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Why Gen Z doesn’t want kids We are living out a fantasy of eternal youth

Are Gen Z taking relationship cues from Fleabag? Credit: Fleabag/Amazon Prime Video

Are Gen Z taking relationship cues from Fleabag? Credit: Fleabag/Amazon Prime Video


July 10, 2024   6 mins

“I see pregnant people.” Somewhere inside my brain, the little boy from Sixth Sense is balefully trying to explain why on earth it is that everywhere I look are expectant mothers. I get on the Tube — a little girl with big, twinkly eyes is showing me her lollipop. Her heavily pregnant mum smiles sweetly as she balances her on her knee; her dad, I notice, sits three seats away staring angrily into space. Tut tut, I think. They reach their stop and the man snaps out of it, reaching out his hand and walking the toddler to the next platform. Aw, I think. I get to London Bridge, and a woman on her break is furtively vaping, half-hidden by a wall. I gasp — she must be seven months along! She glowers at me for rubbernecking through a blue razz lemonade-flavoured mist.

Fair enough, I think. After all, who am I — a mere teenage girl — to judge the actions of real adults and their offspring? With a jolt, I remember that I am in fact 25; that, by my age, my mum had already had two kids. In London, women are split into the camps of children-having and fun-crisis-situationship-having. My friends and I live almost exactly as we did when we were 19: apart from my obsession with chokers, little has changed about the way I dress, speak, drink and date now. Whenever anyone gets engaged, someone barks “child bride” and we all laugh. But intrusions into our collective fantasy about motherhood being a million miles away have started to rattle me: only recently, at a semi-ironic summer solstice party (I hate myself as much as you do), someone next to me in the “circle” declared that her “intention” for the year was to freeze her eggs. What! But you, like me, are a mere slip of a girl! Reader, she was 31.

Then, and most shockingly of all, a friend from uni tells me she really just wants to quit her job and have a baby. Notably, she is in the position to: she married our other neighbour in our first-year corridor. I, conversely, went out with a boy from the next block over, a relationship with decidedly less longevity. I splutter, I spit feathers: whaaaat! But women fought for us to… and we must stand on an equal foot… and we must engage with the public sphere… It all fell on deaf ears. She was resolute. Work is hard and boring, she says. “I just want to stay at home.”

Despite my heightened antennae for all things maternal — probably something to do with that dastardly biological clock — the idea of wanting to peace out of the rat race and start a family sends a shiver down my spine. It goes against everything I was taught: at my notoriously gung-ho girls’ school, our headmistress memorably delivered an entire assembly on not having kids too young (and when we do, to give birth standing up). I realise now that much of my twenties has been shaped by slick career-girl editorials in glossy magazines, or countless sitcoms in which protagonists endure messy romances season after season, living as petrified teenage girls. Our culture is shot through with aspirational Peter Pan fantasies about chaotic young adulthood: can you name a song about falling in love? Now, name one about being a mother. We infantilise ourselves constantly: we’re “just girls” who do “girl math” while eating “girl dinner” before a “hot girl walk”.

But the issue of motherhood hangs like a sword of Damocles over our heads. In “uncool” circles, the fate of our bodies is becoming a hot topic: falling birth rates and emergent pro-natalism movements are becoming less and less fringe. For this, we have last May’s NatCon conference, which launched a thousand smirks, to thank. A memorable edition of The News Agents saw Lewis Goodall sniffing around and being shocked by unfashionable appeals to the traditional family, faith and gender relations; I acknowledge my own snobbery about such views. But am I being purposefully blind? My generation has a constant eye on the climate crisis, the housing crisis, the pitfalls of dating culture; but the issue of Europe’s birth rates — undoubtedly a consequence of all three of those things, to a greater or lesser degree — isn’t about us, we tell ourselves.

In fact, it is. Office for National Statistics data released in February showed that the total fertility rate in England and Wales had decreased to 1.49 children per woman in 2022 from 1.55 in 2021; it has been falling since 2010. It is so tempting to see these broader demographic issues as external to our own lives, but as Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson of the Women’s Budget Group told The Guardian: “We need the babies who are born now, because they will be the people whose taxes pay for our healthcare. These will be the people looking after us in our old age. These will be the doctors and nurses and care workers of the future.”

I am as likely to have a baby now as I am to adopt an XL bully. It’s so easy to see ourselves as at one remove from demographic concerns — and the contingent myths of modern femininity all prop up this view: a friend insists she will never have biological children, as she “doesn’t want to put her body through that”. The figment of women’s bodies as temples, as the vessel of wellness, may partly explain the sidelining of pregnancy and childbirth as gruesome or in some way defiling. This doesn’t strike me as particularly progressive.

“I am as likely to have a baby now as I am to adopt an XL bully.”

Even if we wanted children, do men? I know of no man my age who wants or is financially stable enough to have children now. If culture has taught women to baulk at being saddled with a child, it has taught men to baulk at everything that child will represent economically — and the emotional ties it creates with a woman. The narrative of modern romance tells us that, when we eventually do settle down, we’ll have to haggle and harass a man to get married before niggling and nagging them to give us a baby.

Perhaps this explains the shockwaves created by Netflix’s latest true crime offering, The Man with 1,000 Kids. The documentary follows Jonathan Meijer, a Dutch man who has fathered — via both sperm banks and “natural donation” — possibly more than 3,000 children so far. He told each family that he would only be helping a maximum of four others, but instead engendered a host of moral and medical problems, not least consanguinity, to satisfy a thirst for power, a god complex. There is something so startlingly jarring about Meijer’s use of a system as modern and bureaucratised as sperm donation to do something so very animal: to maximise, at any cost, the dispersal of your genetic material, a one-man dandelion.

This approach is not without precedent. In the chasm opening up between liberal values and plummeting birth rates, radical approaches to natalism are taking hold. The Quiverfull movement, a primarily American Christian subset, exploded in the wake of Mary Pride’s 1985 book The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality. Pride pitted traditional ideals of large families and biblical lifestyles against feminism’s embrace of birth control; children are seen as arrows in a quiver, extracted from Psalm 127:3-5. The movement is small but mighty, belonging to a constellation of sects which sprang up in the late 20th century and platformed fecundity as a central moral virtue.

In a sign of things to come, pro-natalism is now anything but an exclusively religious quirk: in tech circles, it is the thought experiment du jour. Sam Altman, founder of OpenAI, has ploughed investments into reproductive tech, while in 2022, father-of-11 Elon Musk declared that “population collapse due to low birthrates is a much bigger risk to civilisation than global warming”. And in May, a Guardian article about “techno-puritanists” Malcolm and Simone Collins delighted readers with a snapshot of their frankly whacko brood: Torsten Savage, Octavian George and Industry Americus are mentioned among a prospective gaggle of up to 13 kids — homeschooled (of course) and under suspiciously close observation from child protective services.

Such groups may yet be fringe, and seem oppressive and laughable to the mainstream. Yet radical pro-natalism is only going to grow as motherhood, an ancient political battleground, is electrified by the ever more frightening socioeconomic outlook. Perhaps the only way to make this inevitable tide of pressure and debate work for us is first to recognise it as a collective issue, then to push for a system which does not actively punish women for having children: affordable childcare so that we do not face a career cliff edge; affordable housing so that settling down seems even remotely possible.

I cannot envision having children any time soon — for all the delusions I have mentioned (I am too cool, too clever, too ambitious) and the realities (too single) — but maybe I am part of the problem. In 10 years’ time, it may be that a toddler in Hackney is whispered about with the same incredulity as a unicorn sighting. In 70 years’ time, it may be that my wrinkly friends and I face old age in a robot-run retirement complex, with no sprightly young carers to speak of. Beep beep, boop boop, time for your sponge bath Ms Sowerby! If that doesn’t give you pause for thought, I don’t know what will.


Poppy Sowerby is an UnHerd columnist

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Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
11 days ago

GDP goes up and up every year. Economies get richer and richer. And yet having kids gets more and more unaffordable. Something has gone fundamentally wrong with civilization.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
11 days ago

Back in the 80s, we couldn’t afford kids either, but we had them anyway, and now they have kids of their own.
If you want to have kids, don’t wait until you can afford it. You can never afford it.

Daniel P
Daniel P
11 days ago

OMG…..that is just so frigging true!

You will never be able to afford it, you just figure it out. Mine are almost out of the house.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
11 days ago

Thinking your children need brand name clothes, so many holidays a year and every thing their friend has is half the problem and what we used to call ‘making a rod for your own back’. What they need is love, the right amount of attention and opportunities to learn to make good decisions by being allowed to learn from making bad ones at an age that the consequences aren’t too serious.

Danny D
Danny D
11 days ago

> And yet having kids gets more and more unaffordable.

If having kids is so “unaffordable,” then why is it that low income families have higher birthrates than everyone else? The problem is that the middle class isn’t willing to make sacrifices. They want to keep their fulfilling careers, they want to travel, they want their lifestyle to remain exactly the same as it is without kids, but that’s just not how that works.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
11 days ago
Reply to  Danny D

Do you really want me to tell you the answer to that one?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
11 days ago
Reply to  Danny D

Its called social welfare ( for low income + free housing and tax ( on productive eejits who work)

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
11 days ago

It’s the illusion of prosperity , the reality is most GDP growth is debt and the benefits go mostly to the top 1 to 10%. The middle class is being squeezed, more people are living in poverty and precarious employment. Most new jobs are temporary or part-time, many have 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet. They have no benefits or pension plans . After paying rent, food and other necessities they have very little left, especially in cities. Having children is a luxury that about 30% of the population cannot support, mostly renters, but even many home owners are struggling. I know lots of people who could only buy a home with the financial support of their parents for the down payment or as cosigner, but at least they will have an asset. . If you don’t have well off parents or have high income today, you will become a permanent renter and be financially strapped for life, and since most people live in urban areas now, that’s the situation for a large portion of the population. For many, it’s basic survival, never mind children.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
11 days ago
Reply to  Dave Canuck

Nonsense. I’m not wasting more words about your whinge.

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
10 days ago
Reply to  Deb Grant

Other than nonsense, anything intelligent to say? Guess not. So why make a useless comment.

Anthony Roe
Anthony Roe
11 days ago

This is so mistaken I don’t know where to start. Why not compare the circumstances of a teacher today to what they could have expected 100 years ago (own house, 3 children, servants, respect-studio flat in the further reaches of suburbia, unpayable debts, isolation).

Geoff W
Geoff W
11 days ago

Ms Sowerby even mentions this key fact briefly, but you have to look hard for it among all the self-absorption, clever-cleverness, failed witticisms and other irrelevancies: “I know of no man my age who wants or is financially stable enough to have children now.”

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
11 days ago
Reply to  Geoff W

Yes, a key point which might’ve been developed further in the search for why her female peers aren’t procreating.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago

GDP per capita isn’t rising.
Salaries are falling in real terms.
The gap between rich and poor is now back to pre WW1

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
12 days ago

“We need the babies who are born now, because they will be the people whose taxes pay for our healthcare. These will be the people looking after us in our old age. These will be the doctors and nurses and care workers of the future.”
The purpose of the future is to be strip-mined by the present, apparently. Perhaps part of the problem is that speakers like the above seem to think that children exist solely to serve the needs of their parents (or rather, of society); I wish I could say I am shocked by the egocentricity on display here, but it’s more or less par for the course these days.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
11 days ago

“children exist solely to serve the needs of their parents”
Shocking, but this mirrors the change in perspective towards marriage.
From being a responsibility towards your child, to stay together as parents for their sake…..to what is now a “right” to be exercised and discarded at a whim, children can go to hell because it’s all about my happiness.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
11 days ago

There is no sacrifice anymore, they still want everything handed to them on a plate. However nothing is free and the price they pay is dysfunctional children!!!
You can’t put 100% into a career and 100% into good parenting, something has to take priority, unfortunately it’s rarely the children.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
11 days ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Who’s they? What have youngsters today had handed to them on a plate? Let’s compare it to the older generations who had council houses, free further education or on the job training, triple lock pensions….

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
11 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I remember couples, with their own children, getting council houses.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
11 days ago

I was brought up in one. However there’s no chance somebody in the same position as my parents were would get one now.
If it happened today Mum and Dad would be stuck renting privately and paying much more money to do so. There’d be little money left after paying the rent so they’d never have been able to save the deposit to finally buy a house and become financially secure

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
11 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Are you saying that there is no social housing? No benefits system that helps low income working families? These things all exist! Free prescriptions! We still have them! The kind of poverty that we saw in the 70’s and 80’s is not seen in what they consider poverty today! The challenge that young people have today mostly comes from an oversaturated market of graduates and unrealistic expectations stemming from watching “influencers” on TikTok selling a reality that doesn’t exist.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 days ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

We have council houses but nowhere near the numbers we did as a % of population because the previous generations sold them to themselves for cheap, pocketed the cash and never replaced them. Therefore my parents today wouldn’t get one today, they’d be forced into private rental market which would eat a much higher % of their income (likely leading to Mum having to work full time which would then mean expensive daycare and a second car would be needed).
The biggest problem for youngsters isn’t unrealistic expectations, it’s a diabolical housing situation that they’ve inherited from the older generations

Alan Bright
Alan Bright
8 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Free further education only for the 10% who went to uni

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
11 days ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

We’ve run out of plates.

Geoff W
Geoff W
11 days ago

The pro-natalists have much the same view. They want more children to secure the future of their religion, or their nation, or they’re megalomaniacs like Musk who want to breed superhumans.

Jim M
Jim M
8 days ago
Reply to  Geoff W

Someone should breed superhumans. The humans we have now on planet Earth are stupid and nihilistic. Let the Ubermensch outbreed the idiots. I’d love to see that show!

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
11 days ago

It’s always been the case for people having children, to support them in old age and maybe take over the family farm or business. That’s why many had 10 children or so , in the hope that a couple would survive into adulthood, in the era of high child mortality, rampant disease and no health care to speak of, and of course no pensions. At least there has been some progress since.

Jim M
Jim M
8 days ago

Relationships, even between family members, are transactional. Do you still believe in Disney stories? Kids should be expected to look after parents. It’s only rational and who else is really going to care for you in old age? The government? Migrants?

J Bryant
J Bryant
12 days ago

LOL. A very enjoyable essay. Of course, it wouldn’t be quite so amusing if there wasn’t so much truth in it.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
11 days ago

Appreciate the sincere article and perspective from the talented commentator as their life experience is very different from mine. Bings about two thoughts especially:
1 – Why do young women always seem to want complicated/messy relationships? Why not just have good mutually valuable ones even if they are not the end all be all or non-typical from time to time..

2- Do young attractive women really appreciate the power and value of being young attractive women? The choices they have. The quality romantic/ sexual opportunities they could avail themselves of if they only choose to.., Many men would all but kill for such power and choice (some probably would). I mean do “girls” doing the “Hot Girl Walk” get how privileged they are*. Do they even spend a moment considering it and what it means…

* (yes, there are unique risks as well but such risks are not fully connected to the advantages really… I mean women in general experience such risks unfortunately).

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
11 days ago

While the government can’t force people to have children (thankfully), they could be doing much more to make life easier for young families who want to have them.
More council houses so youngsters aren’t stuck in expensive private rentals, tax breaks for families, cheap/free daycare centres for those parents who want or have to go back to work.
Western society has taken away just about every leg up we used to give to youngsters, preferring instead to spend ever increasing amounts on those at the end of their life at the expense of those just starting out. I find it all rather sad

Santiago Saefjord
Santiago Saefjord
11 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Exactly. But honestly the biggest point is tax breaks: why tax a family on combined income of like £34k and who has two children and no wealth, perhaps not even a car? It’s absurd. The labour the wife beings to the table (i.e. the broader economy) is already over half the total combined salary.

See this: https://ifstudies.org/blog/taxing-families-in-the-uk

It’s heartbreaking for me. I left the UK in 2022 with two kids and stay at home wife, before that it was five years of losing the savings I had made as a single person and getting very little help in generating fiscal stability. I wished I could stay in the country I was born, but realising I was wasting my time and I needed to make to where I was valued.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
11 days ago

Why isn’t there a political party that advocates for a higher tax allowance? Like £20k?

What! You mean, there is! 🙂

Alan Bright
Alan Bright
8 days ago

OR – Zero personal tax allowance, flat tax rate, universal basic income and universal child benefit.
Scrap the minimum wage; scrap means-tested benefits; scrap non-parental childcare subsidies – and if ppl want to spend their child benefit on non-parental childcare that’s absolutely fine.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
11 days ago

Interesting and sincere perspective from a commentator with a very different life experience than mine. Brought about two thoughts:
1: Why do young, attractive women seem to prefer messy/ chaotic relationships over, um, good ones (even if they are not necessarily forever or are somewhat unconventional).
2: Do attractive young women appreciate the power and choice being attractive young women affords them. The romantic / sexual choices and options. Many men would all but kill for such options (some actually would). Do “girls” on “hot girl walks” get what it all means; their “privilege” *(forgive me). Do they even stop and consider it for a minute now and then…
*(certainly all women are subject to some risk unfortunately but that is often apart from direct connection to their “hot” girlness perse)

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
11 days ago

This has to be one of the saddest articles I’ve encountered in quite some time, and given the current state of our world, that’s saying something.

It increasingly appears that multiple generations of women have been misled, coaxed out of their homes and into the workplace under false pretences. The “Boss Girl” and “Have it all” cultural memes serve merely as reinforcement mechanisms for an ideology of female empowerment that has spiralled out of control due to a lack of vision and clear goals.

The result? Millions of disillusioned and unfulfilled women, shocked to find that emulating male lifestyles – as they have been instructed to do – fails to deliver the promised fulfilment. This path is fundamentally at odds with the inescapable biological realities that all women must eventually confront.

It is little wonder the author feels she hasn’t reached adulthood – she hasn’t. She resides in a fantasy constructed to keep her a productive worker bee, never questioning why she is instructed to prioritise work and career above all else. This same misdirection applies to the perma-crises she mentions. A lack of critical thinking and a reluctance, or perhaps sheer laziness, to challenge the prevailing social narratives have left her ensnared by other peoples’ idea of what a women is / should be – ideas that appear to be meticulously crafted to keep individuals like her pliable, productive and perpetually consuming “next product.”

This leads us to a crucial question: has this artificially engineered, corporatised version of feminism created a cultural environment that benefits only a select few women who are naturally inclined towards a childless existence?

Meanwhile, the majority merely follow along, believing they should do so, having been inundated by an endless stream of glossy magazines and bombastic TED Talks – all the while wondering why their fantasy world isn’t delivering the happiness and sense of meaning it said it would on the label.

Chris Whybrow
Chris Whybrow
11 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jobs

But I’m a man and I don’t want to be trapped in a soulless corporate environment either.

William Shaw
William Shaw
11 days ago
Reply to  Chris Whybrow

A man who doesn’t work is a deadbeat.
A woman who doesn’t work is a homemaker.

Paul M
Paul M
10 days ago
Reply to  Chris Whybrow

Quit your whining and back to work with ya!

B Davis
B Davis
9 days ago
Reply to  Chris Whybrow

That’s so weird!
Everyone says that, but having been trapped in a soulless corporate environment for decades…after awhile you discover that being soulless simplifies a whole bunch of stuff. Plus Wednesday in the soulless corporate cafeteria, they serve fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies (served, of course, by soulless drones who are equally trapped).
And actually, now that I think about it, a lot of us spent some of our soulless trapped time leaning over cubicle walls talking about that weekend’s game…or the new blonde in accounting… with other soulless denizens of the corporate underworld.
And sneaking out early was always kinda fun…even though your car’s parked in the soulless corporate parking garage.
Of course you had to watch out for the occasional demon carrying a batch of TPS reports (and a small pitchfork)…but really, as soulless hells go, corporate was better than a lot of them.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
11 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jobs

This leads us to a crucial question: has this artificially engineered, corporatised version of feminism created a cultural environment that benefits only a select few women who are naturally inclined towards a childless existence?
I never wanted kids and the kind of feminism you describe rather well as artifically engineered and corporatised hasn’t worked for me either.
But I didn’t have to be “coaxed” out of the home – I never wanted to be a homemaker or play a traditional female role. I always wanted my own money and financial independence from whoever I ended up spending my life with. That part of the 80s/90s/00s feminist vision was fine – it was more the means of achieving it where I felt I’ve been sold a pup.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
11 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I hear you. Women are very much treated as cash cows nowadays. They want us to work because it’s good for the economy and helps keep single mothers off benefits, but while we still do the majority of home drudgery and caring, it’s an unequal burden. Something has to give.

William Shaw
William Shaw
9 days ago
Reply to  Deb Grant

“They” are feminists.
Feminist encouraged women to work to be financially independent.
The Declaration of Feminism promoted the destruction of the family.
Feminism made female promiscuity acceptable.
Everything that feminism has promoted has unintentionally benefitted men and more and more men are finally waking up to the benefits of feminism.
Thanks ladies for feminism.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
11 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jobs

In your pointed criticism of women you leave out any mention of the behaviors of the men involved. Women talk (and write) often about this topic while we men just keep our heads down, wary of snipers. But we’re still integral to the story. The things we said and did; or didn’t say and didn’t do, are integral to the issue of the fertility crisis.

David Morley
David Morley
11 days ago

You mean we should have « mansplained » a bit more?

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
11 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jobs

It’s the rare woman who doesn’t follow the herd and thinks for herself. We’ve been trained from (real) girlhood to “get along”, and that’s why cliques are mainly female.

The most nauseating term today is “adulting”, as in doing things that are expected of mature adults. It seems to me that two entire generations need a good Jordan Peterson kick in the *ss.

William Shaw
William Shaw
11 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jobs

For men, marriage no longer serves any purpose. Family courts destroy men and favour women. Women know this and weaponise the law against men. Marriage is a very bad deal indeed. Plus many women in their desperate 30’s are only looking for a beta male provisioner. Advice to any young man would be to never get married since half of all marriages end in divorce and in 80 percent of divorces it’s the woman who initiates it… it’s seldom the husband because he knows he will loose custody of his children. He also knows that, married or divorced, he’s still going to be paying for his family, even though he’s been separated from them by force.
For a man considering marriage there is a high likelihood he will end up an emotionally and financially devastated statistic with “generous” every other weekend access to his children while his ex wife retains the marital home and shares it with her new male provider.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
11 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jobs

B*ll*cks to that. I bet you thought the rugby playing women in raunchy underwear was cool. Idealised visions of the content little woman at home don’t exist.
When men do equal amounts of drudgery, childcare and elder care is the time when you can get righteous.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
11 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jobs

One thing to add is that the supposedly male lifestyles these women are being told to emulate is also a fiction. Most men don’t really live like that or want that.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
11 days ago

My concern here is the people the author is living around. Not all your friends at the age of 25 are positive for your future wellbeing; your summer solstice party being a case of “joking” but sort of not joking. Just be glad you are realising that at so young an age.

Martin M
Martin M
11 days ago

The beauty of the modern world is that we can choose our fertility. It can’t be a surprise that people are choosing to have children later, or not at all (full disclosure: I am a 60+ year old childless male).

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
11 days ago

Simple demographics should tell you that those who think future climate is a reason for not having kids will simply be supplanted by the kids of those who don’t think that.

Pronatalism may seem like a weird fringe movement online but in the real world it’s just normal behaviour and the reason why we’re here.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 days ago

There is no reason why we’re here. Evolution has no purpose, design or plan. Life and natural selection are accidents. The desire to have children is an evolutionary instinct. It’s not a reason.

Jim M
Jim M
8 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Human beings are here to construct a real Noah’s Ark and take Earth’s biology to other planets around other stars throughout the galaxy. A Cosmic Johnny Appleseed if you will. We are the only spacefaring species on planet Earth and that is our purpose in evolution.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
11 days ago

“My generation has a constant eye on the climate crisis, the housing crisis, the pitfalls of dating culture; but the issue of Europe’s birth rates — undoubtedly a consequence of all three of those things, to a greater or lesser degree — isn’t about us, we tell ourselves.”

The main cause of declining birth rates at the demographic level is none of these things. It is prosperity and the benefits it brings. Like improved infant survival, welfare safety nets, education and career choices for women.

The mistake Poppy makes is to compare Gen Z in Western demovracies to recently preceding generations and say that because you can’t afford houses like Boomers could, you are too poor to have children. Whereas in fact from a broader historical perspective Gen Z is exponentially more prosperous than most people in the West just a century ago and their peers in the developing world today. It is precisely because these people were/are poor, lack options and infant survival rates were/are so low that birth rates were/are so high. They know they need hands to do the work or they die out. Gen Z has options even to the extent that they can disassociate themselves from the obvious social and economic consequences of below replacement level Total Fertility Rates.

Western governments know this which is why in all but a few exceptions they turn a blind eye to mass human migration from South to North, even if not actively encouraging it. They have essentially outsourced reproduction to poorer immigrants. Even Japan which maintains a strict ethnic nativist policy (though strangely Western Progressives never seem to call them racists) has recently been forced to expand migrant worker schemes because they are simply not making enough new Japanese people to sustain the economic model of each new generation of workers paying for the retired and otherwise economically inactive.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
11 days ago

I’m not sure how much of not having children is down to not wanting them (although there have always been people with that view), but actually can’t. My wife and I would at some point in the near future like to have children, but in order to have any, we would be going from financially stable to not being able to survive financially. Note, that would be just for one, let alone two or even three, a figure we both agreed would be the ideal number.

Add in others who can’t afford to buy a home and would be condemning any would be children to the instability of private renting, that doesn’t bode well going forward. Sure, there are reasons why people are delaying having children. My own parents didn’t have us until 9 years after they were married (1980’s) because they wanted to see and do things before raising a family, but they wouldn’t have been the norm at that point.

Anders Wallin
Anders Wallin
11 days ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

No hurry. We were both well over 30, had been together 8 ys before our son came along. Its good to get some stability before skipping the contraceptives. OK I will not live long enough to see great-grandchildren but I saw no problem at all us being well over 30 before starting the family.

TM
TM
11 days ago

Unfortunately our society and culture is doing a terrible job of preparing us to really think about and value having children (I don’t even get into the economic aspects, which are also a complete mess). We’re currently telling young people that children are a burden, that they curtail your career, and that you should want that career over family, and children are just something to get ‘done’ at some point, and that you’re a victim of the patriarchy if you say you just want to have children and stay at home to raise them. Increasingly I see children being positioned as the latest middle class lifestyle bauble, I don’t see enough parents who realise when you have kids it’s about them, not you.

What we should be doing is encouraging young people to think for themselves about what’s important to them and what they want out of life. I can tell you from bitter experience that waiting to have kids not only makes the process much much harder and painful, but it’s also tougher being older as a parent of young children.

Martin M
Martin M
11 days ago
Reply to  TM

Speaking personally, I always realised that once you have had kids, “it’s about them, not you”. That’s why I never had any.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
11 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

It’s why I’ve never had a dog. 🙂

But my children have been a natural addition.

Chris Whybrow
Chris Whybrow
11 days ago

I’d like to have children, but in the absence of a cloning machine, it isn’t really something I can do myself, so I don’t think I can help pay for anyone’s healthcare in fifty years.

Rob N
Rob N
11 days ago

Certainly a critical topic and I, having only had 4 children, am encouraging mine to have many BUT the solution is not ‘affordable (ie subsidised) childcare’ etc.

Rather society needs to get out of the way and let families manage like they always have by not obsessing about ‘the right time’ or ‘the cost’ but just by getting on with life and having their children which is by far the most important, challenging, worthwhile and even fun thing that most of us will ever do.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
11 days ago

“In 70 years’ time, it may be that my wrinkly friends and I face old age in a robot-run retirement complex”
Ever heard of MAID (and that isn’t an archaic term for your childless status!)? Coming to the UK soon.
Don’t worry, all the tech is falling into place to ‘grow your baby’, Brave New World style. If you’re rich enough, you may be able to get a clone to replace your organs too, Never Let Me Go style, and avoid MAID.
The neo-Malthusians are never going to encourage you to have a child, and that boat having sailed long ago for me, I am in no position to advise you to have one. I just hope future generations don’t get to participate in The Handmaid’s Tale.
I enjoyed your piece.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
11 days ago

Of all the professional groups within the NHS, i believe Midwifery to be the one with the greatest number of outstanding vacancies (proportionately). Judging by this article, the new government should perhaps stop worrying about trying to fill them.

It’s almost as if, after admiring the excellent article by Sarah Ditum yesterday, Unherd had to publish a counterbalance which feeds into all the worst fears that female emancipation arouse in the male breast about the future of our species, or at least the Western cultural manifestation.

To be fair though, Poppy Sowerby does include the apparent male disregard for fatherhood among Gen Z. It shouldn’t be a case of “shooting the messenger” either.

Saul D
Saul D
11 days ago

Is it time to put up flags celebrating motherhood…?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
11 days ago
Reply to  Saul D

Bride-Pride Month?

Hugo Montgomery
Hugo Montgomery
11 days ago

Selfishness is deep-rooted in human nature. When attached to deliberate childlessness, it begets loneliness and robs women of the unique and profoundly fulfilling experience of motherhood. To the incredulous howls of “What would you know? You are a man” I say “What would you know? You’ve chosen not to be a mother.”

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
11 days ago

My take away from this is that you, yourself, haven’t grown up and are very immature and self centred.so do society (and your future offspring) a favour and don’t have any children.
Parenting done well is hard and your generation is all about life hacks and when children are involved, it is the children who suffer.
Our child services are in disarray because working with traumatised children is hard and very few want to do it for the low pay offered. Please don’t add to it. We have enough emotionally neglected and materially spoilt children that parents have given up on because parenting is hard and the parents are too busy with their own interests to realise when their children are being groomed either by s*xual preditors, traffickers or gangs until its too late.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
11 days ago

“Work is hard and boring.”
Exactly.
And what is not appreciated is that it isn’t so just for women, but men as well.

The risk for society is not just that privileged women stop having babies.
It’s also that men stop doing the difficult jobs that keep society running, because they only do that for their families.
And if they don’t have the prospect of a family, why would they care?

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
11 days ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

If our society does collapse, will it be remembered that it did so because the kidults our society raised were not capable of the making the necessary sacrifices, learning to work together and putting in the hard work that is needed without cutting corners?

Daniel P
Daniel P
11 days ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

If a man has no wife, no interest in a wife, and no kids, he will find a way to have a good time with his money.

When he works only to benefit himself he can work less, worry less, and enjoy the benefits of the additional resources.

Is that kinda hollow? Yep.

But if the alternative is killing yourself to provide for a wife that does not appreciate it and kids that do not appreciate it, then maybe taking that money that would have gone to Christmas presents or to college savings or to pay for your wife to get her hair done and spending it on a trip to Greece is not a bad idea. Maybe you get that new Land Rover instead of driving a 12 yr old Camry. Maybe you get a gym membership instead of working out in the garage when you actually have time to breath.

William Shaw
William Shaw
9 days ago
Reply to  Daniel P

All excellent points.
Why be a workhorse for a woman when you can work less and spend on yourself.
Nothing is more expensive than a wife and children.

Geoff W
Geoff W
11 days ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I suspect that Ms Sowerby’s friend will find child-rearing hard, and often boring, as well.

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
11 days ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Too funny to read the old boomers comments here, blaming the younger generation or society for their shortcomings, did you even consider that these are the kids that you brought up and this is the society that you created and handed down? I guess that’s not possible.

Adam P
Adam P
10 days ago
Reply to  Dave Canuck

Gen Z are kids of Gen X not boomers. If a boomer has been bringing up Gen Z then something weird happened.
A lot of boomers didnt like gay marriage and were slightly racist and they brought up Gen X who were not. Its not someone else’s fault, you make your own choices and forge your own values. Like some boomers did during the civil rights movement.

B Davis
B Davis
10 days ago
Reply to  Dave Canuck

Probably not as funny if it were actually more accurate. The Silent Generation turned 25 between ’53 & ’70 …had kids somewhere between ’53 & ’75 (Boomers & Gen X’ers)…and those kids turned 25 in ’78-’00. Their kids, like Poppy, (Generation Y or Z) are just now having kids.
The Silent Generation (Dylan, Baez, CSNY, Hendrix, Ken Kesey, Gracey Slick, John Updike, Jagger, the Beatles, John Barth, Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould, the Fonda Kids, Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper (pretty much the entire cast of Easy Rider…and MASH), Jerry Garcia, Tom Wolfe, etc…..wrote the script that the Boomer Generation tended to follow (with significant help from some especially radical members of the Greatest Generation like Timothy Leary, Carlos Castenada, et al.).
The point being, of course: the seeming simplicity provided by generational accounting is extraordinarily misleading….especially as generations stretch over 20 years +/- …and then delay having children until their 30’s (or later). This makes every generational causality chain tenuous at best.
It’s also worthwhile to note that simply being a member of an age cohort actually tells us us nothing about what any given individual believes, says, or did….or what kind of children they raised.
In the end, we return to the fundamental truth that we are all responsible for the decisions we ourselves make. Doesn’t matter whether M&D were Boomers or Gen X’ers or Millennials or Silent or Greatest. When you’re 30…heck, when you’re 25…and some would say when you’re 18: you break it; you own it. Our lives are our own as are our faults and our inevitable trail of mistakes.
Unless of course it’s easier for you to believe it’s always someone else’s fault…not mine?

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
11 days ago

As long as robots and AI replace the function of labour and as log as solar and nuclear fusion is sufficient to power both then more babies are unnecessary

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
11 days ago

Reading this, I am once again glad that I wasn’t even in the vicinity of the queue when maternal feelings were being handed out. It just makes things vastly more complicated and pressurised than they already are.
What the author is describing is a dilemma that millennial and Gen Z ladies have of realising that what we were promised/encouraged to believe about being a woman in the 21st century is not the wonderland we expected…and then moving on to asking: what would actually make us happy, and whether that is even achievable (economically, financially).
Getting absolutely sick to the back teeth of everything and wondering if the TradWives do actually have a point? Check. Stopping caring entirely about the glass ceiling? Check. Stopping caring about climbing the corporate ladder and just wanting a job that you don’t hate that pays for a quiet, modest (family) life? Oh yes, definitely – check.
I can identify. 42 is clearly the new 25.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

42 is not the new 25 for women.
At 42 a moderately successful man can easily find a nubile fertile woman, being fertile himself. At 42 a woman is far beyond her peak pulling power and fertility is close to zero.

Jim M
Jim M
8 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Some people on this forum don’t like biological facts.

Jane Hewland
Jane Hewland
11 days ago

I had terrific career. I also became a single mother. I now accept this was far from ideal for my son. Being a mother of a baby then young child while also having to work was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Impossible without incredibly understanding employers. Nearly broke me at times and I was far from a good example of motherhood. But…. I would give up every moment of that career for one day with my son, even the hardest day. Without motherhood I would have known nothing of real love or joy. I would have learned none of life’s important lessons. I would not be blessed today with two wonderful grandchildren. My life as an old woman would be a pitiful, shrivelled thing. If u take this gamble I promise u will survive. You will manage. If you don’t I fear you will always regret it. It’s what we are put on this earth to do.

Daniel P
Daniel P
11 days ago
Reply to  Jane Hewland

I never knew pure, unadulterated love until the moment my daughter was born.

Anders Wallin
Anders Wallin
11 days ago
Reply to  Jane Hewland

My post is another version, a light version of parenthood compared to yours, but with the same message. You become a parent, you discover what that is and starts operating in a whole new world. Its NOT easy (my version, a guy with absolutely no talents or experience of taking care of anything but a car becoming a caretaker together with my then gf now wife) but its fantastic on a level not earlier experienced. And me having kids in their 20’s, well now I got two young buddies texting me daily and popping up for an occasional dinner. And the prospect of grandchildren is pretty exciting…

Jim M
Jim M
8 days ago
Reply to  Jane Hewland

Good for you! It’s great to have someone that depends on you and someone to care for.

David Morley
David Morley
11 days ago

It’s going to take quite a shift of politics and culture to put children and families back at the centre of things. It’s also going to take quite a shift to make this both desirable and affordable at an age which is normal for child rearing.

Perhaps even tougher will be raising men and women who not only want to do this, but look at members of the opposite sex and see them as an attractive proposition for a long term partnership. Part of that will be raising people who actually want to grow up, rather than remain eternal teenagers themselves.

Currently a lot of men (and presumably women) must look at members of the opposite sex and think: alright as a girlfriend, or something more casual, but not really long term relationship material.

Sean Lothmore
Sean Lothmore
11 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

At the moment much attention is given to ‘trans’ identities. A small section of the population, but on a day out in London recently I kept encountering their ‘celebration’. Campaigners outside UCL, flags, and several marshmallowy-coloured pedestrian crossings (formerly known as Zebras). Nothing related to maternity or babies jumped out at me.
I’ve heard that much of this transactivism is backed by a wall of money from US medical corporations. A trans body is medicalised for life. Surely there must be some profit worth having in pregnancy and childcare?

Point of Information
Point of Information
11 days ago

Suggested title edit:

“Why Gen Z doesn’t want kids”

To

“Why no one wants Gen Z to have kids”.

Leave it to the alpha’s, they’re a lot more red blooded.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
11 days ago

I don’t know about robot carers. More likely we’ll be exported, Rwanda style, to warmer climes, where we can be cared for cheaply by cultures who hold the eldery in higher regard than we do.

Pyra Intihar
Pyra Intihar
11 days ago

….or put into a high rise in Siberia, thereby saving warmer climes for vacationing elites.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
11 days ago

I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said, “Hell is getting your own way, forever.” Well, Miss Sowerby, you appear to be well on your way.
PS. There are so many terrifying elements to this essay, but one struck me in particular… It’s taken for granted that ‘Society needs babies so that public healthcare systems will have employees to provide impersonal care services to the elderly.’ Miss Sowerby imagines a robot cleaning her aged body since no young employee is available.
But we need children not to stock future low-skill low-wage job openings, but to *love* us (as we them). In my future dreams, I’m not paying your children to help me in my old age; rather my own children are voluntarily choosing to help me – ie, to love me – in my old age.
The sexual revolution killed love – not just romantic love – but all love.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 days ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Love for your children is just self-love. It’s portrayed as noble but it’s not. You wouldn’t love them the same if they were someone else’s children. You only love them because they’re yours. And children only love their parents because they need them. When they don’t need them any more, parents are grateful when their children stay in touch. The love is nice, of course, and there’s a whole industry devoted to making it seem honourable, but it has its roots merely in our genetic survival, the most basic instinct.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
9 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The story goes that Kant was attending a lecture by a materialistic astronomer on the topic of man’s place in the universe. The astronomer concluded his lecture with: ‘So you see that astronomically speaking, man is utterly insignificant.’ Kant replied: ‘Professor, you forgot the most important thing, man is the astronomer.’

Jim M
Jim M
8 days ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

That’s a good insight. Some part of love is selfless and the narcissistic, self-centered people of the 60’s only thought of eros when they were promoting “free love.”

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
11 days ago

Affordable childcare? Being able to afford to look after your own babies would be even better. We are down this rabbit hole because feminism made the mistake of demanding respect for women only for their ability to do the same work as a man, while devaluing the most important work of all, that of raising the next generation.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
11 days ago

The validity of what you said played out in the US in real-time with a football player’s speech on the value of motherhood. The volume of the outrage sounded a great deal like the flak that comes with being over the target.

Daniel P
Daniel P
11 days ago

This line hit home for me “Work is hard and boring, she says. “I just want to stay at home.”

And this goes right to the root of things.

Work IS hard and it IS largely boring most of the time. That has always been true for most people and will always be true. Work is physically, mentally and emotionally HARD and most often never brings the kinds of rewards that teens and 20 somethings think it will. It is why they pay us. If it were fun, glamorous, and easy, we would all be doing it for free.

Women have been sold a load of BS over the last 40 yrs. Most of that BS benefited corporations who got larger labor pools and lower wage costs. It benefited a lot of authors, politicians, magazines selling a fantasy. It aligned with the views of the professional feminists, many of whom hate men, many of whom are communists in all but name, many of whom hate society because they do not fit well into it. It benefited those selling a glamorous lifestyle of Prada and cool little cars, wine on the beach, and regular dinners with girlfriends in cool little restaurants. They sold a lifestyle of no sacrifice, no having to choose, change boyfriends like you change underwear. No responsibility to anything or anyone but your own happiness right now. It was a story of natural power. You do not need a man to partner with, you do not NEED anyone, you can do it all on your own and enjoy it. In fact, a male partner is a burden to your happiness, just screw them and move on to brunch. How exciting! How cool! How very hollow in the end.

As for the young men? Well, what man would want to partner with someone with those values? Why would he put himself on the line for someone like that, someone who is going to see him that way and not see him as a person to be valued.

Men have understood that work is hard and boring forever. Some of us always wondered why any woman would give up staying home, being her own boss, taking care of her home and her kids, to go serve someone else day in and day out. For many of us it was a relief because now we were no longer the sole provider, our family’s housing, food, healthcare, clothing and education did not depend on us alone, but most of us were prepared to do that. Not sure that is true of these young guys who saw what their fathers went through for not a lot of thanks from their wives or kids.That quiet grind to provide.

B Davis
B Davis
10 days ago
Reply to  Daniel P

As we used to explain to those who whined, ‘work is hard & boring’: ‘That’s why they call it work, stupid.”
But the question of ‘being sold a load of BS’ is an interesting one. Were women really being sold? (Can anyone be sold something that they truly don’t already wish to buy?)
Rather I might suggest that they themselves eagerly sought what they then embraced; that it was the demand that created the ‘offer’. And the demand was simply the natural outcome of the post-modernist tidal wave which swept through Modern culture, beginning in the middle years of the 20th century. The New Red Guard called this ‘tidal wave’ the rejection of the Four Olds (old ideas, old cultures, old habits, old customs). The West strongly agreed.
In 1953 Brando’s ‘Johnny Strabler’ was asked: “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” His answer: “Whaddya got?”
That answer eventually went everywhere
Say hello to Rock & Roll… long hair… drugs… casual sex (‘love the one you’re with’)..hippies / communes….Stonewall…atonality….lived truths….don’t trust anyone over 30…anti-heroes…Easy Rider…the Graduate…Minimalism…Punk Rock, Grunge Rock…Rap/HipHop…Looking for Mr. Goodbar…Sex in the City…50M abortions in the last 50 years….radical increases in mental health problems….anomie, drive-bys, friends with benefits, transgenderism, etc.
Ask any woman in college since at least the mid-60’s: Why are you here? What do you want to do with your life? The number who would have answered, “Meet someone, fall in love, get married, and have kids” dwindled to the point of disappearance. The answer, the cool answer, the right answer, the expected answer became: make a career for myself, become successful, independent, and make a difference in the world! I don’t think they were ‘sold’ this idea so much as they were culturally pre-disposed to see any other possibility as a bad, traditional, obsolete, old-fashioned cop-out which had no meaning and no value.

James A
James A
11 days ago

Only in the past few years have i come to realise that my extended adolescence, jam-packed as it was with objectively Good Times, adventure, and freedom from responsibility was pretty much a wasted decade.
I am now a father of three children under 10. I’m overworked, underslept, and spending money hand over fist.
But with a family my life has meaning and i’m far happier than i’ve ever been.
Hedonistic lifestyles feel fun at the time, but these kids will wake up one day at 40 and realise they’re halfway through their lives and all they have are careers, dumb political causes, and a bunch of sad alcoholic mates.

David Frost
David Frost
11 days ago

The author is obviously intelligent– but, sadly, the article comes across as puerile navel-gazing.
As to the young men the author mentions, the civilizing influence women once had on them has vanished– leaving them irresponsible man-children. They have neither money nor inclination for marriage and children because women no longer seem to want protectors and providers.
Enjoy saving the planet, Poppy, although I think you’d enjoy it more if you had someone to leave it to.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago
Reply to  David Frost

She can leave it to her cats.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
11 days ago

But women fought for us to… 
They fought for you to have greater agency and options in charting your path. That’s it. Anything beyond that is something that you and the rest inferred. It was never implied. They did NOT fight so that 30ish professional women could flood social media platforms with videos insisting through bitter tears how happy they are.
The women of old wanted what today’s females take for granted – the ability to make certain choices. To pursue careers if they wished. To go the domestic route if that was more to their liking. Or (gasp!), to perhaps the balance the two. Few saw motherhood as a prison sentence. Few saw men as adversaries in a zero-sum clash. Young women like this author stand on a past they know nothing about.

Anders Wallin
Anders Wallin
11 days ago

I thing you fellow parents can join in in my Ha-Ha. Thats kinda what one talked about before actually becoming a parent. Its just SO much bigger that all these musings. So much worse and so much better. Either you get children and discover what that is or you don’t. And you will not be able to understand the full impact of becoming a parent until you’re there. It’s for good or bad a much bigger life divider than you ever imagined. If, of course, if you take parenthood seriously.

andy young
andy young
11 days ago

I’m increasingly convinced that we have disappeared through The Economic Looking Glass. Our main function now is as consumers, to consume the vast amount of stuff being churned out of increasingly roboticised factories (something Marx didn’t see coming, & has made working class bargaining power rapidly diminish).
This, of course, increases the enrichment of the owners (directly or indirectly) of the means of production, concentrating the wealth into fewer & fewer hands.
Women make ideal consumers; they love new stuff (generally speaking), sparkly things & luxuries to make their homes (nests) more comfortable. When they had children & stayed at home their consumption was constrained by the ability of the husband to provide money. The male market is rather different – & has always been there – so the incentive to open up a new, female, market was always going to be irresistible.
The above is necessarily full of generalisations. I’m making no moral judgements here, or entertaining conspiracy theories, however I think the rise of technology has given us huge material advantages but, as usual, provided unintended consequences, one of which has been described in the article above. Another, I believe, is the infantilisation of the population.
How do we get ourselves out of this predicament? I haven’t a clue.

Sean Lothmore
Sean Lothmore
11 days ago

Researching my own family history it’s striking that most of my great-something grandparents in the 19th and early 20th centuries had huge families. 5 or 6 children was normal, sometimes more. Almost all of them made it to adulthood, which means I surely have hundreds of 4th and 5th cousins all around the world. These were working class people living in relative urban squalor in the North of England and in Scotland.
I would never suggest that families return to those sort of sizes, but surely the prime directive of any mammalian species is to reproduce, and the purpose of a society is to create the best possible conditions for that to be a success. Anything else is just a cultural waste product.

Konstantinos Stavropoulos
Konstantinos Stavropoulos
11 days ago

Indeed.. “push for a system which does not actively punish women for having children”..!

Wishing you a few happy children in the next decade Ms. Poppy Sowerby..!

J S
J S
11 days ago

The left is being hoisted from its own petard. After making the future impossibly ugly and bleak they’re now concerned no one will be around to pay for it. Tough luck that.

Simon Templar
Simon Templar
11 days ago

Women are much more complex than men. Yet feminism teaches them to emulate men, who are simpler and want less from life. “Be all you can be” is a whole different set of opportunities for a woman.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
11 days ago
Reply to  Simon Templar

Men are very simple creatures, very simple indeed.

Yet so many women fail to understand them, fail to bring out the best in them. It was what made the West so great: team work.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
11 days ago

Instead of ‘a constant eye on the climate crisis’, study, and pass, A level Physics and you will be able to throw those Climate worries away.

Fafa Fafa
Fafa Fafa
11 days ago

A species whose females refuse to carry offspring in numbers sufficient to ensure continued reproduction is going to die off.

Is that going to be a tragedy? Who would be around to care? No one.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
11 days ago

Don’t worry Poppy. Take your time, choose the right partner/circumstances. You’re probably healthier than we were. I prioritised career and it invariably helped my marriage survive.
The only problem is that bright women with good genes are the ones not having kids.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
11 days ago

I think one superficially obvious thing that goes slightly underappreciated is that maintaining a fertility rate above 2.1 requires a lot of families to have 3, 4 or more children. Given there will always been a proportion of women who are childless (for whatever reason, infertility, sexuality, religion, other health problems, aversion…etc.), maintaining 2.1 children per woman means the average family has to have closer to 2.5+ kids.
If you ask women who do want kids in the immediate future how many they want, most will say 2. A few will say 3. Almost nobody will say more than that. And even if they do, if you start having kids in your early 30s, getting 3+ kids in before fertility starts to decline in your late 30s requires conscious effort and sacrifice. Working and having kids is obviously possible, but it gets more difficult the more you have.
The point is that it’s not just whether you have kids, it’s how many. Large families have become so weird that maintaining fertility above 2.1 seems mathematically impossible.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Large families are not unusual among Africans and Muslims.

B Davis
B Davis
11 days ago

As a child, I watched a lot of Bugs Bunny & Looney Tunes. THAT, I thought, is what FUN is all about. And life, I thought, was all about FUN: hunting wabbits, teasing Sylvester, falling off giant cliffs with a colorful splat (only to arise to chase the Roadrunner — beep, beep — while ordering Acme anvils). That’s all, folks!
But really, we all knew better. We knew — as much as we might not like knowing it — that real life was not a cartoon…that cliffs could not be fallen-off-of, and that wabbits didn’t talk. We knew that Mom & Dad were right: we would have to clean our room. We would have to set the table. We would have to babysit our younger brother … and…. sooner or later we would have to get a job and go to work.
But we also knew, and had tremendous faith in the notion that REALLY what it was all about (Alfie!) was meeting that right person, marrying, having children. We knew that love and family was the center and everything else was secondary.
At least we used to know that.
Not so much anymore.
As the author notes, the post-modern feminist tidal wave was rather overwhelming, the propaganda quite clear. You don’t get a job to live….you live to get that great job…and it’s not just a job; it’s an adventure. It’s a career, for goodness sake! It’s ‘who can turn the world on with her smile’….’it’s you girl, and you should know it!” It’s leading ‘the glamorous life’. And what makes it glamorous? Hook-up Sex in the City with Manolo Blahnik heels, what else?
This is not fantasy which is being lived; this is a special kind of exceedingly superficial, extraordinarily trivial, transactional hell. Mephistopheles to Faust: “You want to lead, the glamorous life? Sheila E. was right: without love, it ain’t much.”

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
11 days ago

I’m heartily relieved that I’m much too old now to be at risk of being conned or manipulated into having brats. Being an unpaid housekeeper, brood mare and child carer has never appealed to me as a career path. It’s low status slavery. In fact I’m incredulous that any woman could enter happily into that prison – being tied down by kids, little access to intelligent adult conversation and dependent on another to pay the bills and keep the wolf from the door. The only way I would ever have considered having a baby is if I’d been rich enough to afford a nanny and then send it off to boarding school to be socialised by somebody else as the upper classes do.
I think generation Z is lucky to have plenty of valid reasons to avoid falling into the trap of parenthood. If the human race dies out, so be it – or maybe governments will get the message and pay women to reproduce.

B Davis
B Davis
10 days ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

Not everyone is cut out to have kids. That’s a given. Not everyone should have kids; that’s also true.
And I think we can say with some surety that anyone who believes marriage & motherhood is the equivalent of a ‘career’ spent as an “unpaid housekeeper, brood mare, and child carer” doesn’t truly understand either marriage or motherhood. But that’s OK; no one is requiring that you do understand it.
Luckily for you, your own Mother … grandmother…. great grandmother….and all those thousands of generations prior… which now ends with you….was not equally incredulous at such a life-embracing choice.
I guess they were all fools & low-status slaves…and you the one-in-a-million exception to the dismal rule.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
10 days ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

I’m glad you are satisfied with your life. I’m a breeder myself along with my wife. We had 3, and we now have a grandchild. What those of us who have children know is that the vanity of everyday life that you celebrate will evaporate from you as you age. You may go into old age still happy with your choice. Most like you have practiced self-justification for years, and have many arguments which assuage the empty feeling that you have at a deep level. I could be wrong, as I am about many things, but the interest in the future that many of us have is addressed by family, not career or our friends.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
11 days ago

I think the economics here are paramount. If you cant afford kids you think ” i like my fun child free life” instead of ” id like kids but cant afford them..thats how our minds work at a subconscious level.

Now Poppy thinks the state is at fault that young people cant afford kids ( i couldnt when 25 either) but actually the state is the problem. The state subsides housing for welfare recipients driving up rents and house prices, drive immigration ( see nhs recruitment for example) and tax labour so one decent wage ( or even two) isnt enough to support a family.

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
11 days ago

It’s interesting that there seem to be as many men commenting as women. I am a man, born around the middle of the 20thC and never married. Maybe in what Gen Z must view as the mists of time, I had a bit of a Peter Pan complex too. I regret it a bit, but doubt that I could have survived the stresses. It probably didn’t matter so much then, but now it is getting serious. I hardly need to point out that some foreign cultures who are furnishing immigrants to Europe have fertility rates well above replacement, and it is not clear that they are all being assimilated. Maybe the only solution is for everyone here to get a lot poorer. That may happen anyway, despite the endless promises of ‘growth’ by political parties.

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
11 days ago

We have children if we believe in a better future. If we, as a society, and I speak for mine here in the US, do not, then there will not be enough young people to support the elderly and then some difficult choices will need to be made, such as how much to tax the young and how much to provide to the old.

Veronica Lowe
Veronica Lowe
11 days ago

Be honest! Very few of us were planned at the time we arrived. Very few people actually ‘want’ children ‘yet,’ or are ready for them. Do you seriously think the human race would survive on the altruistic desire to be pregnant?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago

This is a 25 year old who in 5 to 8 years time will suddenly realise Femininism has sold her a pup.
Invest in cat breeders.

Jake Prior
Jake Prior
10 days ago

A lot if gnashing of teeth about the meaninglessness of life without children btl . Spending a little time reading research on hapiness or life satisfaction levels of parents vs non-parents reveals a much less clear picture than the chorus of personal stories you’re all so sure conclusively prove parenthood to be the one true course. With a hefty dose of nuance, and a lot of contradiction, the general theme is that there is a parental happiness gap in favour of the childless. At the very least you are very hard pressed to look at the research and say there’s conclusive proof that having children, on average, increases life satisfaction. If anything it seems to be the opposite. So please, regale us with your personal anecdotes all you like, no harm in that, but refrain from making definitive statements about the emptiness of life without children. You are not the person without a child, you likely come from a different generation, you don’t have the relationship options – or lack thereof, or the extended familial support – or lack thereof – of the person to whom you’re addressing. Your experiences are your own, and your own only, don’t be so arrogant as to assume your experiences will be directly mirrored by those of people in very different circumstances, and have the humility to acknowledge that there is a very obvious psychological imperative for positive bias towards having children once you’ve had them, as you can’t give them back that might or might not even cloud your own interpretation of your experience.

Charles Wells
Charles Wells
10 days ago

What Gen Z is the author referring to? Muslim Gen Z? White middle class women? Perhaps she is referring to the Gen Z of her own specific ethnic and cultural demographic. Lazy and solipsistic writing.

Adam P
Adam P
10 days ago

I think i was about 34 when i thought to myself, i’m bored of doing as i please, i’m bored of going out and i’m bored of only looking after myself and my partner. I thought to myself, i’m bigger than this and i have more to offer. The next time the subject of kids came up, i said lets do it, i’m ready.
Becoming a parent, whether mother or father is simply a matter of growing out of selfish, self-regarding and self-centred youth as it literally gets boring to please yourself the whole time. I firmly believe that as a grown adult who has spent about as much time in life as an adult as a child (mid 30s) if you dont go through this moment (you may go through it earlier or later) that you are just a selfish, self-regarding and self-centred person. Which is fine.
I also think that once you come to terms with your mortality (something i see as lacking in a culture that has mid 20s women having botox injections) then your genetic legacy may become something that you reflect on. This is not a boy / girl thing, this is a growing up thing. We just hear voices from young people much more frequently nowadays and they are taking longer to grow up. The author notes it without taking the obvious next step, that one day they will. UK birth rates among women over 45 has increased 12% since 2025. I bet that figure is rising and the average age is rising. The number of women seeking fertility treatment over the age of 35 is also rising.
I bet the trend for Gen Z is bigger than for Millenials.

Úna Jansen
Úna Jansen
10 days ago

I am rather bored of reading articles (and comments) which paint childless / childfree / whatever term you prefer women as victims who are unfulfilled and miserable having been conned by 21st century society. On top of this, suggesting that motherhood is the only path to fulfilment is extremely simplistic and reminds me of that whole ‘biological destiny’ trope from the Handmaid’s Tale. We all know that there are miserable and unfulfilled people in all walks of life and that includes both parents and non-parents. Happiness and fulfilment come from many places. People who choose not to have kids shouldn’t be seen as inferior or victims or worse: as bad citizens who haven’t done their bit by producing tax payers for the future economy. As a happy fulfilled married and childfree woman (Yes, shocking, I know!) who has lots of other female friends both with and without kids, I can promise you that women are perfectly capable of making life choices without being coerced or deceived by social and political movements.

Tim Cross
Tim Cross
9 days ago

It’s not the total fertility rate that has decreased to 1.49 children per woman in 2022 from 1.55 in 2021; it’s actually giving birth. 25% of all conceptions now end in abortion – around 250,000 each year in England and Wales alone. Those children would have been ‘productive ‘ members of society – well over 10 million of them since 1967 – and we wouldn’t have a demographic ‘problem’. 

Howard Clegg
Howard Clegg
9 days ago

I’m sorry Poppy, I tried. My eyes just kept sliding off the page. I just don’t care. It’s always difficult to have empathy for those who suffer from the consequences of privilege. And as an attractive middle aged white guy, I know all about that. So I can be confident in giving you a heartfelt welcome to the sunny uplands of privileged existence.

So hush now. Because nobody cares, and it’s rude to expect them to. For the privileged the only productive move is towards perspective, the more the better.

Mike K
Mike K
9 days ago

This reads like a eulogy for western civilisation: smart, ironic, cynical and suicidal.

Miss Fit
Miss Fit
8 days ago

You’re only 25. Maybe generations before more women had children at that age, yes. Families started earlier but women often still continued to have babies in their late 30s, even 40s. Now families start later and with fewer babies. That’s ok. I don’t believe the fear a la Elon Musk regarding depopulation, there are more humans than there ever was. I was like you in my 20s. Didn’t know if I wanted children and didn’t worry about this at all. Had a fun time, studied, traveled, then was ready to experience something else, wanted more, got my first child at 35 and the other at 37. Same with a lot of my friends. You’ll see. And don’t worry for the future of society, there are still enough of us making babies…
Also, you mentioned men in passing, but unless we are ready to redefine families and the definition of parents (already happening), it still (usually) takes 2 to make babies but it is only always women’s choices that are discussed…