Category Archives: May/June 2020

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 (

Mothers and Grandmothers

By Randy Jackson

As far as I know, in all cultures of the world, motherhood is revered. Pretty well every female I’ve ever known has become a mother. At the same time, every female I’ve ever known has a radically different personality from every other one. Any behavior one might associate with motherhood is not always present before a woman actually becomes a mother. So if I had to explain the human cultural concept of reverence of motherhood to an alien, for example, I would have to say the emotional bond between a mother and her offspring causes certain universal behaviors of mothers towards their offspring, and it’s those universal behaviors we associate with motherhood that are so revered in all human cultures.

All this seems so basic and is such commonly held knowledge that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Except this is just one perspective, the Adult Perspective. There are other perspectives at other (younger) life stages that can take very different views on motherhood.

Think about what reponse you might get about mothers and motherhood if you interviewed a group of young teenage girls out in the winter without a jacket, smoking, and wearing black lipstick. I don’t know what their response would be, but I’d bet motherhood would be seen as something less than universally warm and cuddly. We all know of normal non-goth kids who at a certain age when out in public with their parents, hide when they see someone from their class, no doubt not wanting to be mistaken as offspring of such creatures as they have for parents.

I’m more familiar with the perspective of motherhood from my years of boyhood. Take, for example, a group of 8-year-old boys who, say, accidentally started a forest fire or borrowed Mr. Gibson’s fishing boat to use as a toboggan. The idea of going home to some universal motherhood reaction was incomprehensible. Mothers were authority figures plain and simple. An authority somehow understood, even to these boys at that time, to be uniquely shaped by the personality of the individual mother. Each one of those hypothetical boys knew exactly what he and his friends faced at home from their mothers.

At the same time, each one of those boys would also know that things would be different if their grandmother happened to be visiting. Grandmothers, in their age-acquired wisdom, know their grandchildren are always completely innocent. “It’s not his fault, it’s those other boys,” they might say to bring the true facts to the table. This brings me to my point: Motherhood isn’t universally loved by all, but grandmotherhood is.

A universal defining characteristic of grandmotherhood is that of “amused tolerance.” They see their grandchildren for who they are, not what they want them to be. Grandmothers are at least mildly amused by almost any behavior, even behavior not condoned by the mother. Mothers can too easily conflate any minor misbehavior as the road to dropping out of school and doing meth. Grandmothers believe in the lyric of John Prine’s song “Dear Abby”: “You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t.”

Grandmothers have lots of sayings. My grandma used to have some of her own sayings that seemed a bit weird, like, “What’s good for the goose is good for grandad,” which I always thought meant whatever a goose would eat, grandpa would like. Although I guess it made some sense, as grandpa ate head cheese, which I thought was gross, but believed a goose would probably eat it too.

Even the authority mothers have over just about anyone doesn’t extend to grandmothers. Rules like “Don’t feed them ice cream and cake at four in the afternoon, they won’t eat supper and are hyper crazy for hours,” are blatantly disregarded, without even the slightest fear of consequences, by grandmothers.

In evolutionary science, there is something called the Grandmother Effect Hypothesis. This theory posits that human longevity can be attributed at least in part to grandmothers. It comes from the idea that post-menopausal women continue to help their family gather food and care for their children. This has made, over evolutionary time, a genetic lineage of families with helpful grandmothers which makes them more able to survive. I have often wondered why grandmothers are always trying to overfeed their grandchildren. Who knew it was genetic?

Motherhood is of course a biological precondition of grandmotherhood, but it takes years of living, experience, not to mention learning to bake, that slowly transforms an individual mother into a universally loved grandmother.