Why Women Still Want Children

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Most scholars claim that an increase in education lowers the number of desired children and the actual number of children that a woman will have in her reproductive life. I completely concur with this argument but what worries me is that research in the area of fertility trends mainly focuses on the reasons why fertility declines and neglects the factors driving the need to have children. While it is crucial that a family focuses on the quality rather than the quantity of children in the modern day, I still still think it highly important to discuss why educated women want to have children.

The factors that drove the need to have children in the past differ significantly from the factors that drive women to want children now. The family’s need for children as a form of labor was predominant in communities that relied on subsistence agriculture for sustenance. This meant that a family would have a large number of children who would help with chores at the farm. Instrumental value of children was highly regarded in such cases. More children meant more labor on the farm hence higher productivity. The need for gender division of labor within the farm household also drove families to have more children so that they could divide chores between sons and daughters.  

Flow of wealth was assumed to move from the children to the parents in the past. Children were viewed as a "pension scheme" that would provide support and security for the parents in old age. As a result of this conception, parents had more children so that they could maximize on their returns in old age. There were uncertainties on how each child would turn out in the success ladder and this made parents cast their investment nets wider by having more children so that the weaknesses exhibited by the children who failed could be covered up by the children who turned out successful.

High fertility was also triggered by societal expectations. The belief that there was a standard age at which women were expected to marry lowered the age at first marriage for most women. This implied that the amount of time that women would be exposed to reproduction increased significantly and with limited or no contraception at all, fertility rates increased.

Cultural beliefs that placed more value on sons compared to daughters also played a role in increasing fertility rates. In some societies, sons were valued for inheritance and for carrying forward the clan name. This meant that if a woman was to have five daughters, she would continue to bear children until she got a son, thereby raising the fertility levels.

Availability of fewer contraceptive methods meant a heavy reliance on natural fertility regulation methods. These methods relied solely on postpartum infecundability, length of breast-feeding, and the use of the withdrawal method for postponing conception and pregnancy. At that time, abortion and contraception were not yet adopted as contraceptive methods. This meant that fertility increased unchecked.

High fertility rates were also fueled by some religious practices that did not allow contraception. As a result of a huge devotion to religion, some individuals had many children, which also implies increases in fertility rates.

Most women got married at younger ages in the past because they did not have an education and a career to pursue. Marriage was seen as a necessary life event and society expected the couple to start having children soon after marriage. This increased the time that a woman would be exposed to a sexual life in which her chances to bear children were higher and it increased fertility rates.
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Most of the reasons that made women have many children in the past no longer apply today because of westernization, modernity, new and improved contraceptive methods, and high levels of education but most women still desire to have children in their lives. It is almost every educated woman's dream to get married and have children one day.

I think that for a woman who is highly educated and who has a well developed career, the desire to have children can be described as a yearning to reach a self-actualization stage. I say this because increasingly most educated women have a fulfilling career and they wish to have children so that they can leave behind their offspring. I have interacted with some women who vow to have a child even outside wedlock as opposed to their values because they just want to have children of their own.

I also view the need to have children for the modern educated woman as a mark of womanhood. In this regard, I believe that having children forms the bridge that shows that a woman is still a woman despite all her career achievements. The need to take part in the natural biological process of childbirth propels some women to have children nowadays and express their intrinsic interest in having children.

In some regions, society still plays a crucial role in mediating the desire to have children for highly educated career women. It is expected that a married couple should have children at some point in their relationship. The couple’s extended family may start to question the couple if a few months or years pass by before the woman gets pregnant after getting married.

Children in modern day also represent a status symbol. Some organizations and companies base their employment decisions and promotion for female workers based on whether they have children or not.  This means that the attainment of eminence in society is sometimes based on having children. It is also interesting to note that mothers command respect in many ways in society.

In the past, women used to have many children and they had limited choices regarding contraception. Nowadays, educated women have a choice regarding the number of children they want. They can also choose not to have children at all but some of their reasons for having children are for status and/or prestige.