lifestyle

Jennifer Aniston says what every woman without children is BUSTING to tell us.

By MIA FREEDMAN

“If one more person tells me it’s not too late to have a baby and I could always use donor eggs, I will rip out my empty uterus and beat them to death with it,” my friend complained to me this morning via text.

She is 45 and unmarried with no children and a perfectly lovely life. She has a dog that gives her more joy than any human she’s ever met. She is financially independent and she has a network of friends stretching around the world. She does not feel incomplete. Not even slightly.

And yet? There’s this sense that she is incomplete. A palpable sense of societal anxiety that her life is void of true purpose and an implication that she’s somehow failed at this incredibly tricky business of Doing Womanhood Right.

The patron saint of Incomplete Woman Syndrome is Jennifer Aniston who must accept the world taking an inventory of her life in every interview she does and finding it lacking. Big blanks next to “husband” and “children”.

Noted.

The pressure has been building on Jennifer for more than a decade, ever since she split with Brad Pitt and defied everyone’s expectations by remaining single and without children through the remainder of her fertile years. She is now 45 and the concern of the Western World is building to a crescendo. This week she addressed it a-gain.

“I don’t have this sort of checklist of things that have to be done, and … if they’re not checked, then I’ve failed some part of my feminism or my being a woman or my worth and my value as a woman,” she told interviewer Carson Daley on the US Today Show. She added that she doesn’t feel any less fulfilled just because she hasn’t had children. “I’ve birthed a lot of things and I feel like I’ve mothered many things. And I don’t think it’s fair to put that pressure on people,” she said.

Every one of these women has been interrogated about their choices.

It may not be fair but it’s inescapable. Once upon a time people used to quietly stop asking the ‘do you want babies?’ question once a woman reached the outer limits of her natural fertility in her early 40s. But now thanks to assisted reproductive technology – namely donor eggs – women are having babies well into their late 40s and it means that women like my friend are having to field endless well-meaning but irritating encouragement that it’s not too late.

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“I’m really happy for Sonia Kruger having a baby at 49 if that’s what she wants,” my friend said to me the other day, “but it means there is now this expectation that every woman will do the donor egg thing and that if we don’t, we’re somehow disappointed.” And disappointing.

So the “do you want to have kids?” questions now look to continue until you get a Seniors Card.

I find myself an unlikely defender of women like Jennifer Aniston, my friend and every other woman who insists she is happy with her child-free life. Because I do have children and without them I would feel incomplete. But I would never presume to speak for other women who have made different choices or whose lives have taken a different path. Feeling complete is not a standardised model. And yet according to some weird society blueprint, A Complete And Successful Life As A Woman invariably distils down to a very short checklist:

1. Marriage

2. Babies

Women who don’t  tick these boxes make us uncomfortable. We don’t GET them. They are objects of pity, confusion and condescension. These freaks anomalies women couldn’t POSSIBLY be happy, could they?

Even in 2014, we’re woefully thrown by the idea of a woman being OK if she doesn’t have a child or a ring on it. Of course there’s no shame in wanting those things but by choice or design, it’s not the default for every woman. Sometimes life has different plans for you. And to suggest that the next 40+ years of these women’s lives are somehow a second-rate consolation prize is an insult.

There are plenty of ways to feel complete.