Bringing up baby ... later
Births postponed for lifestyle reasons
Pregnancies drop for under-30s: Report

Jul. 13, 2005. 06:34 AM


For Sandra Andrade, the idea of having children right now sends shivers down her spine. She's not mentally or financially ready, confessed the 31-year-old Toronto teacher who is getting married in two weeks.


It's not that she dislikes children. In fact, she loves children. But Andrade and her husband-to-be "feel young at heart. We want to live life to the fullest, and unfortunately kids right now are not in the picture."


Andrade is not alone. Statistics Canada's national study of births in 2003 found that 47.9 per cent of women giving birth were over 30 — a dramatic shift from 1983, when only 24.6 per cent of women who gave birth were over 30.


Here in Ontario, 54 per cent of mothers were age 30 and older; 46 per cent were under 30, in the 2003 annual report, just released.


So why the stunning reversal? Why are young women waiting to have children?


It's all part of what the experts at the Vanier Institute of the Family — an Ottawa-based think tank on family trends — call delayed life transitions. "We wait longer to make the big decisions that mark various transitions in the life course," explained Robert Glossop, executive director of programs at the organization.


Partially it's due to the fact that people are marrying later. The average age of a Canadian bride in 2001 was 32 years old; a groom was 34.5 years old, according to Statistics Canada.



Other possible reasons for the delay in starting a family include continuing education longer, entering the workforce later and living at home, said Patricia Tully, a senior analyst with Statistics Canada.


Glossop believes the roots of this delay and the resulting demographic shift can be traced back to the parents of the boomers who were raising children in the late 1940s and early 1950s. They chose to educate their daughters as much as their sons, Glossop said.


And there's the rub.


"That's the revolutionary turning point in modern culture," he said. "With that comes women's labour-force participation and the need for educational credentials.


"Then you throw into this mix effective birth control and a culture of expressive individualism, which encourages people to seek individual happiness and experience."


Economics and feminism also play a role, he said, especially when you factor in the need for most households to have two incomes to survive. So many 20-something women end up deciding they will get an education, pay off their student debt, get a job and establish their career, long before they even think of a so-called "Mr. Right," Glossop said.


Indeed, the labour market for women has changed quite dramatically since the 1960s, said Daniel Trefler, a professor of business economics at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management.


"The opportunities out of the home are much more lucrative and personally rewarding," Trefler said.


"(Women) want to defer that decision, which they know is going to trap them at home."


For Trefler, there is a broader and perhaps more important question to be asked about the dynamics of women in the workplace, even after they have finally had children: "Why do women find it more rewarding to be outside of the house than they used to and is that because discrimination is less?" he asked.


Birth control has played a huge role in allowing young women to choose to wait to have children, said Martha Friendly, a researcher on child care and family policy at the University of Toronto. "When I was young, birth control wasn't as well developed. The control over reproduction has really changed over the decades." And that has meant women can say no to babies with almost 100 per cent certainty.


Another factor Friendly believes is deterring young women from having children is the high cost of raising a child, including the expense and lack of affordable and good quality daycare. "If you want to have a career and be in the workforce, you have to have good child care and to be able to afford it. Child care is no more accessible than it was 25 years ago."


What's more, young women these days have a lot they want to do, she said. She points to her 25-year-old daughter as an example. For her and her friends, the issue of having children hasn't even come up yet.


"It's not so much that there is only one option open to them. They have a lot of things they want to do: further education, travelling, trying different careers."


The same lifestyle reasons that motivate Andrade. She and her fiancé plan to travel, solidify their careers and buy a house.


"Just to have another human being that you're 100 per cent absolutely responsible for, well, I'm not ready for that yet."