Someone’s trying to stir up a fight.
In one corner, there’s a confident woman in her 20s, telling the world that she has no desire to be a mother.
In the other is a blisteringly honest woman of 40ish, frankly sharing her experience of infertility and regret.
This is the storm that’s circling from a newspaper column that the wonderful and witty Bianca Dye wrote this weekend, in response to comments from kick-arse singer Ricki-Lee Coulter. Ricki declared that she didn’t want kids, but if she changed her mind, “I might turn 40 and go, ‘come on let’s pop one out’.”
Bianca wrote in the Daily Telegraph:
I’ve been through a number of failed IVF rounds and I’m still going…
I’ve had two miscarriages and put on 12kg from the hormones they’ve pumped into me. I’m begging Ricki-Lee — I wish I had of thought about this more at her age.
Freeze your eggs now Ricki-Lee, while you can.
Neither of these excellent women is spoiling for a fight. They are simply speaking, publicly and honestly, from two opposite ends of the fertility spectrum of the most central of human issues – parenthood.
But Ricki-Lee has spoken about – and not for the first time – a lifestyle choice that mainstream society does not respect – the desire to NOT have children. And Bianca’s position, rightly or wrongly, is being painted as the default response that we level at any woman who challenges the idea of motherhood as all.
“OF COURSE you want children. You just don’t know it yet.”
Young women like Ricki Lee – bold enough to discount that one thing that is supposed to define their femininity above all else – have always been viewed with suspicion.
“She’ll change her mind,” Is probably one of the least insulting things she’s heard on this topic. If she’s anything like my child-free friends, she will have been labelled selfish and shallow for good measure.
Because not wanting children is truly the final taboo. Even in 2014. Women can be anything they want, as long as they put ‘mother’ on the list, along with Prime Minister, brain surgeon and domestic goddess.
And who can blame young women of not daring to admit that it’s not their plan? It seems we literally do not know what do with women who don’t want to become mothers. When you don’t follow the marriage-and-baby script, you are viewed with suspicion. Think of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, for example, who spoke of the dilemma of a childfree woman who seeks public office: “If you don’t have children then [you’re seen] as being incapable of understanding the struggles of the vast amount of Australians who do, and if you do have children, it’s ‘Oh, who’s looking after the children?’.”
But on the flip-side, ambitious young women like Ricki see their older counterparts struggling daily with “having it all”, of juggling two worlds and never quite feeling like either is a perfect fit.
Young women see that, once a woman has had a child, she is often viewed as less desirable, less focused, less committed. And who wants that?
So if they are brave enough to admit that they could get more done and live a life defined by choice rather than duty if they don’t become mothers, all power to them.
I’m not in the least bit surprised that Ricki-Lee, who has bucketloads of gumption and a less-than-perfect childhood of her own behind her, isn’t interested in motherhood.