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The American birthrate is at a record low. What happens when having it all means not having children?
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.