Europe is having a baby crisis. The New York Times  reported in a recent magazine cover story that fertility levels in Europe are at an all time low. This baby shortage has been called the “lowest-low fertility.” Given that the planet seems to be exploding, resources are tapped, and we’re all going to have to take out second mortgages just to fill our gas tanks, it may at first seem smart for Europeans not to be procreating in their previous numbers. But the decline of babies in
But come stateside and pregnancy seems to be all the rage. From celebrities and US Weekly sightings of “baby bumps” to the alleged pact of pregnant teenage girls in Massachusetts – America is clearly in the throes of baby fever. Having a baby today is not only chic and fashionable, but women go into debt to do it. So what gives in Italy ? And why are Spanish women so reluctant to have babies? What’s going on with the Greeks? How has the culture of large, European families and “Big Fat Greek Weddings” given way to “lowest low fertility”? What’s happening with our sisters across the Atlantic ?
Interestingly, the Times found that fertility and the desire to have children today is linked to a combination of factors – from the culture of a society to the percentage of women in the workforce to the amount of involvement from the dad to the level of workplace flexibility.
Simply put, in Europe and America , working moms with flexibility, supportive spouses, and a government that helps them, are more likely to have kids. So our Scandinavian sisters who get oodles of government aid, paid maternity and paternity leave and subsidized, high quality childcare are much more likely to have children than women in more traditional countries like Italy .
Italian women may be as educated as women in Norway but because of cultural differences, Italians still prefer women at home and men are less inclined to split childcare duties, Italian women are much less likely to have kids. But in Norway , where the government provides generous paid leave to both parents, promoting family time and greater gender equality, women have higher fertility rates. Interestingly, in
Europe working moms were more likely than stay-at-home moms to have more children.
But in the United States, where women don’t get the benefits of federally mandated paid maternity leave or subsidized childcare, we are still not experiencing the fertility crisis that’s affecting Europe . What’s our secret? Experts say the baby boom continues in America because women see the workforce as fluid. There is flexibility to move in and out of careers and dads are helping more. In other words, dads changing diapers and doing laundry make a big difference in our birthrates. So contrary to what was once conventional wisdom that working women wouldn’t have babies, the latest information shows that working moms are saving the world by populating the planet. This will all work beautifully as long as the dads are doing the dishes and making the dentist appointments. Now, if we women could only fix the gas crisis.