Sunday, October 30, 2011

When a man doesn't want children, we assume it's because he's having too much fun. When a woman doesn't want children, we think she's an aberration

By Jennifer O’Connell

Did you read that recent article about poor, childless George Clooney? No, of course you didn’t.

The words “poor” and “childless” simply don’t belong in the same sentence as the name George Clooney.

I thought about this as I read the latest baby rumours concerning ‘tragic, childless’ Jennifer Aniston. (Rumours which are totally true this time, except for the part where she is not pregnant.)

I may be missing the point here, but Aniston strikes me as anything but tragic.

She has a career she loves, and which has made her disgustingly wealthy; a $42 million home in Beverly Hills and an apartment in New York; hair and a body to die for; an apparently close circle of female friends, and a string of eligible male consorts. She seems to spend roughly the same portion of her life frolicking on a beach in Mexico as most other women her age spend standing at the school gates in the rain.

Yet, no profile or interview with her is complete without an unflattering comparison to the fertile-as-the-Nile-Delta Angie, or a reference to her ‘longing’ for children.

At least once a year, Aniston’s PR people feel compelled to issue a statement along the lines of this one, from last February: “Jennifer is not adopting a baby from Mexico, nor does she have a nursery in her home and she has not hired a nanny.”

And yet, we still simply refuse to believe it, as though we can’t come to terms with the idea that a woman of 42, with so much else going for her, might simply choose not to raise a child.

Society and popular culture has always fetishised motherhood. From the Virgin Madonna right up to Michelle Obama, with several rom coms in between, motherhood is seen as the ultimate happy ending; the most natural expression of what it means to be a woman. Newspapers are full of warnings about ‘not leaving it too late’ to embrace your destiny, and heart-wrenching parables about Kylie’s or Jen’s ‘baby agony’ to illustrate the point.

Click on the link below to read more >

It is ironic that the pressure to procreate has never been more intense, at the precise moment when large numbers of women are opting not to.

The latest CSO figures reveal that there are growing numbers of people – some of them sane, well-intentioned, compassionate, successful, selfless and even, dare I say it, perfectly normal – who are in their 30s or 40s and have no children.

More than one in six Irish women now have no children at the age of 45. The statistics also show that the higher a woman’s educational attainment, the later she will start having children – and the fewer children she will have.

This echoes a trend being seen right across Europe, where the birthrate is in steep decline. A major study in American estimates that one in five women will never have a biological child.

Some of this is involuntary: for various biological, sexual and social reasons, there are people who are deprived of the opportunity to become parents. But for a growing number, being childfree is a state they have chosen; a state they value and work hard to maintain.

If a man says he doesn’t want children, we assume – usually rightly - that it’s because he’s having too much of a good time. We look on them indulgently – even men like the evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, who cheerfully described himself as a “horrible mistake by Darwinian standards” because he has no desire to reproduce.

But a woman who says she doesn’t want children is expected to offer a better explanation – an explanation that she can expect to be met with suspicion, incredulity, condescension, or even pity.

The actress Cameron Diaz, who is 37, has been vocal about her ambiguity on the subject. “Children aren't the only things that bring you gratification and happiness, and it's easier to give life than to give love, so I don't know. That kind of change would have to be either very well thought out, or a total mistake,” she has said.

The typical response to this is to insist that she’ll change her mind – or worse, that she’ll regret it.

In her final interview with Marian Finucane, the late Nuala O’Faolain was utterly candid in her despair at facing up to her imminent death. But what struck me most was the way she talked about being relieved, in what were her final weeks of life, she had decided not to have children.

If O’Faolain was ever to regret her childfree state, she might have been expected to do so then. But she didn’t.

Likewise, Helen Mirren, Lionel Shriver and Oprah are all at an age where – popular wisdom has it – women who ‘selfishly’ decided not to have children when they were younger end up rueing their foolishness.

But none of them looks to me to be burning up with regret about all the babies they didn’t have.

In the main, though, female role models for the happily childfree remain few and far between – and is it any wonder? Stating a desire not to have children – or even admitting to feeling unsure about the prospect – is, in this parentcentric society, the ultimate taboo.

It’s hard to understand why this is. Deciding to shoulder responsibility for the health, happiness, emotional development, and general care of someone who interrupts your sleep, spends all your money and addresses you mostly as “Can I have...” clearly isn’t going to be for everyone.

If it’s for you, then I salute you. I can’t put into words how much pleasure my children have brought me, and I’ve no intention of boring you by trying.

Happy as I am with my choice, though, I’m not about to start trying to convert every passing, unencumbered thirty- or fortysomething woman to the cause. It’s not as though there aren’t enough of us already.

But – and there’s no easy way to say this - I can’t help feeling that the ‘childfree by choice’ are at least part to blame for some of the negativity and incomprehension directed towards them.

In internet chat forums and magazine articles, they throw around terms like ‘breeders’ and ‘crotch-fruit’; they carp about Bugaboo-pushing mothers running them off the pavement; they make the rest of us feel self-conscious and boring with their stories about holidays in Zanzibar, and their frozen smiles when the subject of children comes up.

A little bit more understanding on both sides probably wouldn’t go astray.

The reality is that - like marriage or civil union; like renting or buying; like driving a car or riding a bike - being child-free or deciding to have children are merely different life choices. One is not more valid or more worthwhile than the other.

In the meantime, let’s all keep our fingers crossed for that poor, childless Simon Cowell.

This column first appeared in the Irish Independent Weekend magazine on Saturday, October 29, 2011


  1. Way cool! Some extremely valid рoints! Ι appreciate you writing this write-up plus the rest of the website is really good.|
    Hi, I do thіnk this is ɑn eхcellent sіte. I ѕtumbledupοո it ;)
    I'm going to retuгn once again since i have Ƅookmarkeɗ it.

    Мoney and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be
    rich and continue to helρ other people.|
    Woah! I'm really digging the template/theme of this website.
    It's simρle, yet effective. A lot of times it's very difficult
    to get that "perfect balance" between usability and visual
    appeal. I must say ƴou have done a great job with this. Adԁitioոally, the bloǥ loads super fast for me
    on Chrome. Eхcellent Bloǥ!|
    These are in fact wonderful ideas in concerning blogging.

    You have touched ѕome good things hеre. Any waу keeρ up աrinting.|

    My web blog ... Cheap Oakley Sunglasses Sale

  2. Hello, this weekend is fastidious designed for me, for
    the reason that this moment i am reading this wonderful educational post here
    at my house.

    Feel free to visit my weblog :: goji actives

  3. Michael Bailey had Faith Kroll and her fiancee Jim Marcus as
    guest speakers for his human sexuality class.
    May you determine to blond, brown, red, blacks, Latinos,
    Asians or Hispians. The options are endless in order to meet customer satisfaction.

    Feel free to surf to my page ... annikaseven

  4. Hello, i believe that i saw you visited my web site thus i got here to return the favor?.I am trying to in finding
    issues to improve my website!I assume its good enough to use a few of
    your ideas!!

    Also visit my web-site :: sarasota dui attorneys

  5. Hi, i believe that i noticed you visited my site thus i came to return the favor?.I am attempting to find things to improve my website!I assume its
    ok to make use of some of your ideas!!

    My page: pure collagen instant face lift

  6. I'm gone to say to my little brother, that he should also pay a visit this
    website on regular basis to take updated from hottest information.

    My site: minecraft net

  7. It's a shame you don't have a donate button! I'd most certainly donate to
    this superb blog! I guess for now i'll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to new updates and will share this blog with my
    Facebook group. Talk soon!

    Here is my blog post - souza Imoveis

  8. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading it, you
    might be a great author.I will remember to bookmark your blog and
    will eventually come back in the foreseeable future.
    I want to encourage continue your great posts, have a
    nice day!

    Here is my weblog ... Campbell

  9. Excellent items from you, man. I have take into account your stuff prior to and
    you are just too great. I actually like what you have got right here, certainly like what you are
    stating and the way wherein you assert it. You are making it enjoyable and you
    continue to care for to keep it wise. I can't wait to read
    far more from you. That is actually a great website.

    Feel free to visit my blog post شركة تنظيف بق الفراش

  10. I know this web page gives quality based posts and extra stuff, is there any other web page which provides these kinds of things
    in quality?

    my weblog :: Webcam mature

  11. cheap nba jerseys,
    ferragamo shoes,
    toms outlet store,
    canada goose outelt,
    replica handbags,replica handbags outlet,cheap handbags,purses and handbags,wholesale replica handbags,replica bags,bags outlet,replica handbags wholesale,cheap purses,discount handbags,handbags sale,wholesale purses,handbags and purses,replica purses
    nike running shoes,
    jordan shoes 2015,
    green bay packers jerseys,
    ugg boots uk,
    cheap jordans for sale,
    redskins jerseys,
    michael kors outlet online,
    seahawks jersey,
    timberland shoes,
    nike foamposite,
    giuseppe zanotti outlet,
    michael kors handbags,
    valentino outlet,
    nike air huarache,
    the north face outlet,

  12. michael kors uk,
    ralph lauren outlet,
    air jordan 11 free shipping,
    oakley sunglasses wholesale,
    moncler outlet store,
    lebron shoes,
    michael kors outlet online,
    chicago blackhawks jersey,
    ysl outlet,
    marc jacobs,
    louis vuitton outlet,
    cheap jordans,
    boston celtics jersey,
    michael kors outlet online,
    nike air max,
    cheap jordan shoes,
    san antonio spurs,
    north face outlet,
    true religion outlet,
    swarovski outlet,

  13. شركة بيت العرب
    من افضل الشركات التى تخدم كل عملاءها الكرام

    حيث تقدم افضل عدد من الخدمات المتواجده فى الاسواق التى لا غنى عنها من قبل اى عميل من عملاءنا الكرام

    فتاكد انك فى حاجه الينا فنحن لدينا افضل خدمات من التنظيف العامه وخدمات المكافحه للحشرات وعزل وتنظيف الخزانات

    والقيام بنقل العفش والاثاث فاذا كنت تبحث عن افضل الشركات فعليك ان تتصل بينا على الفور للقيام بكل ذلك فلا تتردد فى الاتصال بينا الان

    شركة نقل عفش بالرياض
    شركة رش مبيدات بالرياض
    شركة نقل عفش بالدمام
    شركة تنظيف بالدمام
    شركة تنظيف شقق بالدمام
    شركة تنظيف منازل بالدمام
    شركة تنظيف فلل بالدمام
    شركة تنظيف خزانات بالدمام
    شركة رش مبيدات بالدمام
    شركة مكافحة حشرات بالدمام
    شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالدمام
    شركة تسليك مجارى بالدمام
    شركة تنظيف بالاحساء
    شركة تنظيف بالخبر
    شركة تنظيف بالقطيف
    شركة تنظيف بالعزيزية
    شركة بيت العرب

  14. احصل الآن على كافة خدمات افضل شركة نقل اثاث بجدة التي تقدمها شركة مثلث الفرسان في جميع انحاء المملكة العربية السعودية

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. get all services of cleaning houses in abu dhabi by calling mazaya clean company

  17. احصلي على طريقة عمل البشاميل لتقومي بإعداد الاكلات المتنوعة التي يتم استخدامه فيها

  18. احصل الآن على كافة خدمات نقل عفش الطائف التي تقدمها شركة الاخلاص و الامانة

  19. تقدم شركة سوقني خدمات تصميم المواقع الالكترونية على يد مبرمجين ويب متميزين

  20. تتم خدمات صيانة سامسونج على يد فريق متخصص من فنيين الصيانة

  21. شركة العنود لم تعد شركة عزل خزانات بمكة فقط ، بل اصبح لها فروع كثيرة بمختلف مدن المملكة العربية السعودية ، لتوسيع نطاق خدماتنا ، و توفيرها لعدد اكبر من العملاء

    للاتصال بنا عبر جوال


  22. مع توكيل صيانة ادميرال ، ستحصل علي صيانة معتمدة من الشركة الام ، و متوفر معها الضمان الشامل لسلامة الاجهزة الكهربائية من بعد تنفيذ عملية الصيانة

  23. الفرصة لم تنتهي بعض ، و العرض ما زال متوفرا لكل من يريد خدمات صيانة اريستون المتكاملة بهذا السعر الرائع