[Viewpoint] What? Become a mother?

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[Viewpoint] What? Become a mother?

Out of all the women in the world it seems Korean women are the least enthusiastic about having babies. This apparent mind-set is forcing the government to make pledges that it will create an environment that will encourage parenthood.

As a mother, I feel I have done my part. I gave birth to two children. But I feel guilty because my two married daughters are not interested at all in having kids.

I recently had a chat with some young, unmarried women at the wedding of a friend’s daughter. They said they would consider getting married after their careers had stabilized, and if they could not find an appropriate man to marry by that time, they were willing to live alone.

Those who were married said they would delay having children until they were confident that they could manage both work and raising children at the same time.

Some of them said they were worried nowadays because there was a plan to cut the number of employees at work, and under such circumstances, even if they had children, they would probably have one kid, or maybe none at all.

Compared to other women, highly educated working women are avoiding marriage or giving birth to very few children. In order to raise the rate, this group needs to be encouraged to marry and have babies.

I recently read an article in a newspaper that the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs was preparing a bill to “educate a population with education-focused values.”

The bill in question is the “population education support law.” The aim is to improve people’s perception of the value of babies and family through education. Individuals cherish Western values, but whenever family comes up, they prefer conservative values - will there not be a conflict? I am very worried about what they will teach.

“Family values” is a term the government frequently uses. This was what they put forward when they selected a woman as the face to be printed on the new 50,000 won banknote.

They picked out “a wise woman, who fulfilled her duty as a generous housewife and accomplished outstanding success in educating her talented children, to remind people of the value of family.”

But women still avoid marriage and birth, so this time, they say the focus is on propagating values. The argument is that the low birthrate fundamentally cannot be solved unless the awareness of each individual member of the public is reformed. I completely agree, but I hope they remember that the direction of awareness reform is more important.

Family is valuable. The younger generation knows this; they simply cannot start easily because of the difficulties that come with the package, such as raising children and private education, and because they are afraid they will contribute to the high divorce rate due to rushed marriages and starting families.

In the past we have had problems in dealing with these issues. Korean society used to call single-parent families “deficit families.” But that never sounded right. Deficit is a word that usually appears in accounting books, so why was it attached to families?

I sincerely hope the government will not mention “talented children’s education by a generous wife” again this time. Women will avoid marriage if the phrase “generous wife” is emphasized, and they will avoid childbirth if society speaks of education for “talented children.”

I once read an interview with men who were at a suitable age for marriage, which was titled, “Men these days want a dual-income family.” Men today want their wives to work but only until they have children.

What? Jobs are changing from professions for self-realization purposes to ones for bringing home the bacon, but it seems that they consider women’s jobs a hobby.

Do they think society will wait with open arms if women come back after raising children? An arrogant education expert said developing a child’s talents is the responsibility of the mother.

These are the types of improper ideas that should be reformed through education. Will the pregnancy subsidy, which is not even worth one month’s private tuition fees, be enough to open the closed hearts of women? The people who have kids after receiving the subsidy are the people who were going to start families anyway.

Somehow we have to deal with the reality of women who say, “Mom, I don’t want to lose the job I got after working so hard because of the burden of raising a child.”

I have nothing more to say. This is a big problem and I cannot have a baby on behalf of my daughters.


*The writer is the head of the Cultural Future IF Organization.
Translation by JoongAng Daily staff.

by Eum Eul-soon

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