parent opinion

OPINION: Pop culture is making women reconsider having kids. It's a good thing.

I coasted to a stop on my pushbike, my two-year-old squealing with delight in the bike seat, and overheard an exchange between a couple nearby. "Does that change your mind about having kids?" the man asks the woman. She responds with a definitive "no".

One awfully cute little boy experiencing the simple joy of cycling for the first time is hardly enough to change this woman's individual preferences or circumstances that led her to a hard 'no'. Nor can his chubby little hands blowing kisses counteract the collective weight of popular culture bombarding people with the drawbacks of becoming parents. My personal whinging alone is enough to turn any reasonable person off the idea.

This woman is wise to note that this one public moment of pure bliss has taken a truckload of behind the scenes effort, thousands of night feeds, a possible mental breakdown and tantrums about anything from hoses to pants. I want to tell her that she is right to stand by her decision. Having kids you don't want feels like a bad idea. But as with all choices we cannot possibly know what lay in store for us in the alternate universe of roads not taken.

I cannot possibly know what life without kids would have been, the freedom of my early 20s continuing forever more. She cannot know that when I hear him squeal with the delight I feel like my heart will burst. That this one bike ride is worth a thousand night feeds.

So why the constant stream of whinging if becoming a parent has led most of us to heights of love and joy we didn't know existed? If we feel that becoming a parent led us on a journey of self-discovery that ultimately changed us for the better? Because all social justice movements begin with an outpouring of complaints. The discontent festers and simmers away privately for decades before the situation erupts in a very public way. We are the generation of parents who are erupting.


Watch: 10 parenting milestones that deserve a party with Those Two Girls. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

Women's liberationists could not have achieved such dramatic change in such a short space of time if they tried to keep up the pretence that conditions for women were great. It's not that they thought people should stop becoming women, they saw women as so important and vital that they realised how important it was for conditions to change.

Parents speaking out today about the completely unreasonable conditions they are being asked to parent in are following a similar pattern. They realise how critical their job as parents is and feel compelled to point out the vast structural and societal failings that leave parents unsupported. Parents are desperate to change the situation for others and for their own children. It's unreasonable to think that everyone can simply stop becoming parents, so the only option is to improve conditions for parents.

The raw truth and transparency around parenting which filters through to the media is absolutely essential in informing policy. It's preferable to the sanitised and unrealistic narrative of parenting many of us grew up with. Being honest and realistic about parenting shouldn't be enough to deter people who truly want kids, have financial means to support them and are optimistic about solutions to the climate crisis.


My suspicion is that people who are opting out of having kids due to the bad press around parenting simply didn't really want kids in the first place and now find themselves in a cultural moment where it's more justifiable and acceptable to opt out. It's not that they feel like raising kids is too much hard work or beyond their personal capability - these are people who have always felt reluctant to have kids and now have permission to opt out, a growing crowd of like-minded people and a positive cultural identity. Women who were once referred to as 'spinsters' or 'barren' are now 'DINKS' (dual income no kids) on yachts with a cocktail on hand. Childless is now childfree - a clear indicator that the overall perception of not having children has changed.

People who truly want kids but feel spooked by the mummy blogger war stories and financial sacrifice are nothing new. Venturing into the unknown has always been difficult and a little bit scary. Becoming a parent has been life threatening and incredibly risky in centuries gone by. None of us would be here if it weren't for the biological drivers that cause us to reproduce even in sitauations where it could quite possibly get us killed.

Being open about parenting challenges can potentially make for a smoother transition to life with kids by dialling down expectations. Maybe my transition to motherhood would not have been so shocking if I grew up in a culture where people were more open about their struggles. Maybe I wouldn't have felt like a failure for finding it really challenging and lonely. We can be mindful of remembering to share both the light and dark side of parenthood, but the benefits of honesty far outweigh the negatives.

Feature Image: Sex And The City.

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