Can I Decide When And If I Have Children, Please?
The past few days my timeline has once more been filled with sensationalist Daily Mail articles heralding the imminent foreboding unhappiness of women in their 30s without children.
I would argue the article is sensationalist for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Neeta is not an “NHS Chief” at all – not that this says anything about her or her knowledge, but more about the desired response that the Daily Mail is hoping to create with it’s dramatic positioning of the facts (Neeta has previously discussed the topic much more calmly). Also, there’s an equal amount of evidence that suggests the idea of a significant decline in fertility post 30 is overstated. (This article on The Guardian poses a lovely counter argument).
I have no opinion on when a woman should or should not have children beyond that it is a matter of personal choice, preference and desire. I make zero assumptions that women without children are happier and more fulfilled in the exact same way I do not make any assumptions that women with children are more happier and fulfilled.
I do, however, have a fairly strong opinion on feeling as though I am being societally pressured to do something that I may, or may not, want to do, either now or in the future. And I have a few reasons for this (the last being the most salient).
My happiness is not inherently tied up in children just because I am a woman
Do I think I could have a happy life were I to one day have children? Yes.
Do I think I could have a happy life were I to one day not have children? Yes.
That is all.
I am already aware of my biology
Let me be frank, in my life to date, I’ve probably had over 200 periods, an inconvenient, monthly reminder of my ‘genetic destiny’. I do not need reminding of my physical capabilities (not responsibilities I hasten to add!) and my ultimate mortality, constantly, all the time.
Yes, we are all slowly dying and decisions I make now have an impact on my future. I get it, thank you for the input.
There are multiple factors at play
There is a dangerous line being drawn that women are “delaying motherhood to pursue careers” and in actuality, this is is hugely, hugely reductive. There are multiple factors at play most notably, financial, relationship and cultural considerations.
Adopting an argument that blames primarily “women’s careers” on a shift to later childbirth which is placing an “unnecessary burden on the NHS” is argumentatively too close to having a career if you are a woman being both fiscally and emotionally irresponsible and selfish. Which is just horseshit.
Also is the universal stereotype not that women want children but men don’t? I prefer my sweeping and unjustified stereotypes to be at least loosely consistent.
Why are we only talking about women?!
The genetic quality of sperm reduces with age and can affect a child’s health, though there is simply not even close to the same level of pressure for men to consider fathering earlier than there is women.
And I am bored of those old (ches)nuts.
Having children and fertility are not mutually exclusive
I can have a family and raise children if I am infertile, if I am single or if I am in a same sex relationship and it’s about time we rejected a heteronormative view of society and embrace a more whole view of what it means to have children.
We cannot avoid the biological truth that fertility and age are linked (for both genders), however, the more we embolden this simple and understood fact the more pressure we put on those people looking for love, those in the adoption process, people working hard for financial security. The more we disregard the emotional impact of parenting on men and put additional strain on women who just want to make up their own mind.