To Be or Not to Be … Parents

By Brooke Gazer

Several years ago, a young Mexican couple staying at our B&B asked us a lot of questions about our life and our decision not to have children. We aren’t shy about talking about ourselves, so at the time, I didn’t think much about it.

As they were leaving, she hugged me, saying, “Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us because you helped us come to an important decision. Our parents have been pressuring us for grandchildren and we’ve been pondering about this over the past year. When we get home, we’ve decided to tell them not to expect grandchildren. Meeting the two of you, and seeing you’re content, has given us the courage to make this decision and to tell our parents about it.”

With this, they climbed into their taxi and drove away. Shaking my head, I said jokingly, “I hope they don’t mention us to their family when they drop that bombshell. Her mother’s likely to contract a hit on us if she discovers we’re responsible.”

There has been a growing trend in Mexico, among young, urban, well-educated couples to choose not to have children. This is still a rare phenomenon, but according to INEGI (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geographía, which conducts the Mexican census), the number of families without children grew by 10.4% from 2014 to 2016. The director of the Municipal Women’s Institute of Xalapa (Instituto Municipal de Las Mujeres de Xalapa, or IMMX), points out that “It is increasingly common to observe couples without children or women who decide from an early age not to reproduce.”

In Veracruz, one clinic reported that doing 134 vasectomies over a ten-day period was normal, but what was unusual was that four patients were between 20-30. These men were accompanied by their wives and had not had children.

Over the past five years, realtors are seeing more couples buying homes and apartments suitable for only two people. When asked how much space may be needed for future children, a growing number reply that there may be a dog but not a child.

In the 1970’s, Mexico’s National Council on Population (Consejo Nacional de Población, or CONAPO) began promoting smaller families in Mexico. Since then, the average number of children per female has dropped from 6.1 to 2.15. But there is still social and family pressure for couples to reproduce. Perhaps thinking their smaller-family campaign was a little too successful, CONAPO subtly fosters this pressure by issuing predictions like this one: “If a couple has a child, they would live five years longer than previous generations and their quality of life would increase.”

It seems that some couples just aren’t buying into this; there are a number of reasons couples make the decision not to have children, which don’t seem to differ that much from reasons north of the border.
· Many young women have devoted years to their education and climbing the corporate or institutional ladder. In 1960, less than 1% of Mexican women held a university degree. Fifty years later (2010), it was almost 16 percent – just a fraction behind their male peers. By this point, they are reluctant to jeopardize what they have accomplished.
· A few people feel they are unable to cope with the rigors of parenting, or fear that their relationship cannot withstand the pressure a child would introduce.
· Some believe it unwise to procreate with today’s environmental, political, economic, and social problems. They are not optimistic about the future and fear for the next generation.
· In Mexico, the cost of bearing and raising a child to the age of 18 ranges from $2.7 to $8 million pesos, with about 25% of this eaten up by education. This figure does not include a university education, which better educated couples would also be expected to provide.
· A growing number of Mexican couples prefer to enjoy life and spend their income on themselves. In the 1980s Canadian advertising agencies coined the term DINKS (double income, no kids) to apply to this important market segment.

Whatever their reason, this is something Mexico may need to contend with in the future. Today in Canada, there are more seniors than children under 14, and immigration was responsible for two-thirds of the population growth from 2011 to 2016. Mexico’s birthrate has been decreasing steadily, with over 400,000 fewer births in the last decade than the decade before. Most of this is a result of the government promoting smaller families, but the trend not to have families is also a contributing factor. It is unlikely the trend in Mexico would continue towards a negative growth rate, but nothing is impossible.

Prior to reliable birth control, couples may have postponed adding to their families, but eventually babies appeared. Everyone rejoiced when they did, – regardless of the economic or emotional strain that may or may not have ensued. I’ve known people who should never have had children, as well as older women who admitted that if they had it to do again, they would not.

Today, couples who are choosing not to be parents are still swimming against the current, but most tend to be educated and are making a conscious, well thought out decision. I’m not recommending this for everyone, but I think it is easier today, even in Mexico, for couples who do not feel a strong parental pull to make this decision.

Brooke Gazer operates Agua Azul la Villa,
an ocean-view B&B in Huatulco (