By 1929 my immigrant Grandmother had two babies. She recalled that she and my Grandfather were extremely careful not to become pregnant again. they couldn't' afford it. Times were tough and my Grandfather, who was a welder, could not find steady work in Los Angeles during the Depression. Building and construction was down just as it is now so people in the trades had very little business even in sunny California. It might not have helped that he was Italian given the politics of the era.
By 1933 her little girls were 5 and 3 years old and her mother - my Great-Grandmothers - came over from Italy to watch them while Grandma got a job in a factory. Our Grandfather worked 2 days a week cutting brush for the WPA in famous Griffith Park in LA and randomly would get day work installing pipes around the country. It was an insecure existence.
People were losing their homes left and right, but for some reason my Grandparents were able to continue making their $35 a month loan payment to Uncle Pasquale. They managed to never miss a payment during the Depression, which is pretty impressive! their home cost $4,000 and they paid 7% interest on the loan which they paid off in full.
Then when WWII loomed (1939-1941) steady work in the Todd Shipyard began for Grandpa. These people got through the depression and came out the other side with no debts. The problem was that in order to do that, they lived a joyless life and a life filled with fear. With the girls 13 and 14, my Grandparents tried for another baby with the hope of having a boy. My Grandmother was nearly 40 years old at the time.
I do not expect that this generation of 20-35 year old prospective parents will wait to have children because they have not had to wait for anything in their protected lives. Naturally the way that these young Americans look at life is far different and I have to admit they inherited their unique focus from my generation. We who survived the drug, peace and love, do-what-feels-good way of thinking were more into enjoying life when compared to our parents.
We women accepted that we would have to work and actually fought for the right to have a life outside of the home. Women pushed the envelope and band up against that glass ceiling; protesting for the right to work in whatever profession they chose. Women broke barriers as stock brokers, airline pilots, doctors, business executives and military personnel. Sexual mores were shattered.
WWII-era parents were at odds with their Hippie kids and veterans rarely connected with their Vietnam-war-protesting kids. No one understood one another and society was in upheaval. We had race riots, publics marches, integration and assassinations. We had the frightening Cold War and the threat of the atomic bomb.
Today's young parents were raised as adored, praised and over-indulged progeny without the threat of a kind of warfare that could touch their lives. We who were never asked how we felt spent time coaxing our kids to express themselves. They were taken to psychologists, tutors, dance lessons, soccer, singing, tap, ballet, swimming and mountain climbing. you name it and we delivered it to them. Much has been written about the self-absorbed generation that we raised. They wait it all and don't want to sacrifice. Why should they? We gave them everything so that there was nothing more to crave.
So when the weird sub-prime loans were paraded out, the temptation was too great. Why wait when you could have it now? So many young people think that they will become rich and famous and it is shocking. They all expect to go to college and to experience wild financial success, but they skip over the part where one has to pay years and years of dues. Every bride expects a carat diamond and the honeymoon must be exotic or it doesn't count.
I have no particular insight into how this will play out, but I do know that having a baby is a lifetime commitment. Raising a child is a privilege and a serious undertaking if you want to end up with an emotionally healthy person. The reality of raising children in a sour economy means that choices will have to be made about what to give one's children. this crop of parents may become a group who cannot afford to replicate their own childhood experiences. Assuredly their will be disappointment at not being able to give the kids everything that they had, but this odd see-sawing of generations is what has always been in place.
There had been years of unusual prosperity post WWII that kind of tweaked reality. Our large middle class fed by that prosperity si threatened today and the rich promise of America evaporating as I write. Surely this generation of hopeful and excited new parents will carve a new path forward. This should be interesting to watch!