Thursday, September 25, 2008

but what about the blokes?

I know it is a foregone conclusion in some quarters that a hairy legged, childless, self-confessed feminist like myself, must be a man-hatter.

Actually no.

Let’s get the blame game out of the way once and for all.

Do I blame men, as some women do, for my childfree state?

While I openly envy the wide biological window that most men have to pass on their genes, it has never tipped over into hate. While at times I would have loved to think that my ability to reproduce was not bordered by my forties, I wouldn’t want to trade places with the new dad in his late 40’s(or even 50’s), on baby duty. Babies at any age are tiring, I feel exhausted looking at some older parents struggling baggy-eyed through the haze of the first year.

Can I blame any of my ex-partners for not choosing to have a family with me, when I was toying with the idea? It was my choice to be in those relationships and as the two or three that I seriously considered playing happy families with are not in my life now, would children have made it any better? In fact, I am absolutely relieved to not have to deal with custody issues with any of them, as child or not, there is no way we could be together and happy at this point in our lives.

Not that they have all been against the idea. I entered a relationship briefly at 39, specifically lured by a man who dangled the cosy notion of family before me. To be honest, I can think of few childless women I know, who’ve made great new relationship decisions as forty breathes down their single necks. Far from anger at this man, he is the reason that the following year I embraced my state on non-parenthood, as a true choice. I’d woken up to my vulnerability and chosen to be single once more, at the price of not having a child, if the only option was to be saddled with a manipulative, needy man for the rest of my life.

Blame comes from the feeling that we don’t have a choice. When we feel disempowered we attribute blame – sometimes to ourselves, sometimes to others. In the last few years some women in their forties have vocally blamed feminism, or even Germaine Greer, for their nulliparous state. Women who appear to live rich and empowered lives.

Others blame men for being commitment phobic, hankering after younger women or just not wanting to grow up. To be honest, I don’t care about those men. If we choose a bloke like that it is as much to do with us, as it is them.

But I do have an issue with the absence of men, as the potential father, in the abortion debate. Blokes waving pro-choice placards may be visible but rarely the impregnators. When there is talk of doctors, nurses and women who wish to end a pregnancy being fined or jailed in a system where termination through choice is criminalized – the other half of the genetic material amassed in that bunch of cells is not part of the blame picture. If men who did not want to become fathers took 100% responsibility for contraception it would be ok. But for the ones that fly by the seat of their pants or even proudly claim they are “allergic to condoms” (meaning they dislike their perceived change in sensation) in a world of criminalized abortion they should also be standing in the dock.

But back to my life, as it is, it is sweet. I am happy, loved and cherish my slightly selfish life with leisurely mornings and spontaneous gatherings after work. I will defend it, celebrate it and own it. Just don’t ask me to blame anyone, for it is the life that I choose.

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