I may be a rabbi, living and working at the heart of New York City, but believe it or not, I occasionally catch a glimpse of an endangered species. I’m talking, of course, about young married couples. Even if they only come to the synagogue on the High Holidays, I’m still thrilled to meet them. And then I say something that pretty much guarantees I won’t see these couples again for another year: “So… isn’t it time?” The wife blushes. The husband cringes. One of them blurts out their well-rehearsed response: “Rabbi, we’d love to have kids. Someday. But right now, we’re not ready.”
That scenario plays itself out all over the world, every day. There’s an entire generation of Jewish grandmothers-in-waiting, praying impatiently for their own little bundle of joy (or two or three) to kvell over.
But their daughters and sons aren’t cooperating. Throughout the Western world, men and women in their prime reproductive years are postponing having children, or deciding not to have them all together. This is a relatively recent phenomenon. Fifty years ago, nearly 75% of couples had children within the first three years of marriage. In 2010, only about 25% do.
It doesn’t help that, by all appearances, the men today seem to be taking longer to embrace adult responsibilities, including fatherhood. Books like Kay Hymowitz’s Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys have sparked heated debates on the subject of masculinity; Michael Kimmel’s non-fiction book Guyland finds, not surprisingly, that young men today just want to have fun. After spending their college years in a haze of alcohol and hook-ups, young men go on to “re-create . . . their college lifestyle in the big city,” where they flock to the sort of bar that advertises “Spring Break 52 Weeks a Year.” Fatherhood is the new “f” word.
While Father’s Day may soon become a quant relic of the past, I beseech all potential daddies to rethink fatherhood. My children are the most enriching, rewarding and beautiful part of my life and parenthood is the greatest experience the world has to offer. Please don’t turn it down just because it seems too difficult. When you finally hold that newborn baby in your arms, you may wonder why you ever waited so long.
Simcha Weinstein is an internationally known, best-selling author. He has appeared on CNN Showbiz Tonight and NPR, and has been profiled in leading publications, including The New York Times, The Miami Herald and The London Guardian. He chairs the Religious Affairs Committee at the renowned New York art school, Pratt Institute. His latest book is Shtick Shift: Jewish Humor in the 21st Century.