Jonathan Last gets it. The government can't make people have babies (bribes) and children (strictly as a want) don't make you happier. Paradoxical thoughts. Societies are not stable without children, less violent, but not stable. Children will only be less stressful, if you are in a stable/healthy relationship with the other parent.
This doesn't mean I don't love my children, rather they are not responsible for making me happy. Children are to be loved, they are not to be burdened with pleasing their parents desires. What does that mean? I want my children to want to do things on their own, and not to make me happy (shut up their mother). The Fourth Commandment to obey you parent is only up to adulthood,
"As they grow up, children should continue to respect their parents. They should anticipate their wishes, willingly seek their advice, and accept their just admonitions. Obedience toward parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them. This respect has its roots in the fear of God, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit." (2217)This doesn't happen at a flip of a switch at 18, I don't make my kids do anything 'because I say so'. I make my children pick up the toy room, because they are responsible for their own belongings and in case the cat pukes it isn't hidden for a week until I find it. It's never 'I say so' or 'Just do it to make me happy', yes I can explain why I need to make my child do something (like flush the toilet).
Yes, many times I give in for the sake of public health and pick up the toy room or flush the toilet on their behalf. I correct them always though, one day I won't be there and I shouldn't when they are adults. Eventually after numerous modeling of love and care, they will get it.
Jonathan Last's book can be considered very depressing, as he looks at the total fertility rates around the world, with the lack of valuing marriage and children overall. It wasn't one factor that changed everything, but many. Back in the 80s, there were still some families with older kids (graduating from high school) who were one of five or six. At the time I was in elementary school, and I knew very few only one child families. Most by the time had two children in Chelmsford, and a third that was a surprise. Today being an only child is common, it is like we have a one child policy without needing a policy at all. Children are more work/investment then ever, time and monetarily. Jonathan Last compares 'time spent' with children is actually considerably more, then decades ago, never mind their costs (Crap they want for their birthdays parties/Christmas, activities, and college). Growing up children will rarely see children who have a few siblings. They may be half/step siblings, and will not grow up together.
It seems like my children are the only children without an iPod or iPad. We don't even have a our own tablets, and I'm writing this on a computer that is sever years old. Well, it isn't broken. Why replace it. We have one TV and it's in a shape of cube. It's eight years old, still not broken. Oh, we don't have cable. But next year, my oldest will get that cell phone. And, I've never been to Disney. I must be the crappiest modern day parent in the world! But with siblings they are never bored, and their imagination is like crazy.
I'm one of two, but my older brother passed, when I was 13. Now I'm an 'only', and it's lonely. On Facebook, I see my older cousins (one of seven or one of six), talk endlessly of their bond and their memories they share. I'm just a younger cousin, a generation younger viewing it all. While clearly it was tough being with 'less' materially, it seems they got the better end of the deal later in life.