Sunday, September 18, 2005

Babies and biological clocks and so on

Seems to have been a lot of it in the news again. Most of the usual sources (BBC, Independent, Times, Daily Mail, etc) have been eager to highlight to women (who we all know are the only ones involved in baby-making) the "dangers of waiting to have a family". Well here's a bit of reason on the subject from the Grauniad, pointing out that the fact that men in their late twenties are fed a steady diet of how-to-be-a-swinging-bachelor by the battery of lifestyle magazines aimed at them might just have something to do with it. Not to mention the fact that we all know getting pregnant ruins your career which might just be putting some women off.

I wanted to make a different point though. It really does seem that everyone has assumed that all women want to have children. Or at least that all women have a definite, 100% view on whether or not they want to have children and all women feel that those kids must, at all costs, be biologically "theirs"...

Maybe it's not a question of "waiting to have a family" but in fact of only deciding later in life that you actually want a family. And maybe the focus of medical advice should be to think twice about having a family if you're over 35, rather than encouraging women to get started now in case they decide later that they did want a family. Maybe older couples could be encouraged instead to consider fostering or adopting children if they are worried about the risks of pregnancy later in life? They would be ideal candidates to adopt older children who are often much more difficult to find good homes for than those put up for adoption at birth.

There is no shortage of babies in this country, no pressing need for more screaming ankle-biters around the place. In a fantasy Britain, governed by me, no-one would be allowed to have kids (yes, I know, Hitler tried this and it wasn't very popular, still run with me on it...) until they'd completed a programme of parenting skills classes at the end of which, assuming they passed all the assessments, etc, they would foster a child for a three-month period. It would, I suspect, significantly reduce the birth rate, increase the adoption rate and solve the problems of unwanted children and the shortage of foster carers. It would probably also do wonders for community spirit and race and inter-faith relations since inevitably people would be fostering within their own communities and sometimes across races and religions. ...well, ok, so we would all be living in a fascist state too. Realistically we couldn't make such a programme compulsory. Available and encouraged would be good though. Here's a link to Hackney's foster parenting scheme website.

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