After a gruelling 3-month period of nonstop uni exams I decided to celebrate my final exam by popping open a bottle of prosecco and toasting to the end of Netflix deprivation; caffeine addiction; and a constant gnawing feeling that when I’m taking a break or relaxing, I should be studying.
I intend my summer break to consist of cocktail bars, holidays, lie in’s and basically doing whatever my heart desires (within reason of course). I’m aware this is somewhat of a privilege now considering the fact that a significant amount of my friends have now settled down and had kids, so it’s not so easy for them to drop everything and go out like they used to. I’ve been in denial about the fact my pool of ‘going out friends’ is shrinking; whereas my social media page is booming with pictures of babies.
Now I’m in my 30’s I feel much more content and comfortable in my own skin; compared to the awkwardness of my teens and twenties which consisted of ‘doing what everyone else was doing’ and not understanding why I felt so lost and unfulfilled. So now I’ve reached this peak of contentment in my life do I really have to let it all go and exchange Daiquiri’s for dirty nappies?
Up until the age of 29 I was convinced I didn’t want children. Not because I didn’t like them it’s because I’ve always preferred returning the kids back to their parents when they became too much and then going along my merry way. In all honesty, I’m not that much of a ‘kid person’, I’m more likely to start cooing over a super cute kitten or puppy than a baby (yes, I know I’ll probably ‘feel different when it’s my own’ I’ve heard it all before).
I have friends who decided to have children and friends who decided not to. I’ve heard from both sides of the argument and my conclusion is that the ‘grass is always greener on the other side’. My childless friends fantasise about being a mother and having a child of their own; and my friends who are mothers reminisce about the days they had more freedom and it took less than 5 minutes to get out of the house.
I found a really interesting article last year written by renowned Rodial skincare CEO Maria Hatzistefanis, who proclaimed ‘To be a successful working Mum, I had to sacrifice my social life’. I remember reading this and feeling unsettled, mainly because it’s an imminent ‘sacrifice’ I don’t think I’m prepared to make just yet. At some points in my life I’ve isolated myself for long periods of time opting to stay at home and have a glass of red wine on a Friday night instead of socialising. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this, but after a while it becomes somewhat depressing… would I have to go back to this routine if I decide to become a mother?
So, if we do the math, does a successful career + an active social life = no children?! I enjoy having an active social life and I’m working hard towards my change of career goals; but I worry about how I’m going to be able to crowbar a child into my already hectic schedule?
Does this holy grail of equilibrium really exist? Is it possible to juggle a social life, motherhood and a successful career without suffering from constant burn out in the pursuit of an idyllic lifestyle?
Despite the advancement’s women have made (especially in recent years) such as narrowing the gender pay gap between men and women, presenting headstrong campaigns such as #metoo etc… it’s troubling to think we are still very much a pronatalist nation that is intolerant to a woman’s decision not to have a child. Nothing too obvious or pushy; but like many insidious discriminations it festers in its subtilty and barb wired comments.
One of my friends in her late 40’s mentioned that whenever she is out on a date, it’s only a matter of time before the dreaded ‘How come you decided not to have kids?’ question rears its ugly head. Would you ever be able to give the answer ‘I didn’t feel like it’ or ‘because I didn’t want to’ without the raised eyebrow of the pronatalist prejudice that judge’s voluntary childlessness as horrendously taboo?
I think I want to be a mother? But I’m not sure if it’s ‘my’ wish or the mounting pressure to conform to my ‘duty as a woman’. This is not helped by Mother Nature and her ticking time bomb of a biological clock that puts the fear of God into some women. In some respects, she is definitively NOT a feminist. Men can breed until their 70’s and beyond, but for women, the reality is that we have a window of opportunity before we start the ‘menopause’ and it’s pretty much game over. Don’t want children? Here’s a menstrual cycle to deal with every month anyway. Want children? Better start swiping right on tinder.
What about the women who simply don’t want children? It seems that women who do not have children are split into two categories. Firstly, are the women who have tried for years to conceive but with no joy. An extreme example of this is the play ‘Yerma’ where the main female lead (Billie Piper) becomes obsessed and desperate to become a mother that she commits a crime so horrific that it challenges societies core beliefs about the fairer sex and the total depravity women are prepared to go to in order to have a child.
Secondly, are the women who purposely choose not to have children and are stereotyped as the ‘Devil wears Prada’ types. Generally, goal-oriented women who are successful in male dominated businesses and unapologetically choose to live their life on their own terms. Society sympathies with the former because ‘at least she tried’, and demonises the latter for being ‘selfish’ and ‘hedonistic’. Surely, it’s a woman’s prerogative to have a child…right?
This is not equality; would a man be subjected to the same passive aggressive attitude or pity if he decided he did not want children and wanted to concentrate on his career? Maybe slightly, but nothing like a woman would have to endure.
Nowadays, women are choosing to have children later in life; but unfortunately, even this decision is vulnerable to societal scrutiny. For example, the media criticised celebrities such as Meghan Markle, Geri Halliwell and Christine Lampard for having children in their late 30’s/early 40’s as if it’s some kind of defiant act against social norms. But if you can enjoy your life, achieve your goals and have a baby later on then why not? Surely, it’s the best of both worlds?
In certain countries, cultures, and time periods (i.e. my grandparents) it is/was expected that women have children young. It’s a template for ‘how to live your life’ that not everyone (especially not in a modern individualistic culture) choses to abide by, and nor should they. Not everyone has a great support system or the financial stability to bring a child into this world. In some countries such as South Africa it is relatively inexpensive to hire an army of nannies to look after your child, but here in the UK it’s considered a rarity. Some of the strongest women I know are able to work whilst bringing up a child single handily; this takes an insurmountable amount of strength and determination and in all honesty, I don’t know how they do it.
One nation that caused an uproar earlier this year is Alabama; when they introduced an anti-abortion law that cited ‘the law would permit abortions only if the mother’s life is at risk or if the foetus cannot survive, but not in cases of rape or incest’. So, by this ‘logic’ if you were forcibly impregnated against your will, you have no choice but to bear the baby of your attacker whether you like it or not. This seems like a massive injustice of human rights, to say that a woman does not, by law, have a say in what happens to her body?
Women have experienced years of suppression and discrimination in many forms whether it means not being able to vote, having to ask for her husband’s permission before making a decision, being paid less than a man whilst doing the exact same job, being subjected to sexual harassment and then being accused of instigating it. All this is now being challenged; so why is society’s opinion about women choosing not to have children still stuck in the dark ages? Is the world really that desperate for more people when the current population count in 2019 is just over 7,714,576,923 … this seems vastly overcrowded don’t you think?
I believe that everyone should have a right to choose to live their life as they see fit; we only have one and as long as we’re not hurting anyone, why shouldn’t we be happy? Have a career or don’t; have kids or don’t; go out partying every night or don’t; marry someone of the same sex or don’t. It takes bravery to live an authentic happy life; things like money, children or even success should complement your life not dictate your identity or self-worth. And we definitely shouldn’t be dictating how others should live their life, you may be happy in a successful career with financial stability and benefits, whereas someone else might be happy travelling the world and may not be so interested in climbing the co-operate ladder; we are all different, live and let live. If you find yourself dictating to other you may want to ask yourself why you care?
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post.