ll be tomorrow. Meanwhile it’s going to be 72 in Chicago this afternoon. Tomorrow will be a travel day for me, I really, really hate those.

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  27. nancy said on November 5, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Let me add to the chorus, Dexter: I’m sorry to hear about your brother-in-law.

    To Andrea’s point about Judgy McJudgingtons giving her shit for having a number of children they consider unacceptable: Fuck them. I admit to having a problem with the Duggar/full quiver folks, who seem to see childbearing as a competitive activity and/or grow-your-own religious cult strategy, but otherwise? If you love ’em and can take care of ’em, have as many as you want. Spare me the Bill McKibbens and their “maybe one” doom-saying. And if one child is your choice, that is equally fine, but don’t try to justify it as the better choice than the family of four, five or more. My point is, it’s a free country.

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  28. BigHank53 said on November 5, 2015 at 11:28 am

    My condolences, Dex. I know how rough a family loss can be.

    I don’t even have that big an objection to the fundamentalists that want to re-create some mythical fifties sitcom family for everyone–it’s a free country, which means you can design yourself any crazy utopia you like. But I find it fascinating that they seem to have put zero thought into how to pay for it all. A place to live and four or five or seven mouths to feed on one salary? So the minimum wage should be what, twenty-five or thirty bucks an hour?

    There’s this sort of furious resentment of modernity underneath a lot of conservative ideas.

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  29. Judybusy said on November 5, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Dexter, I am so sorry to hear about your brother-in-law. 65 is not that old!

    I made a choice around age 19 not to have kids, primarily due to concerns about the earth. At the time, there were 4 billion of us, and I thought that was more than enough people. On the Awl, I ran across a group who advocate people should stop reproducing and let us die out. Well, I think that’s a bit extreme, but I’d love to see more education and economic opportunities for women, as well as increased childhood health.

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  30. Judybusy said on November 5, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Nancy, I posted before reading your add. In one of Trollope’s novels, there is a parson with the last name Quiverful. The couple had 14 kids. Trollope tended to come up with the best names! In another book, there are two attorneys named Bideawhile and Slow.

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  31. Brandon said on November 5, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Trollope tended to come up with the best names!

    Second to or equal to Dickens.

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  32. brian stouder said on November 5, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    I loves me some free lectures! Tonight, I’m dragging the young folks* to see Bill McKibbon


    *two of them have outgrown the easy-bribery of earlier years (‘we’ll stop for a treat on the way home’) – but the 11 year old will surely come with me!

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  33. basset said on November 5, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Sometimes I wonder what I missed by not having an extended family… two parents, now dead, two brothers, now dead, a few geographically distant cousins I never got to know, never knew my grandparents. Makes it a lot easier to pick up and move, I guess.

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  34. coozledad said on November 5, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    Every thing that come out of this fool’s mouth is an affront to learning. I think one of the principal reasons I hate Republicans is they willingly emulate other manifestations of the earth’s great fundamentalist pox- the religions grounded in fear that celebrate idiocy as a virtue:

    “Now I want you to think about something,” he says. “This nation has had a profound effect on the world. Before the United States of America came on the scene, for 100 years, 200 years, a 1,000 years, 3,000 years, people did things the same way… within 200 years of the advent of this nation, which believed in God, men were walking on the moon. Completely revolutionized and changed the world because a nation was willing to acknowledge God.”

    Obviously this asshole never studied the bloody footprint of Christianity across Europe and the Middle East, but here’s a start:

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  35. Jolene said on November 5, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Judybusy, “quiver full” is an Old Testament term. From Psalm 127: 4-5:
    4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

    5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

    If you google the term, you’ll see that it’s been adopted by a certain set of Christian conservatives, who aim to advance their religious agenda by filling up the world with children who can both live their mission and carry it into other (non-Christian) parts of the world.

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  36. Brandon said on November 5, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    The Carson remarks quoted above by coozledad are from this interview.

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  37. alex said on November 5, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    I thought America revolutionized the world in the last hundred years because it was willing to acknowledge reason and science. Who knew?

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  38. coozledad said on November 5, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    America on the moon is a very complicated story of the marriage of pure science, cold war grandstanding, and the wholesale importation of the Nazi rocket programs at Peenemunde and Nordhausen. If anything, it was a compact with the devil. Ben Carson’s party’s devil of choice, but still the devil.

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  39. Dexter said on November 5, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Well…you folks have gone and done it…I am moved to tears at your condolences…thanks so much. The family is stretching this thing out like was more common in the past,as the funeral for Mike is not until Monday.
    Mike was involved in all sorts of veterans groups and Harley-Davidson escort-for-funeral groups, commander of his veterans lodge, the entire package. His obituary revealed he was awarded the Bronze Star for service in Vietnam. [“The Bronze Star Medal, unofficially the Bronze Star, is a United States decoration awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for either heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone.”—-from a Google page]
    Mike never mentioned that to anyone.

    Oh boy, this beef broth is so tasty…time for dessert, plain lime jello. I had forgotten how good white grape juice tastes, also. Just 23 hours ’til the knockout drip into my arm and soon this will be over. (C-scope at Ann Arbor VA hospital)

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  40. Judybusy said on November 5, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Jolene, thatnks for the info. I had no idea.

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  41. MichaelG said on November 5, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    I’m very sorry to hear about your brother-in-law, Dexter. Best I can say is that it happened quickly. Good luck and fingers crossed for your coming experience.

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  42. Jolene said on November 5, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    MichaelG, how are you? Not to be nosy, but it’s been a while since you updated us about how you are feeling.

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  43. Minnie said on November 5, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Dexter, very sorry to read about your brother-in-law. Though 65 is not an especially long life, he seems to have spent his years in honorable pursuits. Condolences to your family.

    You get BEEF broth? I could have only chicken broth. Good luck with the scope results.

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  44. Jill said on November 5, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Dexter, I add my condolences. I hope it’s some comfort that he didn’t have a long period of suffering but what a shock for your family.

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