The Pope seemingly upset many people recently 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 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 pre-requisite 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’ and time running out!
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.
Dame 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.
Although I am so pleased that my son and daughter-in-law loved babies so much that they now have three small 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.