Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Is there ever really a selfless action?

Julia Gillard (deputy leader of the opposition) stated that she believed that it would be ALMOST impossible to get to the top job in politics and be a mother as well. To say the public comment on it has been spirited is an understatement. Look at that comment again.... almost impossible, she didn't even say it cannot be done, she just said it would be very hard. You'd think she had said all women should stay in the kitchen and leave the work thing to men (which is pretty much a paraphrase of a comment I HAVE heard - from a woman). I honestly cannot see anything wrong with her expression her opinion this way.

I want to know why women who do not want children are labelled selfish, men do not seem to have the same expectation. I've seen plenty of women have children to fill a hole in their life.... that sounds selfish to me.

Does it also follow that people who can not have children are non-people?

This has been a bit of a ponderous thought for me for a while. Lots of people around me are having babies. Within my family it seems I'm a non-person as a childless spinster, everything revolves around the children in the family. (I'm sure this is not intended to be the case, but it sure feels like it - supported by the instance of my brother turning up for a family function without the children in tow as they had another engagement - the message was clear that he should not have done such a thing.) Do not get me wrong, my nieces and nephew are delightful children and they bring a whole new dynamic to the group gatherings and I love them to bits, but why are we no longer people worth knowing unless there is a child in our arms?

I suspect this is a very primal issue, procreation is a very strong force, and there are times when I desperately want a child, but there are also times when it scares the living heck out of me/I do not trust myself with being guardian over another life (but this has been the case for as long as I can remember). Why do people have to be so cruel in their derision for people who do not have children?

Why is it, in an educated society are Julia Gillard's comments so reaction provoking? Why is it that men do not seem forced to make decisions of career OR family in the same way women are? Why is it that teenage boys do not think about how to balance parenthood and a career? I'm not talking about pregnancy and birth here, I'm talking parenthood.

On the flip side, if either a man or a woman decided to that they wanted a family, as their largest priority, and did not want to work to be able to spend time with their children, why do we have to poo-poo it? "I want to be a parent when I grow up" is not an acceptable response on career day any more. I would love to meet a man who would be prepared to stay at home with the children and keep house.

Men and women are different. Celebrate it. Difference does not have to imply weakness, indeed our very differences should make us stronger, as teams.

Me, personally, I still oscillate on a pretty much daily basis as to whether I want children. When I knew I did not have an option it drove my every thought. Now that the door is open, I can walk past it without peeking in. (That I desperately wanted what I couldn't have is in my opinion just another way that I am completely human... I believe the human condition is to want what we do not have, it keeps us moving.)

I think Julia Gillard is pretty much on the money though. If you really really want the top job in anything, something has to give, there are only 24 hours in a day - and that goes for men and women. Why shouldn't she be able to leave her husband at home with the babies whilst she pursues her career? I think the witch hunt that would ensue would be of mammoth proportions.

People claim we are civilised and have moved beyond our primal urges, yet when someone decides to live that value, they are publicly vilified. People still make most of their decisions based on primal urges, and more women think with their genitals than would like to admit to it - another perfectly human trait.

If I (with BabyCakes), decide not to have children, it is a selfish decision. If we decide to have children, it will most definitely be a selfish decision. I know that I'll be better accepted with a child on my hip though.


My fur-kid is giving me enough grief at the moment, I think I'll stick to that for the moment. The damn cat will not stay inside at the moment. I relented yesterday and let her out during the day. Last night she was relentless in patrolling the fly screens until she broke one and escaped. Do I give in to her tactics and let her out whenever she wants, get another cat to keep her company inside or lock the flat up tighter than a drum when I go to bed so she can't get out?

Egads, she'll turn me grey she will!


Girl Clumsy said...

Hey CCL,

Enjoyed your post. I think a mother could definitely become an Australian Prime Minister - but really only if her kids were already virtually grown up. I think the public would be more hesitant about a woman with young kids because either a)the woman wouldn't be focused enough on her job, or b)she would be considered a "selfish" or "bad" mother for not spending enough time with her children.

And you're right, these issues are never the same for men as they are for women, which really just isn't fair. Something about the fact that as women we physically have the babies seems to make our choices harder - for whatever bullshit reason of "connection" or "bonding" etc.

But one of the shameful aspects of it is that a lot of the pressure comes from our fellow females. can often be quick to judge other women who don't make the same life decisions as us. As you say, we really should accept each others' choices - even when they seem impossible to fathom!

I'm lucky in that my immediate family has never ever put any pressure on me to "get married, have kids". For my Dad, it was always building a good superannuation plan that counted. ;) I'm sorry that you feel in your family like you're not a full member of the club because you don't have a child. I would say it's something to bring up with them, but as I mentioned above, the concept that you might be happy without children (at least for the moment), might be hard for them to grasp (their worldview being so different), and they might think "She doesn't really mean that". If you know what I mean. I'm just crapping on really. ;)

And anyway, the fact is parenthood is a cult, and parents are always trying to recruit new members. Because they don't want to be the only ones up all night with screaming babies, or having to fork out huge amounts of cash on Wiggles tickets or the latest toys. They want you to suffer too! ;)

I could crap on forever on this topic - maybe I should do a blog post about it too! I need something to write about now I'm back home!

Cheers, Natalie.

Crazy Cat Lady said...


I know that my family do not intentionally try to make me feel this way, but I do. It's a bit wearying given that despite it being a fairly recent phenomena to have so many children around, I have been having the "When are you having kids?" question asked of me for more than 10 years now. I'm even approaching the 10 year mark of being told I was "...not young any more"! These are not the questions and opinions of even half my considerablely large sized family either... but as you said, there are more joining the parenthood cult all the time and proseltysing for more!

My family will accept me without children, but I'm likely to be the odd one because of it, especially if it is a conscious decision, not natural selection at work.

I mostly was just clearing my head of rambling thoughts, there is very much a good chance I will have kids, one day.

The Wah said...

I was called selfish by a work colleague because i told her i did not want children. She couldn't understant how a man in his early 30's didn't want kids.

My theory is that NO man actually wants children but if he loves his partner enough and she really wants one he normally goes with the flow.

I, on the hand, get a horrible feeling of dread in my stomach whenever the idea of Wah-Spawn is brought up.

Just say no to Wah-Spawn. The world only needs one Wah ;)