"Don't make childless women feel guilty"
The Pope seemingly upset many people when he decreed that couples who decided not to have children were selfish. ‘A greedy generation choosing not to procreate’ is how he put it!
Mother’s Day each year is a bitter sweet day for many women who wish desperately that they could have a child. However, throughout the ages, women haven’t always been able to make their own choices and one of those was whether or not they wanted to have a child.
Having a family was once a prerequisite of getting married. That was the way it worked. You did not have a baby out of wedlock.
‘Having to get married’ or ‘shotgun weddings’ were common terms, and if you did become an unmarried mother, it was frowned upon probably up to the 1970s.
As soon as you did get married if not pregnant, the questions started, not only to you but to family alike. ‘When is your so and so starting a family?’
It was relentless and so carried on for years until, if you hadn’t managed to produce, it was thought that you had something wrong ‘down there’ and became an object of pity.
Those who state publicly that they don’t intend to have children are faced with a barrage of good advice.
‘You’ll regret it when you’re older!’ ‘It’s because you haven’t found the right person!’ or ‘You’ll have trouble finding any man who will want you!’
Not to mention the accusation that you are being downright selfish. The well-used phrase is trotted out about ‘biological clocks’.
These days the average household is composed of 2.3 persons compared to fifty years ago when it was 5.0 and before that the sky was the limit as regards the number of children in a family.
In Victorian times a large family was the norm.
In my mother’s Irish/Catholic family almost all her siblings produced at least four children. She let the side down only having managed to produce two!
Today young people can make informed choices about whether to have children or not and it is nobody’s business except theirs.
However those who choose to remain childless feel that they are always having to justify it, and of course there will always be the men who feel rejected and that it’s a personal affront against their masculinity.
The novelist Fay Weldon stated that, in her opinion, ‘to have a baby can be perilous, but not to have them equally so!’
It seems that she doesn’t always think that a woman who chooses not to have a family is doing the right thing, although as she is a feminist that may well be a bit confusing.
She says that it is after the age of sixty five that the childless state becomes less attractive.
The career that was all important when you were young. Well someone else is now doing the job. Friends have drifted away. Social life is practically non-existent and the nights are lonely.
You have a dog or cat but it’s not really the same as a family, and all those things you thought you would do in retirement become difficult with films too noisy and foreign sun too hot.
There is a term today of ‘Solo Generation’ which refers to women who are both childless and parentless with their bloodline cut off both above and below them. They are often heartbroken at not being a mother.
Many young women today seem to be scared of making the decision to have a child stating reasons like ‘Suppose I lost my job?’ ‘You have to be rich to afford a child’ ‘What about my figure?’ ‘I’m not brave enough’ ‘I’d have to stop drinking and smoking and I’d put on weight!’
Sometimes they genuinely do not want a baby but are pressured into it by family, religion or their partner.
If you are in the public eye it becomes even more difficult to convince people that you are not pregnant. Female stars are targeted in gossip magazines, with cameras focused onto their stomachs especially if they seem to be displaying an ounce or two of fat.
Helen Mirren was quite vocal about her problems with those who seem to resent her childless state calling it seemingly the ‘last female taboo’. She states quite emphatically that she has no maternal instinct whatever, with the female author Lionel Shriver stating that children are untidy, ungrateful and take up too much of your time.
The contraception pill which came into use in 1961 gave a choice for the first time to women who did not want a family for whatever reason, often because having a good job they decided to postpone a family until later in life, and then never found the right time, should they have wanted to.
Although I am so pleased that my son and daughter in law loved babies so much that they now have three sons, and I can’t deny the joy that they bring to our lives, I do feel that we should stop making the voluntary childless feel as if they have some guilty secret and are forced to justify it to the rest of the world.
Being childless through choice is on the rise.
Not just in the UK but Worldwide with 25 per cent of women of child bearing age choosing not to have children, and really it’s up to them.
They should not be thought of as selfish. Children should be loved and wanted, not produced because it’s expected.