According to Eurostat data, Malta officially has the lowest fertility rate in Europe. While the EU average is 1.53 live births per woman, Malta’s average is 1.13. It is an interesting yet utterly unsurprising fact, given that Malta still lags behind by around 30 years when it comes to everything sex-related.
Even if you were to put aside the fact that Maltese women came pretty late to the working world by European standards, and my mother’s generation was still being shamed for not dedicating their entire lives to housework, children and losing their identities once they got married, having children has become a luxury that not everyone can afford.
For quite a few, life no longer begins when you legally become an adult but much later. Many of us decide to attend some form of educational institution at 18 and obtain a first degree but soon find out this is no longer enough to make us competitive in the working world, so more years are added to the educational tally through master’s degrees and other certificates. We then spend months and years trying to find and fit into a new job that pays as much as it did 20 years ago when the price of everything has, in turn, increased twentyfold.
Once we have a stable job, which is nowhere as near as stable as it was in our parents’ time, we start to look for a nest that can potentially hold our new family but, yet again, because of inflated house prices that seem to always rise despite the staggering property surplus, this too is a challenge. Suddenly, you’re 32 and nowhere near as settled or as comfortable as the generation before you were, even though you’re exhausted, anxious and your knees are starting to creak a little.
No household I know can afford for a mother to stay at home even when she probably should- Anna Marie Galea
You’re tired of being part of a rat race that you didn’t sign up for, tired of seeing ugly flats that you wouldn’t put your least favourite cockroach in, tired of no open spaces and fresh air and tired of spending two hours in traffic to get to a consolation prize job that you don’t want anyway, to spend two hours to get back home to watch Netflix.
And, then, on top of all that, you’re meant to be teeming with the throbbing desire to bring another being into the world when you can barely afford to feed yourself and comfortably make your home loan repayments.
Once this child does come, who will stay with them and teach them their ABCs? No household I know can afford for a mother to stay at home even when she probably should and our day care centres are still evolving to keep up with the demands and different realities of the working world.
Many of my friends with children have told me that if their own parents hadn’t stepped in to help them, they don’t know what they would have done.
Perhaps instead of adding more unelected women to parliament for gender quota shows, we should be trying to make the lives of thousands of mothers who end up doing the bulk of caregiving easier by coming up with sustainable solutions to balance their different roles as they do in other European countries. Hopefully, it won’t take another 30 years.
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