Motherhood is really challenging for a lot of different reasons. Recently, it was revealed that the birth rate in the United States is at it's lowest point in 30 years. But many are blaming "plummeting" fertility for the problem. Yes, women are experiencing fertility issues, but that really isn't the problem at all. The problem for many women is the lack of support mothers get, especially immediately after having children. It seems that society is all for pressuring women to have children, but then once they do, it is an endless series of roadblocks to overcome to successfully raise said children.
For many women, the lack of support in the workforce is a big reason for delaying having children, or not having children at all. More women are choosing to focus on their careers, because they know that if they stop to have children at a younger age, they will be missing out on career advancement and other opportunities.
According to the same CDC report, the number of women between the ages of 35 and 44 having children is actually rising. So, it's not that no one is having children, it's that women who would be considered to be in their "prime" childbearing years aren't having children. But there is evidence all around that shows how hard life is for women who make the choice to have children.
In Motherly's 2018 State of Motherhood Survey, 74 percent of mothers said society "doesn't do a good job of understanding and supporting them." When women like Serena Williams are facing discrimination for taking maternity leave, what does that mean for regular women who have to go back to work to be able to support their families?
“To the extent that some women would want to be mothers if it was financially viable, but don’t want to risk good careers or poverty, that’s not a free choice,” says Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat, an associate professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke in an interview with the Huffington Post. And for many women, having children isn't financially viable, in fact it can be a detriment to things like job security.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 88 percent of workers get no sort of paid leave. For low income families, something like maternity leave could literally lead to them being on street. A 2015 report notes that 1 in 4 women have to go back to work within 2 weeks of giving birth. Two weeks. A woman doesn't even go for her postpartum checkup for at least four weeks. So that means there are women out there who are forced to work before they have medical clearance to do so. But they have absolutely no choice.
While there are societal pressures to have children, and a lot of scrutiny for women who don't have them, no one ever wants to discuss the reasons why women choose to not have children. And there are so many. Maybe as we start to shed a light on these issues, societal expectations will begin to change. But until then, the numbers aren't going to change.