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  • A podcast to exchange stories and experiences and talk about data, laws, and proposals with experts in the field

  • In-depth articles and opinion pieces

  • Perspectives on our changing world, on becoming and being a parent, on stereotypes and innovations

  • Community: a platform for trading experiences, ideas, and testimonies

The Why Wait Agenda is an online space created with the goal of centring the issue of having children in the public narrative. We aim to take an in-depth look, from a lay and pro-choice point of view, at the aspects that encourage or obstruct the choice to have children, especially among young adults.

The Why Wait Agenda podcast is our main information channel; in addition, we publish articles in our Facts, Opinions and Culture sections, which offer in-depth coverage of the scientific, medical, statistical, political, psychological, and cultural issues surrounding the immense topic of birth rates..

At the Why Wait Agenda, we want to offer a new and modern narrative of parenthood, free from any kind of taboos and hypocrisy, and to give increased visibility to those who are working to create the best conditions for people to really be able to choose whether to have children - and if so, when to have them.

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Our objective is to compile and circulate stories, ideas, experiences, to share insights and points of view, to build up a dialogue with readers and involve them in working to change the established narrative. We are creating a community of people who care about these issues, who want to take them further, and might even take practical action to improve the situation.

And we’re not stopping with the website! From 2023 onwards, we plan on setting up public meetings, events, seminars, and opportunities for getting together and exchanging ideas.

cultura

Changing the culture

  • Having children is not an illness, it does not make anyone unable to work. No more discrimination of (actual or potential!) mothers in the workplace

  • Children do not belong to mothers alone: shared parenting is the future, let’s make it the present

  • Having children is not always easy: the difficulties we may face when trying to conceive should not be taboo

  • Having children does not stop a person from having a full and
    interesting life: it is not “the end of fun” nor the end of youth

That people can be free to have the number of children they want, that everyone wants, and if that number is zero; so be it! The Why Wait Agenda is not about convincing anyone to have children, or to have more children: we simply want to create the conditions so that everyone can be free to have the number of children they would like and start trying to have them when they want them, without external factors getting in the way. We must work to change the culture, too.
 

While it’s true that each country and each territory, in Switzerland and in Italy and throughout Europe, has its own unique features, there are elements that persist and stop many young men and, especially, young women from fulfilling their desire to become parents, creating what is known as the fertility gap: the disparity between the number of children people would like to have and the children they do have.
 

We need to start with three basic points.

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The first is that having children is not an illness; it does not render a person unfit, and it is perfectly reasonable to live a complete life after having children. This is true in the workplace, so action needs to be taken to dismantle those prejudices that result in women being discriminated against professionally for being potentially “at risk of motherhood”, and often demoted or dismissed when pregnancy becomes a reality. A woman does not suddenly lose her skills because she has given birth and has a child at home: we need to raise awareness of and support initiatives that eradicate this prejudice, which often spills over from the world of work into the private sphere, where having children is sometimes seen as “the end of fun”.

The second key point is that there are two people involved when having a child, at least in most cases. We have to change the culture of parenting, involve fathers, stop calling them “fommies”, recognise their skills and the role they play in caring for children. Children do not belong to mothers alone. Children belong to those who wanted them and take care of them, and the assumption that only women should take care of them (and even, sometimes, that only women should want them) comes from a “tradition” generated by a colossal gender stereotype that considers a woman’s place to be the home. To look after children. To devote themselves to them entirely. To sacrifice themselves for them.

 

But in the third millennium, with women studying and working and being independent and wanting self-determination and equality, this axiom simply does not work anymore. We need shared parenting, where the weight of raising a child is shared equally on the shoulders of the parents; men can find new ways of being fathers, more caring and less delegating ways than the ones we have seen consolidated over many centuries.

The third point is to free talking about how we have children from any lingering taboos. Having a family is a complex process that can be done in the quickest, most traditional way possible - a man and a woman stop using contraception, and a few weeks later she is pregnant, everything goes well, the baby is born, everyone is happy. But it can also go differently. There aren’t always two parents. When there are two parents, they sometimes have the same gender. Pregnancy is not always successful the first time around. There are health problems sometimes, and age might be a factor that does not work in your favour. There could be false starts, miscarriages. Medically assisted reproduction methods might be explored. Changing the culture of parenthood means no longer denying the complexity of trying to have children, and “normalising” what happens to hundreds of thousands of people, but is often considered inappropriate to talk about, conversations to have only in private.

 

Changing the culture is a lengthy and arduous task, which is done by constantly intersecting a new narrative of the contemporary family, of the challenges and critical issues of birth rate, with advocacy for better legal frameworks and rights.

leggi

Changing the law

  • Equal paternity and maternity leave

  • Part-time work as a right and not a concession

  • Remove sexist language (and concepts!) from laws and constitutional charters

  • Include being able to have children when desired as part of reproductive and sexual rights

There are as many ways to improve the situation of would-be parents through the law as there are legislative levels

The first big battle to be fought here is for paternity leave. The only way to take the scarlet letter - in this case not A for adulteress, but M for mother - off women’s shoulders in the workplace, to redress the balance and ensure that women are not discriminated against at work, is a robust and lengthy paternity leave. Ideally, there should be an equal “parental leave”: the exact same number of days for mothers and fathers. Four months for each parent, for example (the first of which should preferably be taken together, at the moment of birth).
 

Paternity leave is something of a novelty; it has only recently been implemented in many countries and doesn’t last nearly as long as maternity leave. Yet it is key in bringing back equality to the right and duty of parents to care for their new-born child immediately after birth; a powerful measure to simultaneously implement a strong step towards gender equality, against discrimination of mothers at work, and in general, for building a society with fewer gender-stereotyped, more modern and free roles.

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Together with paternity leave, the most useful way for parents who are employed to combine childcare is often part-time work; but the possibility of working part-time is almost always a concession given from the employer, who can arbitrarily decide whether to grant it or not. Moving this from a concession to a right (to simply have it if you request it) would represent a paradigm shift, putting the needs for work-life balance first. Concurrently, as already exists in some countries, work should be done to modulate part-time work on a percentage basis, so that it is possible to work not only within the full-time (100% of working time) or part-time (50%) dichotomy, but using the whole remaining range of fractions, so that parents might work the percentage appropriate to their individual situation. If part-time hours became flexible and were no longer thought of as a concession but as a right, balancing childcare and work would be less difficult.

We must also change the laws regulating access to medically assisted reproduction in order to make them more inclusive, less stringent and grant access to same-sex couples or single people. Furthermore, information campaigns about egg-freezing technologies are crucial for they would allow young women, who are not necessarily ready to have kids, to know there is an option that enables them to be able to decide whenever they wish  with or even without a partner – to use their own frozen eggs in case of vitro fertilization.

 

Another battle to be waged is that of eliminating sexist references and gender stereotypes from constitutional charters. Take Article 37 of the Italian Constitution, for example, which, when speaking of the working woman, says that her “Working conditions have to be such to allow women to fulfil their essential family role”. It should be noted that the “fulfil” here is the performance of an obligation, and that the adjective “essential” implies the impossibility of freeing oneself from the primary “role” attributed to women, which is precisely that of the “family”. Trying to change these obsolete phrases, which do not reflect contemporary reality, is one of the ways in which the concept of reality can be changed through the law.

 

A final case in point are international treaties concerning reproductive and sexual rights. Historically, these rights have been framed in such a way as to include ways of not having children (such as family planning, access to contraceptives, access to voluntary abortion...), and especially focused on defending women in developing countries, who are often still denied freedom of choice over their own bodies and reproductive capacity.

But the problem of a low birth rate in almost all industrialised countries, and the steady increase in the average age of women having their first child, opens up another scenario: alongside the rights to be able to freely use your own body and to be able to plan possible pregnancies and terminate unwanted ones, there is a more theoretical right - that of being able to have children when you so desire. The right to not face pressure or impediments, and to not have to postpone when you have children for reasons independent of your own will, and dependent instead on working conditions, on the absence of support for parents, on a system that does not foster the establishment of new families.

potenziare

Boosting services

  • More nursery places at reasonable prices

  • School hours compatible with working hours

  • Incentives to set up company nurseries

  • New childcare formulas

  • Subsidies and concessions for those with children


“Will we be able to cope?” With this sentence, many people give up on the idea of having children - even if only briefly. Because when the idea of having a child comes up, the question arises: will we be able to support this child? To continue working, to fulfil ourselves professionally? As a result, in order to reduce the disruption that causes one to put off the decision to start a family (only for those who want to start a family, because the Why Wait Agenda is always staunchly pro-choice!), being able to create a friendly environment that provides resources for parents is critical.

First and foremost, the state must invest in providing suitable childcare facilities to couples with small children who choose to continue working, those who do not have grandparents available to help, and those who do not have the financial wherewithal to privately pay a caregiver to look after the infant.

This includes, first, ensuring an adequate number of childcare places. In 2000 the ‘Lisbon Agenda’ set the target for all EU nations to attain at least 33% coverage of spots for children under the age of three by 2010. Many countries have yet to attain that target, even more than 20 years later: the current percentage in Italy is around 25-26%. To use Switzerland as an example of a non-EU country, coverage varies by canton but seldom surpasses 30%.

Nurseries, on the other hand, should be free to accept children as young as three months, because some women must return to work around that stage if their maternity leave runs out; nonetheless, many day-care centres still only accept infants as young as six or nine months.

It is not enough to just supply an adequate number of places; the prices must also be acceptable. The cost of a day care centre cannot be too high, or potential users will be encouraged to pursue other options, such as the mother abandoning her job.

State investment in childcare services involves ensuring that these facilities are open at times compatible with working hours. Because, even if the nursery spots are available and the rates are reasonable, the problem emerges when those nurseries close at four or five o’clock in the afternoon: people who work full-time typically do not leave the office until six o’clock in the evening. It is therefore essential to provide flexible hours and allow those who work late to rely on the nursery service until the evening, as well as during the summer or Christmas holidays: if it is not a “public holiday,” and parents are required to work, we must ensure that childcare services are fully operational.

Aside from traditional crèches, the establishment of a variety of similar services, such as Tagesmutters/Maman de jour, apartment complex nurseries, and other childcare options, should be promoted. Not to mention company nurseries, which can be beneficial not only to employees of a certain organisation who have young children to enrol in them, but also to the surrounding community.

Finally, people can be encouraged to have children by family-friendly tax laws that provide relief directly proportional to the number of children. Children are expensive, but they are also assets to the national system, as they are people who, in most cases, will become productive once they reach adulthood; not to mention that today’s children will be tomorrow’s taxpayers, and their contributions will guarantee the pensions of tomorrow’s pensioners.

It is critical to create positive circles that make individuals who want children feel less lonely, and that emphasize that there is a system ready to provide adequate resources so that the financial and logistical weight of having a kid (or more than one!) does not rest solely on parents.

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