Monday, June 06, 2005

Bright idea number 473...

Oh gosh I've had another one... Spent the morning twitching at this article in the Guardian. Lorna Martin, who has just had her ovaries measured to assess her likely fertility in the future, is waxing lyrical about the joys of motherhood. She hasn't tried it.

"I thought the menopause was an ugly but unavoidable metamorphosis that afflicted older women. It never crossed my mind that it might hit me before I'd found Mr Right, married him and we'd created at least three, preferably four, beautiful children." Even the most beautiful children keep you up all night screaming. Even the most "right" Mr Right will argue with you. And if you're going to have kids you can never count out the possibilty that they may have problems, minor or major, mental or physical disabilites or emotional problems. They might even be ugly, you can't do much about it. If you don't realise that, you should really think twice about having kids at all.

"I couldn't ignore it for long. The tick-tock of my biological clock, which had been a constant but distant sound all my life, had erupted into a deafening alarm clock whose snooze button no longer worked." Seems to me that Ms Martin has developed a rather unhealthy obsession with having children. She doesn't even know if she's actually fertile, many women aren't. It's not a good idea to let yourself get so worked up about these things.

India Knight pipes in with a sensible remark: "Many childless women seem to adhere to the notion that babies are pretty much like really sweet dollies"

Then as if we hadn't read the earlier part of the article Ms Martin is back with "I do not regard babies as playthings to be discarded once I'm bored. Nor do I think it is my fundamental human right to have one, perfect or otherwise. But it has been for me, as for millions of other women, something I always thought I wanted." Ok but you did say earlier it had never crossed your mind that you might not have three or four beautiful ones...?

She heads home and then she has a bright idea: adoption "Single women are increasingly adopting children alone. But then came a warning. 'If you are only looking to adopt a child to prevent loneliness, to keep you company, or because you think it might be a good idea, think again.'" If you were going to have a child naturally or by adopting for any reason other than you wish to raise a child, then of course you shouldn't. But this puts Ms Martin off and she decides she needs to conceive and bear one naturally. Presumably, as we've established, for the wrong reasons.

She then remarks that "an increasing number [of women] would trade in their careers to settle down and have babies" Would they? I don't see any data on this or any evidence. It may be true given the lack of progress in narrowing the wage gap and the increasing hours many companies seem to expect to have worked by employees. Seems like a huge unsupported generalisation though.

Then she really starts to go mad, quoting Jools Oliver: " 'All I ever wanted was the babies, the baking and the roses round the door,' I felt envious. That's pretty much all I ever wanted, but I was too afraid to say so." Life isn't like that. Even Jools Oliver admits to tears and anger and that its been really hard at times - and I may only have watched ten minutes of his TV show but I can tell you for a FACT I couldn't live with Jamies Oliver! And "all I ever wanted" seems to imply its not much to ask for. It's a lot to ask for. Before the feminist revolution it is NOT TRUE that all women had this. In fact there were many spinsters and widows and childless couples back then too. The good news is that we have more freedom and more choice now and we should fight to have that freedom and that choice. Jools Oliver evidently wasn't scared to say what she wanted. The women's movement has for years been demanding more respect and support for stay-at-home mothers.

Well my bright idea is that women who don't have kids and want kids should either adopt, foster or volunteer at a childcare centre, women's shelter, after school club or local single mother's group. There are loads of kids out there who could really use the extra support. And for those who feel that they need to raise a child which is biologically theirs I would point out a couple of things: (a) its only 50% biologically theirs anyway and (b) scientists reckon that kids grow up based on 20% nature and 80% nurture.

Certainly my experience from when I used to date a single dad was that his kid learnt loads from me. Her teacher even commented on parents evening that she must have been learning from someone new recently cos she'd made some comment in class about women's rights in the middle east (she was 6 or 7 at the time). Her dad was in stitches laughing cos it was so obvious where she'd picked it up!

If you want to be involved with kids, get involved. If you're having recurring nightmares about an alarm clock timing your likely fertility, you need to stop listening to the unrealistic messages in popular culture and get your head sorted out. A few hours spent minding unruly toddlers will soon bring you back down to earth...

1 comment:

Cruella said...

My arguement here Simon is that women shouldn't be fooled my the popular media-promoted message that having a husband and children is (a) some sort of right, (b) easy and (c) always deeply fulfilling.

I think even early feminists wanted women to have the choice of career, family or both. And with whichever of those options they ultimately went for, liberation should be simultaneously available. Most feminists believe that women's work at home is deeply under-valued by society as a whole.