Q. Why do women delay starting a family?
A. Because they want to buy more shoes.
This is the conclusion drawn by commentators on a recent study into why women are putting off having children.
The study, conducted by British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Britain’s leading abortion and sexual health clinic service), found four main reasons why woman delay their fertility.
- Being in the right relationship (82 per cent)
- Financial security (77 per cent)
- Fear of not being the perfect mother (71.3 per cent)
- Owning their own home (40 per cent)
Commentors reacting the study criticised women for being shallow and, of course, warned that they shouldn’t complain when they can’t get pregnant later.
Call me a party-pooper, but the responses of women in that survey seem like smart and reasonable answers.
Finding a long term partner is not like being on the hunt for the ideal dishwasher. It's an inexact search subject to the whims of timing, geography, luck, state-of-mind, persistence, meddling friends ... and did we say luck?
Finance, well this is critical to any human being. Women aren't saying they are delaying starting a family to become multi-millionaires, they are saying they need to feel financially secure. This kind of literacy is vital. It gives a woman power and choice. Should women pretend they don't need to concern themselves with their bank balances and instead wait around for Prince Charming to swoop in, save them and buy them a black Range Rover and new boobs?
The expectation of perfection in everything - in bed, the kitchen, looks, the workplace, and of course as a mother is like the air we breath - it's all around us, but we just can't point at it and say, "there it is" (and that makes some say "there's no pressure to be perfect, where's this pressure?"). It's not fair and not right but it's a modern day social and cultural reality. The survey participants are simply reflecting real life. It's called answering a question honestly.
Owning your own home. This is part dream, part nesting and part very, very real and necessary. When women in Australia are 15 per cent more likely to retire in poverty than men (according to The ANZ Women's Report: Barriers to Achieving Gender Equity), owning your own home is a form of insurance.
The BPAS report surveyed 1000 women between 20-40 years of age who planned on having children, and as well as highlighting their reasons for delaying starting a family, they found that women are so aware of their "fertility window" (ie that a woman's fertility tends to decline as she ages) that 60% feel pressure to have a baby before they are ready to do so.
The report has simply quantified some valid reasons for delaying fertility. There are others. It's a complicated world and this productive choice is a decision like no other that can range from being the easiest one you make in your life to the hardest.
Watch the trailer below for What To Expect When You're Expecting. A film that features women of all ages being pregnant. Post continues after video.
Everyone has an opinion on when the optimum time is for a woman to get pregnant yet every woman has her own schedule (that she is often not the master of). Some opinions are based on scientific data, some on old wives tales, some because people don't think before they speak.
There is no doubt that a woman's fertility declines with age, and women need to take that into account when they make reproductive decisions. It would be good if we could also take into account, as we design new worlds and workplaces and cultures and drones that fly through the air, the reasons why women delay starting a family. And that was what the BPAS study was trying to achieve. Let's look at the whys.
Instead of responding with words like selfish and shallow to women who have actually thought hard about having a child, actions like support and security are more likely to fill up those maternity wards with tiny, screaming, wonderful bundles of life.