Maybe you’ve seen that silly commercial for a website that helps people find good prices on hotels. A man dressed like a military official shows up and makes absurdly obvious statements about the room a family is considering. Family members refer to him as “Captain Obvious.” Today as we open this commentary I am assuming that role.
So here we go. This Sunday is Mothers’ Day. To which you respond, “Well, thank you, Captain Obvious.” We honor mothers on Mothers’ Day. You groan and mutter, “Wow. Thanks, Captain Obvious.” Mothers technically become mothers by having children either biologically or through adoption. And you in a resoundingly exasperated chorus say, “Well, thank you, Captain Obvious.” And under such heavy disdain, Captain Obvious slinks away.
As obvious as all this seems, there are some aspects of Mothers’ Day that aren’t so obvious. For instance, did you know that Wisconsin’s birth rate has fallen below replacement levels for over two decades? Demographers tell us that it takes 2.1 babies per woman, on average, for any population to sustain itself. That’s not to grow; that’s just to maintain. In addition, we still kill over 7,000 unborn babies each year in our state. Put bluntly that means fewer Wisconsin women are becoming biological mothers.
Our state’s population has not fallen dramatically over the past 20 years for two reasons: immigration and older people living longer. However, the reality of fewer mothers is starting to catch up with us.
Two years ago, in the early stages of Governor Walker’s big push to get more jobs in Wisconsin and get more people employed, I heard a news report on conservative talk radio. The teaser said Wisconsin had 25,000 jobs going begging. The reporter said those job weren’t empty because of a skills gap. He said they were not filled because there are too few workers between the ages of 25 and 55. Then he proceeded to report that one of the main reasons for this dearth is that we have been below replacement birthrate in this state for 20 years.
Just this week Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance issued a new report in which they are forecasting that as the Baby Boomers retire, there is likely to be an even more significant workforce shortage in our state. There just aren’t enough women choosing to marry and become mothers.
If you are a politician who wants to ensure enough tax money is coming into the state’s coffers to pay for all programs—and to pay your salary, you should be concerned that more Wisconsin women aren’t becoming mothers. Generally speaking, the more people we have in the workforce, the more tax money is generated for the state.
Wisconsin isn’t unique. Other states are experiencing similar situations. Nationally, we are just barely holding on at 2.0 or 2.1 babies per woman, but other countries have already or are about to experience what some demographers call a “demographic winter.” Demographic winter is when the birthrate, which is directly related to the number of women who become mothers, stays very low over a significant amount of time and threatens the future of a society or nation.
Most of the European countries are right now below replacement birthrate, including, of all places, Italy. Russia is beginning to slowly come back from the edge of the demographic cliff, but to do so they had to offer couples special financial incentives to have children. How very sad it is when women have to be paid to become mothers.
The Bible tells us that motherhood is a blessed calling and that children are a gift from God. God’s plan and design from the beginning of human history was a man and a woman marrying and establishing their own family. One of God’s clear commands to Adam and Eve was “be fruitful and multiply.” They obeyed, and thus Eve became the first mother. We, too, obey God when we honor our mothers.
Perhaps at this point Captain Obvious would say, “We need more mothers in Wisconsin!” To which I trust we would all say, “That’s for sure, Captain Obvious!” May God grant us a resurgence of the blessing of motherhood in Wisconsin.