‘There hasn’t been a generational divide this pronounced since the 1960s.’
On a recent visit to my parents, my mother asked me whether I want to have kids. Being 30 and single, an uncle to a niece and a nephew through both my siblings, I’ve started to get questions from older generations about my plans to reproduce. This began later for me than it does for women and is a fraction as oppressive, but to be honest I’d thought male privilege would shield me from it entirely. When this defense failed, I forestalled a line of inquiry from my mother by talking about climate change. Even as I said it, I knew it was an already hackneyed form of stonewalling. You can defend any uncertainty these days by evoking melting ice sheets and disappearing permafrost.
But she’d never heard anyone take this tack before—at least not since her own generation’s “population bomb” version of the same story. “That,” my mom said slowly, “is so heavy.” Over the course of the rest of my visit, she mentioned it to others my age for confirmation, to others her age in incredulity. “Gabe says nobody in his generation wants to have kids because of climate change. Did you know about this?”
How could the gap between us be so great? What seemed to me such a commonplace as to be evasive and impersonal appeared to my mother as a serious human quandary—which in fact it is. I’m more politically optimistic than my mother, yet I was taken aback to realize how much darker the future seems to me than to her. Then I remembered: she’s a boomer, I’m a millennial, and this is the song of the season.