Today is Mothers’ day and so we decided to tackle a topic that is in the back of our minds everyday but we often decide not to talk about it; how do we start a family in 2019?

We continue to look up to our parents and think we will have a similar experience when it comes to motherhood, and parenthood in general, but research seems to say something very different .

Natality rates are decreasing very rapidly in Europe, going from 7.5 million new babies in 1970s to 114 thousands in 2016. The rate in Italy alone was cut in half, going from 990thousands to 447 thousands in less than 30 years. As we can all imagine this has been described as the perfect storm, as in only the course of one generation we might be facing the impossibility to sustain the elder generation with the forces of the new.

But what are the causes of this “Childlessness in Europe” we are faced with? (Book by Michaela Kreyenfeld)

The causes of the dropping natality rate are both personal as institutional, as research has shown. Among the main reasons we can find the instability of the labor market, the difficulty to find a stable job with a long term contract, the low salaries compared to the current costs of raising children, the lack of structures for child care, the short parental leaves and lack of proper leave for fathers, the increased cost of housing in the urban centers with most job offers. In addition to this issues which are faced by everyone wanting to start a family in 2019 there are also personal issues we should take into account. This may be the difficulty to start long term relationships in the modern times, the desire to pursue a successful career over that of starting a family, the inability to save enough money to care for another human being, the fear of raising children in a planet in deficit of natural resources.

But enough with the boring facts of statistical studies, lets think about our own lives and the conditions we are currently facing. A 27 years old girl in the 1980s, around the time our parents had us, was likely to be already married if not a mother. Today a 27 year old has probably either just found her first job or is still studying at the University. Employment rates are higher in larger urban areas so there is also a chance that a girl, in her late 20s, will be likely to relocate to a larger city. This change forces young girls to leave behind their network of family and friends, the support system needed in order to start a family. Furthermore another phenomena of our generation is the so called long distance relationship. One of the main causes of long distance relationships are relocations due to employment reasons, putting young couples in the position of either having to wait for other opportunities before starting a family or ending their relationship.

Another important factor in the life of a 27-yo today may be the difficulty to meet a partner in the caos of a new, large, urban center. The struggle of starting a stable job, swinging from one low paid internship to the other and later accepting short term contracts hoping to gain enough work experience to land a stable job eventually.

But lets look at the best case scenario. Lets say an imaginary 27 yo meets the man of her dreams in a large urban center that is not her own and in which she has no social network to help her financially and emotionally. Lets say she lands a pretty decent job with a pretty decent contract and her partner is also well employed. Lets say they can afford the rent a little better since they moved to the suburbs and commute about 50 min every morning to go to work. Lets say they can also afford a cheap day care. Now, she just recently started a career and needs to take maternity leave. National regulations don’t allow her partner to take long term paternity leave and so she is forced to put her career on pause. After three months, however, she is required to go back to work leaving a new born in the hands of a cheap day care located 50 minutes away from their work space. If she decided to quit her career to be a full time mother they would no longer be able to afford rent, or social benefits. If they moved back where their family and friends are they would likely not find employment.

A 27yo today needs to wait until she is on average 35/37 before she has the stability to have a child. That means lower fertility rates, smaller families and older parents.

When we think of motherhood we look up to our own mothers and the love they gave us. We think of the amount of attention we received and the doors they opened for us. We can’t stop wondering if we will ever be able to give our children the same kind of possibilities and if we will experience motherhood the same way women did 30 years ago.

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