GRAND FORKS, N.D. — With graduation just around the corner, Becki DeGeest, of Moorhead, Minn., might not know what is in store for her future as she endlessly applies for various jobs in cities around the world. But, she knows one thing that’s not in her future: children.
“It’s not in the plan, anyway,” she said.
Even as a young teenager, DeGeest said, she was never really interested in having children. While her childhood friends fantasized about settling down in their hometowns and raising their own families, DeGeest said, she just wanted to get out. Thoughts of a successful career, endless travels and a life of adventure filled her mind. Kids were never a part of that picture.
“I love kids, but I’ve never really seen myself having kids,” she said, adding that it doesn’t mean she won’t get married.
DeGeest, now 22, has been dating Peter Lonnquist, of Moorhead, for 31⁄2 years, and they’ve often talked of their future together. They’ve even thought about the possibility of children and discussed their favorite baby names.
“Those conversations do pop up,” she said. But, neither of them views children as part of the plan.
A recent study conducted by Stewart Friedman at the University of Pennsylvania showed that the number of recent grads planning to have children dropped 30 percent from 1992 to 2012. Whether it’s because of financial situations, career choices or the desire to travel, more people are opting out when it comes to having children.
“For me, it’s the traveling and career aspect of it,” DeGeest said. “For Peter, finance definitely plays a role.”
DeGeest is applying for jobs in New York City, Los Angeles and London. And, she said she would never raise children in a big city. She said she also wants to travel more, and it would be difficult with kids.
DeGeest said she is more focused on advancing her career than growing a family. Others may have a different reason for the same decision.
David Flynn, University of North Dakota professor of economics, said there are many factors that play a part in the decision to have kids, and if so, how many. Some of those factors include the size of one’s own family, one’s religious upbringing and one’s career path.
Flynn said people who come from big families with four or more children often tend to have more children of their own. The same goes for people raised in a religious family.
On the other hand, women who are more career-oriented, such as DeGeest, might opt out because they feel having a child might interrupt their desired career path, Flynn said. This is a decision women have that men don’t necessarily face.
“Depending on what industry you’re in, that may or may not matter,” he said. “For instance, the nursing and teaching professions are, generally speaking, more amenable to the maternity-type leave.” Alternatively, he said, someone with a business career might view having a child as a negative choice that might curb or slow advancement opportunities.
Economic factors play a big role in the decision as well, Flynn said, because having a child represents an ongoing financial commitment for a number of years.
“With the long time span of commitment that it has, it does sometimes make people uncertain of how to evaluate and assess that situation,” he said.
Many are finding that the easiest solution is to simply not have kids, while others are waiting until they’re more financially stable or established in their careers.
“The average age [for having children] is steadily increasing, and that’s a trend we see almost across the board,” Flynn said.
The national average age at first birth has increased from 21.4 in 1970 to 25.6 years today, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Some are planning to wait even longer than that. Raini Stanek, of East Grand Forks, Minn., said she thinks 28 or 29 would be a good age to start having kids.
“You have to live your life first, experience life before you give life,” she said.
Stanek is a freshman studying wildlife and fisheries at the University of North Dakota. She said she believes the change of mindset when it comes to having children is because of increased opportunities.
“We have a lot more opportunities than our parents had, so we have more things to go see and experience,” she said.
Chris Olson, of Roseau, Minn., said before he turns 30 would be ideal. He’s 23 now and hasn’t thought about it too much, but he knows he wants kids.
“I plan on having kids and all my friends do,” he said. “We just haven’t talked about it a lot.”