The child-free choice

I am going to enjoy keeping this blog.  Since its launch at the start of the week, I have lost count of the number of conversations I have had – both offline and on – about feminism.  I have to confess that I was (and remain) worried about the reactions this blog may bring and its repercussions on my own brand, as the F word is so frowned upon by many.  How would it look to a prospective employer?  Would it mark me as the modern day equivalent of the all threatening union member?  Does feminism make me a trouble maker?

But now that I have so publically put my head above the parapet and shouted “I am a feminist without the answers”, it seems that many others are sitting comfortably in the closet just like I have been.

I want to share with you one conversation that I had this week, as it demonstrated perfectly for me just how diverse feminism can be.

The conversation was with a professional woman who is, by choice, childless.  As a professional woman whose own choice will be to (hopefully) eventually have children, I was very interested to hear of her experiences.  The below is entirely paraphrased and I am in no doubt that in writing this I will unintentionally overlay it with my own interpretations.  For that I apologise… I am just not in the business of taking a dictaphone to the pub 😉

  • Women who are childless, by choice or circumstance, are often seen by other women as selfish, and that they just haven’t yet realised their maternal desires
  • These women can fear being unfairly tarnished with the “ripe for childbearing”  brush by potential employers to the point that the woman I spoke to proactively volunteers her child-free choice in interviews
  • Child-free women can be marginalised by politics where “female” action initiatives are often “family” initiatives in disguise (see today’s announcement by the Liberals about its Engaging Women forums, which was launched with the comment “In an increasingly busy world where women and families are having to juggle even more things…”)
  • As they grow older, and their friends have children, Child-free women/couples find their social circles changing, with expectations from friends for them to change too.

Can you think of any other collective group that expects 50% of the world’s population to conform to a uniform philosophy?  Sometimes women, even those declaring feminist motivations, can be our own worst enemies at creating and proliferating stereotypes.

If you think about it, pretty much every woman alive has been born to, and/or raised by, a woman who eschewed the child-free choice.  But we would do well to remember that that doesn’t make it the only choice for women.  While there seems to be growing understanding that not all liberated women want a board position in a FTSE 100 company, and stay-at-home mums are becoming an acceptable concept, there is probably more work to be done in reminding ourselves (and others) that the desire for children is not an inherent part of every woman’s life.  Women’s issues and children’s  issues often overlap, but they shouldn’t be confused with one another.

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