Grabbing my copy of Stylist from the most unfriendly vendor outside Brixton tube station, like thousands of commuting women, has become somewhat of a Wednesday morning routine. I relate to the content, I am their target audience, but today the main feature captured me like no other.
Leading with it’s cover story ‘I Just Don’t Like Kids’ prompted me to flick past the first half of the magazine and get stuck into the feature named ‘The Great Baby Debate’. It covered real women who share their honest opinions and experiences on the increasingly growing taboo subject, having children- or not.
Four women wrote open letters on the subject, with each relating, no doubt, to every type of woman. Except one, but I’ll go onto that later.
One woman writes of her decision to never want children, and feeling judged all the time by child bearers for choosing that path, but being happily married at 37 and choosing her dog over a son or daughter. Another writes of her painful plight not being able to have children, trying so hard that it broke her marriage down until she was single, childless and had to accept she will forever be childless.
A mother writes to women who don’t want children, describing her experiences as amazing, after having her first child aged 22 she went on to get a first class honours at university and since has had a second child and is utterly in love with motherhood, but also admits it’s no walk in the park. While the last letter is from a woman who is trying so hard to get pregnant, again feeling judged, and envious at her friends all popping sprogs so easily.
These four women represent the four main types of women when it comes to opinions on having children. The only thing they all had in common was some sort of sacrifice they had to make. Either not wanting to sacrifice their current lives, or get married and try to get pregnant because time is running out, or having to give up university. Each one was a story of sacrifice and giving up on something, which is true, but nothing should feel like a sacrifice if you’re truly content.
I believe there is a new age of woman in my generation. I don’t mean the Arianna Huffington’s or Sheryl Sandburg’s of the world who run successful businesses and manage children simultaneously, but I mean women like me. Young enough not to be thinking ‘I’m past children’, but old enough to realise if I want them or not, one day. For those who say you can’t have it all, I disagree, but I do agree that you can’t have it all at the same time.
I have two main groups of friends, one group back home in Devon who are mostly all settled, mortgages, married, kids, happy with their lives. Then I have my London friends, mostly single, mostly going on umpteen dates to sift through the rubbish, all renting shared flats or houses, out four nights a week, work 10 hour days, have a lot of disposable income for midweek dinners at top restaurants and any day off is spent in another country. Work hard play hard types. And I unashamedly fall into the latter category (bar the umpteen dates bit).
So this new woman age that I think Stylist missed, is this, and I’ve said it before: I believe if we have ‘lived’ and what I mean by lived, is work our butts off so that we can afford to ‘live’, go out whenever the hell we like without thinking ‘I need to save for the kids’, buy whatever we like (within reason), spend money on experiences, holidays, travel; jump on the Eurostar to Paris for a day if we want (it takes less time to get there than for me to go home to Devon for crying out loud), so that when we find ‘the one’ and we know he’s definitely baby daddy material, there’s still no rush to start taking folic acid and raid Boots for ovulation kits. But it means you can live happily knowing you haven’t missed anything in your own life, before taking on another.
Carry on the adventure with your loved one, ensure they have experienced enough too. The last thing you want is an off balance relationship whereby you have lived your life to the full and are totally ready to settle down and forgo nights out in Chinawhite, for a screaming child and sleepless nights, while he would rather be at a strip club at 3am than stripping nappies. So this new age, I believe if you’ve been there, done it, lived it out and feel you have fulfilled your life with enough experiences that you’re ready to dedicate your life and spend no time on yourself for the next eighteen years, then yes, you can have it all.