The American birthrate is at a record low. What happens when having it all means not having children?
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One evening when she was 14 years old, Laura Scott was washing dishes in the kitchen with her mother when she decided she didn't want to have a child. At 26, Scott got married and waited for her mind to change. "It never happened," she says. "And I realized I was going to be fine." Now 50, Scott is more than fine: she's fulfilled. And she's not alone. The birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history. From 2007 to 2011, the fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s.
The decision to have a child or not is private, but it takes place, in America, in a culture that often equates womanhood with motherhood. Any national discussion about the struggle to reconcile womanhood with modernity tends to begin and end with one subject: parenting. If you're a woman who's not in the mommy trenches, you're excluded from the discussion. But being sidelined doesn't exempt childless women from being scolded.