The debate currently raging in the UK about whether it is a good thing or a bad thing to remain childless, actually began in the States, when TIME magazine ran the below cover this month. Inside is a great article from Lauren Sandler about remaining childless, and how the birth rate in the US is the lowest in recorded American history. Immediately the opinion was divided, with some finger-wagging at childless folks: “You’re setting America on the path to the demographic decay eating away at Western society – as we need more people for Social Security to survive!” Then it spread to my neck of the woods.
Journalist Kate Spicer wrote a provocative piece in The Daily Mail newspaper this week in response, declaring, “Any woman who says she is happy to be childless is a liar or a fool.” Spicer goes on to detail her own attempts at trying to conceive and how she is resigned to a life without children at age 44. She also quotes research that shows that a decade ago in the UK, just one in nine women remained childless at age 45, but now that figure is closer to one in four. For women with a university education, that figure rises to 43 percent. Spicer laments this with a particularly bile-inducing quote, “If educated, successful women like me don’t breed, are we gearing up for a generation of Epsilon-minus semi-morons?” Oh Kate, my sympathy with you waned there I’m afraid…
All this debate is making me a bit, well, furious! Whatever choice a woman made to have/not have a child or children, it is a PRIVATE one.
Secondly, why is womanhood equated to motherhood? Any why for that matter is motherhood held in such esteem?
Friends of mine, who were being supportive as I turned 40, were quick to point out that I had two adorable children – as if this made the blow of turning another decade that bit softer. My kids are great, but what if I hadn’t had them? Would that make me less successful? What would they have said then? Some of the most interesting and successful people I know remain childless, and yet, come every dinner party or social gathering, they are faced with pitying looks. This astounds me.
I have a confession to make: I thought motherhood would just ‘happen.’ That I’d take to it instinctively. I didn’t. I can honestly say that I miss my old life more than most other mothers I know, and whilst I don’t regret having my children, I do feel I have lost a certain part of myself in doing so: career compromised, social life culled, body not quite in the first flush of youth, sex life always the loser when versus sleep… NOT that I would exchange these, but I genuinely understand why a life that is child-free is very appealing.
Here is a wild thought: If Mothers were more honest about how difficult and relentless parenting can be, instead of sugar coating it into one big Waltons movie, wouldn’t we all just feel that bit closer? The barriers between Moms and non-Moms may just be broken down a bit?
There is a time for motherhood to stop being idolized as the pinnacle of a woman’s life, the ultimate act of womanhood. It is also time for us to stop judging one another about our very personal choices – that sometimes, were never a choice.
Beneath is an array of amazing, successful, beautiful women who chose not to have kids – yet. I salute every single one of them.
TIME magazine cover 1 of 8
The TIME magazine cover that started the debate....
Photo credit: TIME Magazine.
Oprah 2 of 8
Oprah told CNN's Anderson Cooper why she never had kids: "Some people ask me why I never had children," Oprah says, adding, "Maybe this is the reason. So I can help bring up other peoples' children, your children. I want you to trust me to bring up your children and I promise I'll never let you down." Oprah, billionaire philanthropist, seems to be doing just fine to me.
Cameron Diaz 3 of 8
Is there a hotter woman on the planet that Diaz? She never avoids the 'children' question, but clearly is happy with whatever way life turns out. Imagine having to field those questions in every interview?
Ellen and Portia 4 of 8
Ellen, who has just signed up to present the Oscars in 2014, is happily married to actress Portia De Rossi. In an interview with US Weekly, Portia said, "There comes some pressure in your mid-30s, and you think, 'Am I going to have kids so I don't miss out on something that other people really seem to love? Or is it that I really genuinely want to do this with my whole heart?' I didn't feel that my response was â€˜yes' to the latter. You have to really want to have kids, and neither of us did. So it's just going to be me and Ellen and no babies — but we're the best of friends and married life is blissful, it really is. I've never been happier than I am right now."
Eva Mendes 5 of 8
Eva Mendes dates Ryan Gosling. Period. She must sleep with a massive smile on her face. That, combined with her acting career and being hailed as one of the hottest women on the planet, she aint doing badly, is she?
Renee Zellweger 6 of 8
Oscar winning actress Renee Zellweger has remain tight-lipped about her no children choice, and I think this is an area that reporters shouldn't ask about. Some things deserve to be kept private...
Chelsea Handler 7 of 8
Talk show host and comedian Handler told US Weekly, "I don't want to have a kid and have it raised by a nanny. I don't have the time to raise a child." Honest and to the point. Her career looks incredibly successful to me, and she is best mates with Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, and Goopster Gwyneth. Happy? I bet she is.
Kim Cattrall 8 of 8
The sexiest star of Sex and The City, Kim Cattrall (who is currently treading the boards in London's West End in the Tennessee Williams play, Sweet Bird of Youth), has stated that her projects feel like her children. With a fantastic career spanning several decades, Cattrall looks like age has not diminished her in any way.
Photo credits: all except where indicated – Pacific Coast News