Grandma equilibrium

I see that birthrates are declining in developed countries because kids are like, super expensive. That leads to dire consequences for things like government run pyramid schemes I mean oops pensions and so on and so forth.

But I was thinking wouldn’t things get to the point eventually where there are extra grandmas around per newborn making childcare less expensive and then birthrates going back up, so that everything just fixes itself?

I don’t think the high cost of having children is the main driver of the inverted age pyramid, so much as increased longevity and young adults wanting to do other things with their lives, including relationship replacement services.

I think COVID killed a bunch of them off so fewer grandmas to go around now.

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I’m pretty sure it’s the cost, along with high student loans and high cost of housing + everything.

At least according to the young people I know.

Also I imagine a lot more grandmas are working than in the past. My youngest would have to wait until at least age 32 if she wants me to babysit. And honestly I don’t think I’ll have the energy.

Yeah, fewer grandmas willing to be childcare, plus higher expectations on parents.

Like, when my parents (baby boomers) were children they walked to/from school. They amused themselves after school. They rode their bikes to the town swimming pool in the summer (by themselves) and played in the pool (unsupervised other than the lifeguards) for much of the day.

When they were babies and they wouldn’t stop crying, my grandmother put them in their crib and went for a walk, which would get you arrested today.

Nowadays kids have to be supervised at all times until they’re like 12 or something. And they don’t play pick up games of stickball and hockey with whatever kids are in the neighborhood who show up to play… they play on formal teams. Which means getting them there & home and paying the fees and showing up for games.

And you can’t be the one parent who wishes to go old school because your kid won’t have any friends or anyone to play with as all the other kids will be at t-ball or hockey practice.

My experience growing up was probably in between my parents and that of my nieces & nephews. I definitely remember riding bikes in the neighborhood and coming home when the street lights came on. I don’t see kids out & about unsupervised these days though. I don’t think it’s a thing any more.

So being a parent must be a crap ton more work now than in the past. And my grandmothers and my mother didn’t work… they were housewives. Most women these days have jobs on top of the massively greater parenting duties.

Now there are a few things today that make life easier. My grandmothers didn’t have microwave ovens or frozen pizzas and they didn’t get take out on a routine basis. So they certainly spent a lot more time in the kitchen than modern women. But on balance it seems like less was expected of them.

Small wonder that people wait longer and have fewer kids or just give up on parenting altogether.

I think those “few” things are pretty important. My dad was a salesman. In those days, the expectation was a white shirt every day. Shirts were 100% cotton and 100% ironing required (yes, this is before “permapress”). My first recollection of my mom is standing in the LR ironing. No microwave and no frozen foods other than ice cream and orange juice. But, the fridge still needed defrosting. And, of course, absolutely no fast food or restaurant food or carry out food.

I agree with you that it’s disturbing that modern parents think they have to manage their kids fun time. And, that takes time. But, I’d still rather cart the kids to practice than do all the housework my mom did.

I think “can’t afford kids” is largely about a mindset that makes the grandparents’ are luxuries today’s necessities. Some of it is the activities you mention, some is just plain consumer goods.

In China, the one-child policy meant that two pairs of grandparents shared one grand child. I’ve read that those kids did get more support from the grandparents (and lots of pressure to perform).

In the US, mobility makes this harder. Lots of couples have hometowns that are hundreds of miles apart. Grandparents aren’t close.

As someone with lots of (small) kids… having grandparents nearby definitely helps, although I agree it definitely more of a luxury than some regular fixture in the parenting duties.

Modern household inventions definitely help a lot, and the recent new normal is a big help. Lots of household appliances can do most of the work they just need triggering (washing machine, etc.) and it’s really convenient to be able to pop down, get things going and then pop back online.

Also it’s a lot easier to get the kids to the three different schools in the morning when I can help bring one.

From a financial perspective one of if not the biggest line item is just fully funding the 529 obligations, but that’s more voluntary.

Once ss collapses the grandmas will be forced to work and then all these cheap daycares will open. Then everyone will be having kids because on top of that since they will have to rely on their kid’s income in retirement.

How are you defining “grandmas”?

I don’t see kids being “more expensive” in developed countries than in undeveloped countries; so could you expand on what you mean here wrt costs?

In poorer countries your kid starts working as soon as they are able so they are assets instead of liabilities like over here because of child labor laws.

Couldn’t they just not have kids and invest that money for retirement though…?

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I just re-watched Zoolander the other day, those damn child labor laws

I wonder why the Chinese didn’t do this because their retirement plan is to basically have their kids take care of them. I think the average person just doesn’t have the means to invest.

If you’re a farmer then I can certainly see it’s more valuable to have kids to work the fields than to save the child cost and invest it. But if you’re an employed worker bee then I bet the math changes to where you’d get more out of investing the saved funds than mooching off the kids.

Ofc all this assumes you’re indifferent about actually having said children.

I think your average Chinese person is still a farmer so yeah perhaps

Child labor laws are not nearly as restrictive for “family-run” businesses. I’ve seen many restaurants where their kids are “working” (e.g., younger kids cleaning or “napkin folding”). Many in agriculture (including “support” businesses to agricultural families) using their kids as well in their operations.

Looking for an answer here as well . . .

I sure wish more people who ‘just give up on parenting altogether’ would do so before having children.


Um, pretty much everything is more expensive here than in 3rd world countries. Food, clothing, and certainly childcare. Also very different expectations about the amount of care required and what is appropriate in terms of activities.

While 3rd world countries probably don’t have public education from K-12, most kids will only do whatever IS free. And even here where it’s “free” there can still be a lot of costs.