There is so much fucking bollocks spouted about having children. Can you think of another aspect of one’s private life that is open to so much public debate and discussion? I can’t.
It seems to me that the nanosecond you get into a serious relationship, people seem to think that this entitles them to enquire as to your future plans for procreation. I’m not talking about close friends, where this might be acceptable, but acquaintances and even total random strangers.
I’m 38 and childless. I’ve been with my husband for eight years. These two facts combined seem to send some people positively apoplectic. ‘What do you mean you don’t want children?’ ‘You’ll regret it when you’re a lonely bitter old woman’ and my personal favourite ‘you’re not doing your duty as a wife’. All genuine things that have been said to me within the past six years. Pretty much since we decided that kids were off the agenda.
Because we made the choice lightly, you understand. One morning, in the midst of our selfish, child-free lie ins, we decided that kids would spoil all our fun.
I wish that was true. That would have been brilliant, actually. I can see no reason why that wouldn’t be as valid a choice as what actually happened; that we made the decision following my third miscarriage.
Uncomfortable yet? I hope not. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable. I find it endlessly odd that, as a society, we seem so intent on championing childbirth, and yet are so quick to brush it under the carpet when it ends badly. And considering something like half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage (according to Tommys), that’s a lot of denial. Babies die. It’s a sad fact of life, but it is a fact. So it makes it all the more mind numbingly fucking unbelievable when anyone thinks they have a right to wade in and start telling women what we can and should do with our bodies.
Who knows? Maybe my fourth, or fifth, or sixth pregnancy would have come out okay. Statistically that is possible, but after talking to doctors we made the decision that, actually, we didn’t fancy going through it all again and, just maybe, there was a bit more to life than having kids. I can happily report that there is. Yay me! That doesn’t mean I’m saying don’t have kids – if you want them, and are in a position to nourish and support them, go have a dozen. But if you’re not sure, for God’s sake don’t let yourself be bullied by other people. Or The Media.
Because The Media is increasingly vocal about what women should and shouldn’t be doing with their own reproductive systems. Look at this little sparkly gem in The Guardian.. So, we’re apparently selfish, decadent and stupid for deciding not to add more people to this already horribly overpopulated, overstretched world. I’ll remember that next time I’m paying my taxes that go towards things like schools, and childcare, that I will never ever use but will happily contribute towards for other people’s families. I’ll remember it when I am able to look after my friends’ kids, and give said friends a much needed break. I’ll remember it when, hopefully in the future, my niece and nephew come over from the USA to spend time with their cool aunt and uncle in London. The ones who will spoil them rotten and take them everywhere they want to go and give them undivided attention, like my awesome childless Godparents did with me when I was a kid. I’ll remember it next time I give a workshop on acting and writing to a bunch of kids for no pay, just because I think it’s important for them to have access to this stuff. There are millions of childless women out there; contributing, participating and doing the right things. We have the right to be judged on more than the sum of our eggs and sperm.
And what of sperm? Because daddies are in for it too, apparently. We’ve all heard about the absent ‘baby daddy’, but now stay at home dads aren’t good enough either. Well, according to Virginia Ironside anyway .
What the actual fuck? There is SO much wrong with this I have no idea where to start. This clever blog by Glosswitch is a pretty good summation. So, all adopted children, kids fathered by gay men and kids where mum works are going to grow up maladjusted and scarred? I think I would like to invite Ms Ironside to grow the fuck up, herself. I would certainly like to see her source material and research for such a sweeping statement. Notice nothing is referenced in the article. Hmmn, funny that.
Now, here’s a radical idea. Unless children are in danger, or are being hurt, or abused, or threatened in any way, how about we all just chill out and mind our own fucking business and allow people to get on with their own lives? How about we respect our multitude of differences and let people make the intensely private choices about whether and how they raise a family without commentary, judgement or interference?
And the next time you open your mouth to ask a friend, neighbour, colleague or even someone you just met why they don’t have any kids yet, just stop and think about why you’re asking. Is it for their wellbeing, or for your own curiosity?
And then talk about the weather instead.