OPINION: Sad state of affairs that money is stopping families having kids

Ruth Davies and family

Ruth and her four children celebrating Halloween. She says if she was starting a family now, the cost of living would be a huge factor in the number of children she had - Credit: Ruth Davies

Birth data in the UK shows just 1.78 births per woman in 2020, the lowest on record since 1977 and down 4.1% compared to 2019.

Although figures depicting results after the pandemic will not be available until next year, it’s thought to have had influence on numbers going down even further.

For now, the consensus is that it’s all due to Brexit, with uncertainty over the cost of living rising since leaving the EU gravely worrying potential families who are just starting out.

Is it any wonder people are deciding not to make babies when the cost of petrol has inflated so wildly, while supermarket products are running upwards behind it?

Mortgage rates are next we are told, so of course, how can people feel able to grow in numbers when they don’t even know if they’ll be able to put food in their own mouths this time next year, let alone someone else’s?

I’ve yet to hear the advantages of a post Brexit Britain from those who voted to leave.

Whenever the question is asked nothing seems to be succinct in answer, but I’m sure some, unlike me, will find this outcome to be one of them.

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We live in an overpopulated world of that there is no doubt and we do need to care more for the environment but, as a mother of four, my stance is rather different on how that can be achieved – for me, having children was and is the be all and end all in life, to have not been able to have them would have crippled me emotionally and I think a lot of women feel this way.

It’s a fundamental need to procreate, nature.

I work hard, as does my husband, to ensure that we can care for our children, but had we been hit with the cost of living going wildly up, as is predicted, when we were choosing to have them, would we have had to make different choices?

Nothing is certain and we don’t know what the future will hold for anything, let alone our pockets, but I would imagine for those would-be families deciding right now, with this massive weight, it is absolutely a factor.

To be financially incapable of having a child, when you don’t collect benefits, you do work and you should be in a position to do so, is such an unhappy thought.

It would have broken me as much as if I’d discovered I couldn’t have children for any other reason. Only this could have all been avoided, making it much harder to accept.

Not having a family because we can’t afford to, in the United Kingdom, is a real sign of the times.

It’s not a factor we’d have been looking at for most working parents until recently and though we’ve probably all worried about the old bank balance once a baby is born, we’ve worked it out in the wash, as families have for centuries, and we’ve known somehow it will all be OK.

If we none of us had children until we thought we had enough money there’d have been no babies born for decades but this, now knowing the challenge financially might not be viable at all and full stop, is all very new.

Of course, it’s an all too familiar decision to those living in countries without a national health service as the starting bat means it puts lots out of the running in the first place.

A friend of mine told me recently that as a US citizen she hasn’t been able to consider the possibility of starting her family for years – just being pregnant and delivering the baby costs a lot of dollar, potentially thousands if anything goes wrong, and she absolutely isn’t in a position, much as it saddens her after waiting her whole life to find the other elements you need to get to a place where settling down with children is an option, yet she feels she has no choice.

We don’t know how lucky we are in this country with the NHS, eliminating that side of the worry entirely and yet we do keep voting in a party who want the service dismantled, privatised and chopped up to make us more like America.

Or more like ourselves apparently, standing on our own two, very expensive feet.

Time will tell if we end up in similar positions later on but for now even with the cost of pregnancy and labour taken care of the research shows in recent years, we are fearing poverty and that’s why birth rates are down so greatly.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be standing with a bit of a buffer and safe in the knowledge that I can afford simple things in life rather than on my own, two feet or not, feeling like I’m up a murky creek without a paddle.

So, 2.4 children are a thing of the past we are told, 1.7 being the latest figure of children born to women in our country each year, and I can’t help but feel sad the deciding factors for some are based on purse strings when it really didn’t have to be this way.

The rich stay rich, the poor get poorer, and the middle of the roaders are now having to seriously consider major life choices like starting a family, all because of leaving the European Union.

But hey, we did it all on our own and we are standing on our own now, digging those two heels in further as we tell ourselves it was always part of the plan.

Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk

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