Thursday 27 April 2017

The mother of all taboos -- why more and more women are choosing not to have children

One in five women is now child-free, but is this an 'unnatural' choice, asks Deirdre Reynolds

Egg-freezing, IVF, surrogacy, donor sperm -- just some of the methods by which modern women are becoming mums.

Contrary to such scientific advances however, could society's last taboo for childless women be deciding you don't want one at all?

In a world of yummy mummies, mumtrepreneurs and SAHMS (stay-at-home mums), some 43% of graduate women aged between 33 and 46 don't have any children, according to a new survey. And despite public perception, not all of them are desperate to have a baby.

With around one in five women now child-free, 'voluntary childlessness' is on the rise here -- and many are happy to voice their choice.

"There was a stigma [to being childless] in the past," says sociologist Dr Catherine Hakim, who has studied the lifestyle phenomenon in Europe. "But the contraceptive revolution has completely changed perspectives.

"Whereas before having children just inevitably happened to all people who got married or had sex, now it's something you have to make a choice about."

If having a baby is seen as one of the most natural things a woman can do though, is choosing not to then, by extension, somehow 'unnatural'?

'Traditionally, there was an assumption that all women wanted to get married and start a family," says Suzanne Condron, consultant psychologist at Connolly Counselling Centre in Stillorgan, "and even today, going against that can be a bit taboo. There can be a perception: 'Well, you've got a womb, you're obviously meant to use it.'

"I'm sure there are lots of women down through the years who didn't want children, but ended up having them because of the lack of availability of contraception or social norms," she adds. "Young women now are thinking a lot more about getting married and having children -- and with divorce rates the way they are, that can only be a good thing."

Gen X celeb Cameron Diaz (39), for one, has made no secret of the fact that she's not sold on motherhood.

"Having children changes your life drastically, and I really love my life," she has said. "Children aren't the only things that bring you gratification and happiness, and it's easier to give life than to give love, so I don't know.

"That kind of change would have to be either very well thought out, or a total mistake -- a real oops!"

But when their biological clock finally ticks its last, will such child-free women live to regret not becoming a granny? -- as is so often counter-argued by mums.

"I realised when I was very young that motherhood wasn't my bag," explains childless journalist Polly Vernon (39) of why she's sure she won't change her mind.

"I don't want children. I never have. The older I get, the more delighted I am knowing that my fertility is dwindling and my eggs are shrivelling. I never wanted a womb anyway."

"Just like having a child, deciding not to have a child is not something you take lightly," adds psychologist Suzanne Condron.

"So I think the likelihood of these women living to regret their decision is slim. Some people simply aren't cut out to be parents."

Irish Independent

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