Lockdown has put me off having children – I don't want to subject a baby to this
Anna Jariwalla dreamt of giving her little boy a sibling. But that all changed when COVID-19 sent the world into lockdown last year.
She and husband Peter welcomed baby Elias in February last year. Of course, the ecstatic parents had no idea what was around the corner. Opening up about being a first-time mum during a pandemic, Anna admits it's not been easy. So much so, it's impacted how she feels about having another baby.
"Prior to the first [UK] lockdown, I wanted to have more children, but now it's questionable," she says. "If this is what the future holds, it's not really what I want to subject new children to."
Lockdown changed everything
Anna has been concerned about the effects of lockdown on Elias' first year. "He's just not having the experience I had growing up," she explains. "We want our children to have the best elements of our childhood." For the 41-year-old, this means having lots of interaction with grandparents, family parties, and being able to meet other children.
"It's all the things we have associated with the childcare experience, and the virus has fundamentally changed that," she adds. "Covid-19 has made us more mindful and conscious about our responsibilities to our child, yes, but also what's going on around him.
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"Covid has meant that we haven't been able to go to baby groups, and that I can't give him a first birthday party. He faces a very different future and concept of close family than we have had. It can even make you question why you're doing all of this, in a sense."
While many anticipated a baby boom during the initial lockdown, some studies has shown the opposite to be true. Per a study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute – a research organisation that advocates for reproductive rights, 34 per cent of women said that the pandemic had caused them to delay getting pregnant or considering having fewer children. The changes in fertility preferences were most prevalent amongst women without any children.
'I'm grateful I don't have kids'
Henna Javed, 31, echoes the findings of the Guttmacher Institute study. She tells me that the pandemic confirmed her decision to not have a family. She tells me: "I am so grateful that I don't have to deal with kids through this. I have seen parents struggle through the pandemic. I have a hard enough time taking care of my own needs. We definitely don't have enough social services here in the US to allow me to work and get childcare, or get paid to not work and look after the kids.
"It's definitely added reasons to not have children. Most people are holding on to their lifestyle by a thread and one disruption can ruin peoples’ lives." She cites the increased burden on parents due to the virus as the reason behind this.
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It's certainly clear that the crisis has intensified the pressures that exist for mothers and fathers. Pulling kids out of school has meant less time for work, and as such, parents have been forced to raise children without their usual support networks.
Additionally, while we have long been aware that the bulk of traditional childcare falls upon women, this discrepancy became more apparent in 2020. More women were having to juggle their careers with parenting, as well as homeschooling their children. This has, naturally, led to concerns that in the pandemic could jeopardise women's job opportunities and prospects in the long-run.
'I made the right decision'
Margaret Wilson, who is 49-years-old and based in the UK, says that although her decision to be childfree was made well before the pandemic, the world, as it stands now, is definitely not the climate that she would have liked to bring a child into.
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"All the parents I know seem to be having a nightmare juggling childcare, homeschooling, and concerns around every sniff and cough their kids have," she explains. She adds that the "general conflict going on in society" also reaffirms her choice.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has not just upended our lives in the short-term. It's evident like other pivotal events of the century - including 9/11 and the 2008 financial crash - that the crisis will reshape society for decades to come.