Sunday, 19 May 2013

So THAT'S My Role In Society Then?

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll have already seen me ranting a bit about this yesterday, but bear with me.

From here

As Mama CupAndSaucer and I were heading to the Devon County Show yesterday (more on that at some point in the week), the news came on BBC Radio 2 (the only radio station I listen to), so we of course turned the radio up. And for our efforts, we were greeted with "And finally, Kate Garraway is backing a campaign to encourage women to have children at a younger age". The rest of the bulletin basically said that because women are working on their careers first, they are "sleepwalking into infertility" so should make sure they have children at a young age.

Er, what!? 

According to this bulletin, having children should be my main priority. And by extension, this is saying that this is my role in society. (Yes, that might be an overreaction, but that was my first reaction and I'm sticking with it)

What the actual hell?!

This is the image being used for the campaign- Kate Garraway made up as a pregnant 70 year old.

I do appreciate that there are massive risks associated with having children later in life- while our lifestyles may have changed so that we do grown-up things at a later age, our biological clocks have not. I do not dispute the fact that you are far more likely to have complications or difficulties getting pregnant if you wait until you're older to get pregnant- it's a fact. However, I also know a girl from school, who had a baby at 18 who has Down's Syndrome- something which is more commonly associated with older mothers. People have complications in pregnancy and childbirth at all ages. So having children young doesn't automatically mean it will be smooth or easy, and certainly doesn't mean that nothing will go wrong.

And how dare Kate Garroway, who had her own children at 38 and 42, tell me that I should be having children now? She has no right- she may have wished she had her kids earlier, but the fact that she managed to have children over the age of 30, by IVF or not (I have no idea, and couldn't care less), kind of negates her whole campaign.

And why should I have children at all!? One of the fantastic things about being a woman in the 21st century is the fact that we have options when it comes to having children- we may still sort of be expected to, but we don't have to. And to me, this campaign is going back to a 1930s and 1940s French pronatalist view (I studied this a LOT at uni) that young women have a duty to have children.

I do want to have children, at some point, but if and when I do, it will be when I am ready!! I'm certainly not ready now. For one thing, I am not in a stable relationship- I'm not in any relationship- and personally, I would prefer to be in a stable relationship when I have children. Not to mention the fact that it takes two people to make a baby and all that (ask your parents). And I certainly do not feel responsible enough for children- I live at home, I couldn't afford children on the salary I'm on (well, I could, but I'd prefer to be earning more when I have kids), and I am just generally not ready for kids.

Right now, having children isn't my priority. Making myself stop feeling like a child is my priority. Like most other 20-something women, I am well aware of the fact that the longer I leave it, the more difficulties I may have when it comes to getting pregnant. But that still doesn't mean I'm going to rush into something I'm not prepared for. And anyway- science is pretty awesome these days. I'm not relying on IVF, but this report comes the day after the biggest IVF breakthrough in 30 years, which is a bit stupid, really. And if I can't have children biologically, what the hell is wrong with adoption?!

Basically, the 10 second bulletin reduced me to tears, made me angry, made me feel like a failure for not being in a relationship, and made me panic that I'll never have children. Good going, campaign managers. You have alienated the very person you were trying to target. It has probably also pissed off everyone who has ever struggled to have children at any age.

All in all, a resounding success.

22 comments:

  1. Hej, I already responded to you on Twitter, but just because I can in more detail, I will on here too.
    First of all, I often take things personal too.
    Second of all, I haven't heard the campaign, so I don't actually know how patronising it is.
    But, here's what I think anyway. I don't think it just meant, women shouldn't focus on their career anymore and just be society's reproduction organs. I don't think they mean, have a child no matter your circumstances or whether you're in a stable relationship or not. But, in earlier generations there was THE time to have a child, you'd hopefully meet your future husband at like 16-18, get married at 20-22 and then instantly try to have a baby. It's obviously not like that anymore. And with both people in a relationship working, there's not really any time when it fits in to have a baby, but people still wait for the perfect time. This then means that they're way older when they realise, uh oh I always did want kids, better get on it. Leaving aside the difficulties you might have then (whether they're actually biological or psychologically, because by that point you might experience pressure to want to become pregnant so badly), I think there's one major problem. When you wait until you're 30+, you're likely to really have sorted your life out, but not necessarily in a good way for having a baby. Yes you'll probably have a higher salary and maybe your relationship is more stable, but you will have also become accustomed a lifestyle that a baby doesn't really fit in to... Working in a certain way, going on certain holidays, your relationship being a certain way.
    Baby's are expensive, and messy and turn every relationship upside down, I once read that it's really difficult for women to accept those changes when they're older (as opposed to younger, because then everything is constantly changing anyway). I came across that from a link (no idea why I followed it, it really upset me) about how a lot of women are unhappy they made the choice to have kids, and in a lot of cases it was because it had changed their lifestyle so much. I find this (not the difficulties of getting pregnant) the main factor, why I think that if women (and only if) could afford a baby, and are in a stable relationship (and one you intend to stay in), they maybe should at least consider it, not necessarily super young, but maybe at 25-30?

    Ok now my little essay is over, I'd just like to say again that I don't mean it as YOU SHOULD (not care about this, or consider having babies, definitely not), just as a, maybe there could actually be good reasons for at least considering it at a younger age? As I said before I completely get that this got to you, this sort of thing happens to me all the time, but I'm really just trying to offer another perspective.

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    1. I think you've made a really great point there lovely! It's true- people definitely get settled and happy in their lives, and then a baby comes along and sadly some people can come to resent the fact that their life isn't how it was before. I think they're trying to emphasise the fact that the longer you leave it to have children, the harder it will be in MANY ways. However, I still just don't like being told what to do hahahaha. If I was in a stable relationship though, perhaps I'd feel very different- it's interesting to say the least!! xx

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  2. wow this turned out even longer than I thought, my bad :/

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    1. Don't worry, it was great! xx

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  3. Quite frankly, I'm too selfish to have a baby now - why would I give up my current carefree, no responsibilities, do as I like lifestyle and swap it for high dependency babies and nappies? No thanks. And that is true of many girls my age. My cousin has just had a baby with his 20 year old girlfriend. Who looks after it? It's Nanna.

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    1. Oh god me too!! Then again, maybe if I was more settled, I would be thinking about kids more!? But it's true- at this age, SO MANY people aren't responsible enough for children (then again, lots are!!). I just really don't think the campaign was very well thought out!! xx

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  4. I agree with Emma, I'm too selfish to have a baby now and it wouldn't be fair. I can barley look after myself - I had to ring my Mum the other day to ask her if my dinner would be safe to eat two days out of date. Some people can do it at his age, but I'm not one of those people, so serious respect to them if they can. The campaign maybe has the message of maybe women should think a little more about family planning - I know my Stepmum left it too late and it quite gutted about that now she can't have children, but it seems to go about that kind of message in the wrong way and just come across as patronising, and I agree, they've definitely chosen the wrong woman for it.

    I know already that it's actually going to be very difficult for me to conceive naturally, and that I'm probably going to have to have IVF or some help along the way, so when campaigns come out like this, they really hit me quite hard, because they make me feel horrifically inadequate as a woman. If my only job as a woman is to have children, and that's not something I can do on my own, then how useless must I be? I know I want children, but I also know it's going to have to be at an older age because of the cost of IVF etc, and it makes me feel so shit as it is, I don't exactly need society getting on my case about it too.

    Oops long one sorry!

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    1. Oh god I'm constantly asking my mum silly questions!! Yes, I probably should have made that clearer in the post actually- I have HUGE respect for people who have kids at our age and take on that responsibility- I certainly couldn't. I definitely think that the idea of the campaign is to remind women that they won't always be able to have children to save them the heartache- but you're right, a 40+ year old lady who is sad about the fact that she can't have a THIRD is the wrong lady for the job.

      And your last point is another huge reason why I think campaigns like this are wrong- there are so many women who will struggle to conceive at ANY age and it's wrong to make them feel inadequate- you are more than your reproductive organs!!! xx

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  5. Great, great post! Well said.

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  6. Oh my god - I heard about this too and first of all thought it was some sort of strange joke!
    I think it shows a complete disregard for what women choose to do with their lives and is yet another way for the media to make us feel guilty and have to choose between family and career!
    Han x

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    1. Exactly- we really shouldn't have to choose. Or maybe we do, but I don't think we should have to make that choice at 22/23!! xx

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  7. Rant is much appreciated! I'm 32 and people are always asking me about babies. I just read a ridiculous article yesterday that had a similar message to what you mentioned above, it said something like, 'you might look young, but your ovaries are old.' JEEEZ!

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    1. Glad you appreciated it- and it's great that you as a 32-year-old also think it's terrible!! We may not have all the time in the world, but 32 is NOT old! xx

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  8. I knew nothing about this... But I agree with Emma above. Previously I wanted to have a child in my 20's and be married, now I am 22 I have zero desire for either. Pregnancy and Babies actually freak me out, I am becoming less maternal. I think things are just changing, we do have more opportunities now, I always wanted to be a young "cool" mum but if I do have one I will it when I want. Right now I want to travel and start a career and not just marry some rich man who will provide for me.

    xx

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    1. Definitely- I think when you're younger, twenty-something sounds SO grown up, and you think you'll have it all together by then. When you reach your twenties, you realise that isn't the case!! There are so many things I want to do before having children- mostly stop feeling like a child myself. xx

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  9. I'm going to throw my two bobs worth in too.... I don't think the campaign is saying that you should stop what you're doing and have a baby just because you are a certan age, but if you are in a happy and stable relationship and plan to have children, don't put it off too long. I know far too many women who have waited too long and are now going through such heartbreak as they left it too late and can't fall pregnant. Of course lots of women have kids well into their 40's but gosh that's got to be harder on your bodies. Our bodies are built to reproduce younger, it's factual, and it was interesting being 28 having my baby last year and being branded a "young mum", and told how much easier it all was because I was so young these days. Apparently in the labor ward, it's the young mums that bounce back from delivery and generally have a better labor. I feel need to remember that this amazing privilege of having children does have a time-cap on it, but you have your entire life to grow your career. I feel like if you wait for all the conditions to be perfect to start a family, you'll be waiting forever. But if you're in a committed relationship and can afford to start a family (and want one), then you should embrace it. I think people forget that it is forever too, even if you fall pregnant easily at 35, are you going to be able to chase around your toddler when you're 38, and then what if you want more than one baby...will your body be able to handle all of that too!
    Having a baby does change your life, but in such wonderful ways too, I wish more young women were told how rewarding it is. No amount of professional success can even come close to the fulfilment of raising a child, it's on another level.
    But, you need to be ready for it. Just don't put it off if you are!

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    1. I think you've hit exactly what the campaign was trying to say- but you have said it in a much kinder way. It's true, genetically we are made to have children in our twenties, not in our forties. And it's true- having children definitely is a privilege, and people do forget that it's one with a time limit when they're waiting for that "perfect" time that doesn't exist. And yes- I can imagine there is nothing more fulfilling than growing a person from scratch (more or less!) and watching them blossom into a proper little person. However, I do still feel that regardless of this, there are SO MANY pressures on us as twenty-somethings that adding this to the mix in a very bossy way (as I feel this campaign is) is not the way to go about it.

      Your last two sentences should be used as a tagline for this sort of campaign though- they sum it up perfectly!! xx

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  10. I completely agree with you and actually got angry that such a campaign exists! I don't want to have children until i'm around 30! I want a career, to travel the world and to have the chance to be young and stupid before i think of bringing another person onto the planet. As much as i think there is an age limit to having children, (i mean a mother at 60 would be kind of cruel) I certainly don't think that our 20's are the age to be having children. Our 20's are for finding out who we are in this world, not feeling forced into reproducing.
    If someone wants to have children young then that is their own provocative and that is the way it should be.
    After all if your not responsible enough to make your own decisions that are right for YOU then you are not responsible enough to have a child.
    xxx

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    1. It made me so cross! I don't have any set ideas on when I want children, and in all honesty I would like it to be while I'm relatively young- but later twenties/ early thirties is still young- and there are definitely things I want to do first. And I don't want to be forced into having children at ANY age. It's true. Having children at ANY age is a very personal decision, and I don't need some campaign telling me I should be doing it now. xx

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  11. So if we have kids too early we're frowned upon for "rushing into things too young" and are told that we should stay young while we can, or if we have kids too late then we're frowned upon because we're too old and have left it too long? JUST LET ME HAVE CHILDREN WHEN I WANT TO HAVE THEM!!x

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    1. Ugh, I know. We seriously cannot win in this situation. Lets just let everyone be, and choose when THEY want to do things. xx

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