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Millennials Are Avoiding Having Kids Because Many Boomer Grandparents Won't Watch Their Grandchildren For Free

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grandparents hanging out with grandkids

For years now, we've heard about how millennials are choosing not to have children at higher and higher rates due to the economy. 

Now, another factor seems to be impacting these decisions, and some are worried about how it will impact the economy in the future.

Some think millennials are avoiding having kids because many boomer grandparents won't help with childcare. 

"It takes a village to raise a child," as the old African aphorism goes, but many millennial parents are finding that the village no longer exists. 

Multigenerational households are exceedingly rare, and more and more people live far away from their children's grandparents. 

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But many millennial parents lucky enough to live nearby their parents are finding that when it comes to leaning into being grandma and grandpa, many boomers just aren't interested — even though they themselves leaned on their own parents when they were rearing their Gen X and millennial kids.

"When I got pregnant, I envisioned that my mom would be clambering for that sweet baby time with her grandbaby," wrote one mom on Reddit who said she was raised by not just her boomer parents, but the grandparents and great aunts and uncles who helped them.

"Three months in, she's visited us a total of 3 hours," she said of her boomer mother. "She's too busy being semi-retired and going out to drinks with friends."

But many other millennials' parents are unable to retire and have neither the time nor the money to help with their grandchildren.

It's not just that many boomer grandparents can't be bothered with being the kind of helpful grandparents their parents were to their millennial kids. Many of them simply can't afford to do it at all.

Boomers living the high life in their golden years after wrecking the economy for everyone else has become the default image in many people's minds, but it's not the entire story. More than half of boomers have no retirement savings to speak of, according to 2020 census data.

And even among those who do, a Kiplinger study found that 22% of boomers are choosing to delay retirement over worries that they don't have enough savings and that the economy isn't stable enough for their comfort. 

   

   

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This has created a situation in many families where even boomer grandparents who are willing to help their children care for their kids simply aren't able to, either because they don't have the money, they don't have the time, or both. 

Since many millennials are avoiding having kids, birth rates are declining so much that some experts say it could cripple economies.

Between the economic realities and a generation of grandparents who can't or won't help with child-rearing, is it any wonder that millennials, and now Gen Z, are forgoing having kids in ever-increasing numbers?

Birth rates in America have been falling for decades, but both the Great Recession in 2008 and the pandemic have accelerated it. Now, the Congressional Budget Office projects that population growth by 2053 will be a third of what it was over the last 40 years, and it is likely to create economic troubles down the road.

Today's babies are tomorrow's workers, after all, and declining birth rates ultimately mean there may not be enough tax dollars and people in the workforce to support the economy. Many large countries, from the US to China and India, are on this same path.

   

   

These problems have generated tons of ridiculous, bad-faith takes in media and online by people who blame millennials and Gen Zers themselves for being too selfish and financially irresponsible to have kids.

Uglier still, they've been seized by bad actors, especially those with far-right political and religious leanings, who seek to fix these problems by curtailing reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights and demanding women return to "traditional wife" roles.

It hopefully goes without saying that neither blaming the victims nor forcing people into nuclear family life against their will are solutions, nor is many far-right politicos' other pet cause: curtailing immigration, which, at least in the US, is the one economic factor that could offset the problems created by declining birth rates, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The actual solution is creating a country and an economy where inadequate pay, meager taxation of corporations and the wealthy, unstable job markets, and insufficient social safety nets don't put people in a situation where child-rearing is a dismal slog, grandparenting is financially impossible, and even choosing not to have kids creates as many problems as it solves.

Ultimately, this is a totally avoidable and fixable mess. Whether anyone will have the will to do so is of course another question.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.