A Manifesto for 2021: Make America Want to Make Babies Again

Doug FrenchDad 2.0 Digital, Dad 2.0-Cast, Fatherhood on Friday

Writing a news digest this week feels redundant, since the U.S. election has dominated the news (and made it so indigestible). As the results shake out and the holidays approach, we’re already thinking ahead to 2021, when one of our primary objectives will be to help foster a renewed confidence that meeting in person is safe again.

We’re also going to study how parents will emerge from the unrelenting stress of Lockdown Life and build back better.

It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing before COVID closed the boathouse. Giving birth and childcare cost a fortune, but the purchasing power of our paychecks hasn’t budged in 40 years. Millennials are making less than their parents and suffocating under student-loan debt. We still have no national policy for paid parental leave. All of which are huge reasons why the U.S. birth rate has sunk well below replacement and is projected to stay there for the rest of the century. We’re being actively disincentivized to have kids.

On top of all that, we’ve spent the last eight months focused on all the mundane things we took for granted and can no longer do. Like send our kids to school, or hug Nana, or spend four seconds alone. And if you thought more togetherness would lead to more “togetherness,” you’re dead wrong. In fact, all this financial and mental stress has economists predicting an outright Baby Bust.

This newest wave of coronavirus, which sets new infection records every day and epidemiologists predicted early on, keeps pushing the Old Normal farther into the future. But we’re not going to lose sight of our inevitable return, nor of our power to shorten the journey.

We’re mad as hell, dammit.

We don’t know when Dad 2.0 Summit will convene in person again. But it bears reminding that April 16, 2021 will be the tenth anniversary of the day our co-founders took the stage at the third annual Mom 2.0 Summit, which had graciously devoted a ballroom to dad-specific breakout sessions, and announced we were launching a parent conference with Dad in the title.

We left that weekend flush with possibility, fired up by the example the moms had set and excited to have a seat at the table. And after our podcast conversation with the moms of the What Fresh Hell podcast, when we discussed how moms and dads can maintain the dialogues that will keep working moms working, we felt that again.

Our core belief has always been: “If you want to take women seriously taking care of business, you have to take men seriously taking care of kids.” Families flourish when they have the most options, and we think that sentiment is peaking in importance, because the pandemic is basically crowding us into two options: to fight the inequities it has laid bare, or to regress into the perceived safety of outdated norms.

So either all parents fight together to make our lives more family-friendly, or we settle in for “a demographic time bomb,” when population growth drops to its lowest rate in 100 years.

A lot is going to happen in these next few weeks, and we’ll be taking some time to watch it all play out (and to launch new podcast episodes every Monday). Until Fatherhood on Friday returns next month, we wish everyone a social and safe Thanksgiving, when everyone can celebrate with the babies they have now, and aspire to make a lot more in the future.

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash