The Backlash Against Parenthood: Examining Criticism Amid Declining Birthrates, Social Media Trends, and Dual-Income Dynamics

Declining Birthrates: The criticism of parents on social media shows no signs of abating. Amidst a continuing decline in birth rates (Declining Birthrates), Kazuma Sato, a professor of family economics at Takushoku University and a parent himself, expresses concern that this trend could dissuade individuals from pursuing marriage and parenthood in the future.

Declining Birthrates: The criticism of “people with children” has three main causes.

There are no statistics on the criticism of “people with children,” making it difficult to get a complete picture of who is targeting whom. However, this issue has undoubtedly garnered significant attention, and I believe there are three main reasons behind it. why Declining Birthrates?

Declining Birthrate, SNS, dual incomes...Why is there criticism of "people with children"?

The first reason is the development of social media, a powerful tool for spreading messages. For a message to have an impact, it needs to resonate with a significant number of people. This leads to the second reason: the decline in households with children (by Declining Birthrates). As the number of families raising children decreases and the lifetime unmarried rate rises, those raising children are becoming a minority (through Declining Birthrates). The challenges of parenting are difficult to fully understand without firsthand experience, and as fewer people are aware of these hardships, more people are inclined to empathize with the critics.

Third, the “externalization of child-rearing” has progressed. In the past, many women quit their jobs when they got married and had children to focus on housework and childcare. However, due to changing societal demands and values, more women are continuing to work. According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s Basic Survey on People’s Living, the percentage of households with children under the age of 18 where both parents work has increased significantly. This shift has led to a greater reliance on external support systems for childcare, such as daycare centers and after-school programs. Consequently, the visibility and public scrutiny of parenting practices have increased, contributing to the criticism faced by parents today regarding Declining Birthrates.

“Why Me for Your Child?” Growing Criticism of Parents

A wave of criticism is spreading on social networking services (SNS), targeting parents with young children and labeling them as “parents.” Many behaviors associated with raising children are deemed inconsiderate or bothersome by others. But what is driving this animosity?

Agree or disagree with posts on SNS

“In November 2023, a Twitter user (X) posted a message that went viral, garnering over 30 million views. The tweet highlighted frustrations about colleagues with children unexpectedly missing work due to their children’s high fevers, resulting in a workload increase of approximately 1.3 times for the entire department. This sparked a diverse and heated debate (about Declining Birthrates).”

Declining Birthrate, SNS, dual incomes...Why is there criticism of "people with children"?

In April of the same year, when the soup specialty store “Soup Stock Tokyo” announced its decision to offer free baby food at all locations, it sparked controversy. Some comments surfaced, such as, “The person who suggested this probably has kids. I won’t be visiting there again.” Others expressed frustration, saying, “It’s unbearable having strollers around. Goodbye Soup Stock Tokyo…”

In addition, social media is filled with posts such as “Single women are pressured to cover for those absent due to childcare” and “Sitting near someone with children means not being able to recline and being expected to help out.” This in increasing the sense of Declining Birthrates.

Contributions of Childless Women to Writing: Exploring Their Impact and Voices

“This argument revolves around the question: ‘Why should we sacrifice for your child?'” Yuko Ando, a prominent journalist known for her work in news programs, expresses this viewpoint.

Declining Birthrate, SNS, dual incomes...Why is there criticism of "people with children"?

There are instances on social media where women without children are voicing their perspectives about Declining Birthrates. Yuko Ando, who herself does not have children, expresses concern over a growing “divide” among women. She observes that the gap between married and unmarried individuals is widening, with more people opting out of marriage and parenthood due to economic reasons. This division, she notes, is exacerbating tensions between those with children and those without. Furthermore, Ando points out that in many workplaces, persistent notions of male superiority add to a sense of unfairness. Women without children often find themselves covering for colleagues who take time off for childcare responsibilities, compounding feelings of inequity.

There is a concern that individuals who aspire to marry and raise children may be deterred or discouraged.

The rise in dual-income households is believed to be intensifying feelings of inequity. According to the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare’s National Survey of Living Conditions, the percentage of households with children under 18 where the mother is employed increased from 56.7% in 2004 to 75% in 2022—a jump of over 18 percentage points. Additionally, the proportion of mothers classified as “regular employees” rose from 16.9% in 2004 to 30.4% in 2022. Are some reasons for Declining Birthrates.

Declining Birthrate, SNS, dual incomes...Why is there criticism of "people with children"?

Professor Kazuma Sato, specializing in family economics at Takushoku University and a parent himself, emphasizes the challenges faced by dual-income households in externalizing childcare responsibilities through nursery schools or after-school care. He highlights that unexpected events such as a child falling ill with a fever can significantly impact coworkers. Sato predicts that criticism towards parents will likely escalate, and without proactive government measures, it could deter individuals from pursuing marriage and parenthood, potentially harming the economy.

“I regret becoming a mother”: Honest revelations from women challenging societal taboos

“I regret becoming a mother.” When she stumbled upon a book titled with this striking confession in a bookstore, she felt a pang of anxiety. “I have a 3-year-old daughter. Children are adorable, but the challenges of raising them seem never-ending. Sometimes I find solace in moments of solitude. But is it acceptable for a mother to express ‘regret’?” (this is increasing in Declining Birthrates) As she turned the pages with a mix of emotions, she encountered women who were courageously defying society’s ideal of a “perfect mother,” bravely voicing their experiences as “real, flawed human beings.”

Declining Birthrate, SNS, dual incomes...Why is there criticism of "people with children"?

 ”For me, I don’t think being a mother is the right choice…because it doesn’t suit me. It’s not who I am.”

 “It was difficult [at first] to say that having children was a mistake and that it was a big burden for me. I did.”

 ”I feel like my freedom is gone forever…I don’t have freedom in my head.”

“In the pages, mothers confess openly. The author, Orna Donat (45), an Israeli sociologist, challenges the deep-seated taboo of regretting motherhood. She shares insights from her interviews with 23 women in their 70s who candidly discussed their experiences. Donat’s book, which originally sparked significant discussion when published in Germany in 2016, has since been translated into 15 countries and regions, including Japan where it was released by Shinchosha in March 2022 with translation by Masami Shikada. It delves into various narratives surrounding the challenges and complexities of motherhood, beyond issues of poverty and marital relationships.”

The book has resonated deeply in Japan, sparking significant discussion and reflection. One woman in her 30s expressed relief and validation, stating that the book eloquently articulated feelings she had long kept hidden. She appreciated having her sentiments acknowledged, contrasting with the societal expectation that raising children should be inherently joyful. This sentiment was echoed by a man in his 60s who found the book’s revelations on issues like declining birthrates and population decline to be eye-opening, exceeding his expectations.

Junsuke Uchiyama, the editor at Shinchosha, emphasized that societal norms about motherhood often assume women should naturally find fulfillment in raising children, which can overlook the challenges and emotional complexities many women face. By bringing these hidden feelings into public discourse, Uchiyama hoped to stimulate a dialogue that challenges and updates these entrenched beliefs. He found encouragement in the fact that the book resonated with a diverse readership, including men, indicating a growing recognition of the need to reevaluate traditional perspectives on motherhood and parenthood (for decreasing the trend of Declining Birthrates).

Humanizing Motherhood

Riko Murai (52), an essayist and translator known for her works on family and motherhood, responded on her Twitter in March with ” .” Murai, who is also the mother of twin high school boys, expressed deep sympathy for the book’s message that seeks to humanize motherhood, a role often considered sacred. She emphasized, “Just because a woman gives birth doesn’t mean she automatically becomes a mother, and just because she gets married doesn’t mean she has to become a mother. It’s crucial to reaffirm that women have choices from the beginning.”

However, this book critiques society’s rigid perception of motherhood as a fixed “role.” As long as this perception persists, mothers are constrained by societal expectations (about Declining Birthrates), denying them their own emotions and autonomy, and relegating them to a predefined notion of “motherhood.” Donat argues that society idealizes only the scenario of the “perfect mother,” akin to an “ideal employee,” leaving little room for personal fulfillment or expression. Ms. Murai remarked, “If women deviate from the roles of mother and worker, the family’s functioning could falter, potentially destabilizing societal foundations.

This book underscores how society often refuses to accept mothers’ regrets (regarding Declining Birthrates).” Reflecting on her own experiences, she recalled, “When I considered it from my daughter’s perspective, my perception shifted entirely.” In her personal essay, she explored her complex relationship with her late mother, reflecting, “As her daughter, I keenly felt her desire to break free, inadvertently drawing her closer and refusing to let go. It seemed she didn’t allow herself to move beyond her role as a mother. For those who read this book with the perspective of a daughter grappling with her mother’s unspoken words, it may unearth long-held secrets. I empathize with those sentiments.”

Love and regret often coexist.

There may be those who believe, “Expressing regret implies feeling sorry for the child (Declining Birthrates),” or “If there’s genuine love, regret shouldn’t exist.”


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