More and more Mainers are making the decision to not have children.
Birth rates are declining in Maine and across the country.
About two years ago Vanessa and Xander Marin made a private life-decision public. They were going to live child-free.
“We haven’t felt the active desire to have a kid,” Vanessa said.
“At the time it was something we had not talked about publicly before, so it really felt like a huge deal to us,” Xander said.
But that once-taboo topic is now a growing trend. #ChildFree is spreading on social media apps from YouTube to TikTok.
“There are so many other child-free couples than we had ever thought. We kind of thought we were an outlier and just heard from a lot of people that were in a similar situation,” Xander said.
A Pew Research Center survey finds a rising number of U.S. adults say they’re unlikely to ever have children and reasons range from just not wanting kids to concerns about climate change and the environment.
Some 44 percent of non-parents ages 18 to 49 say it’s not too likely or not likely at all that they will have children someday. That’s an increase of 7 percent from a similar survey in 2018.
Dr. Amy Blackstone is a professor of sociology at the University of Maine. She started studying this topic for personal and professional reasons about 15 years ago.
“The idea of opting out of parenthood is not new, but one thing that is very new is that we’re talking about it,” Dr. Blackstone said. “I really went into the work thinking I’m broken somehow, my maternal instinct is missing, or my biological clock is broken and I very quickly discovered as I read the literature, one, that the idea of a maternal instinct is a myth.”
She published a book in 2019 called “Child Free by Choice,” sharing some of her story, her research, myths, and history about not having children.
“We’ve had women we’ve called spinsters for many decades, and those folks have opted out of parenthood. We’ve had men that we call bachelors that have never had kids, so we’ve had different names for them, but we’ve always had people who never became parents because they didn’t want to become parents,” Dr. Blackstone said.
Maine’s birth rate has declined for decades and remains among the lowest in the country. Baby Boomers are now aging out of the labor force and fewer people are entering.
Glenn Mills at the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research expects this trend will continue but says other factors like the ability to work from home could come into play.
“It creates really kind of an imbalance situation with our work force but it’s really good for young people in terms of their ability to attract a job and attract a good wage,” Mills said. “I believe the peak of employment will be sometime between now and 2030 unless in migration to the state of working age people comes on at a really strong rate, at rates we haven’t seen before which is really possible because of the remote work revolution.”
“I think if we can welcome people here, we can focus on welcoming newcomers more rather than focusing on pressuring young people who may not be ready or who may not want to ever become parents,” Dr. Blackstone said.
Dr. Blackstone is glad to see more people are discussing that option.
As for the Marins, they have no regrets.
“We’re still feeling like we’re probably not going to have kids but we’re still not fully closing the door,” Xander said.
“We are 90% not wanting to 10% kind of wanting to,” Vanessa said.
Another ripple effect of a declining birth rate is on Maine hospitals.
Rumford Hospital announced it is closing its maternity unit on March 31, citing a slowing birth rate as one of several factors.
St. Mary’s Medical Center in Lewiston ended its maternity services last year.