Sunday, October 31, 2010

Love, marriage and the baby carriage

Please don’t think less of me when I confide that hovering somewhere over the Tasman Sea a few months ago, I watched Sex & The City 2 .

And enjoyed it.

When you’re bored with a small console and a handful of movies to choose from, sometimes it’s easiest to go for the lowest common denominator and select the one you have the lowest expectations of. I had heard it was desperately bad, so it egged me on to find out just how awful it really was.

But I surprised myself and laughed at times at the two dimensional characters on the screen. Each woman locked within the old roles that defined them: I screw/work/nurture/write, therefore I am.

The less than subtle subtext of the film was about marriage. What makes a real marriage? Is a gay marriage a real marriage? What about a heterosexual one without children?

I watched Carrie deal with the judgement of others who took offense at her decision to be married and childfree, despite her being forty-something with a satisfying life. She met other women who saw their age as no barrier, just rent a womb, buy an egg and be handed a baby at the end of it. The married late in life “friends” being horrified that Carrie and Big had no intention of following suit. After all, marriage is about babies, not self, not just being a couple.

And somehow, I was reminded of that plot point today while stumbling on Catherine Blyth’s blog.

Blyth is adamantly pro-marriage but has been more than a bit ambivalent about children. Unlike Carrie whose husband was on the same page as her regarding children, Blyth ultimately gives into her husband’s baby hunger. I find her words rather painful and smacked a lot of the conservatism Carrie was up against in SITC 2.

And yes, the mournful eyes of my husband, as we spoke of our lovely nephews, nieces and godchildren, they got to me. Having researched marriage for my latest book, I was aware that family studies all conclude a marriage with children is less happy than one without*. On the other hand, how could I deprive him? More to the point: what if he stopped loving me and looked elsewhere? Would that be so unreasonable? When we married I took a vow to honour him. The deal was to put ‘us’ before ‘me’.

Marriage versus babies

It’s not a spoiler to say that their child is due any day.

But at what cost? As an educated woman she doesn’t see motherhood as the route to fulfillment, yet acquiesces to maternity out of fear – “what if he stopped loving me and looked elsewhere? Would that be so unreasonable?”

She talks of taking a vow to honour him but what of his promise in return?

The take home message is that marriage hasn’t really changed that much in recent centuries (as an aside, Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Committed: A Sceptic Makes Peace with Marriage is an excellent thesis on the subject). Women are still expected to subjugate themselves to their husband’s wishes.

If you wish to remain childfree and want to love and honour your partner in the ritual known as marriage, you’d better make sure you’re on the same page FIRST.

* Can anyone point me to this research, it sounds fascinating.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

designer babies - Sydney

Newtown is awash with small children zipping on scooters around their latte sipping parents perched on curbside stools in the pram cluttered streets in the inner city.

I get the feeling not all of the locals are happy to see the gentrification of once grungy King Street.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The election campaign with the inevitable question

So it's 2010 and the persistent, burning question asked of our recently promoted Prime Minister's is about her ability to really know what families need, her being barren and all. The recent ABC Q&A episode had audience members firing off a number of tragic attacks but it saddens me that this is the one that continues to get airtime. Bugger the environment, education and health - the biggest issue remains her childless status.

It was a delight to read an eloquent rebuttal by a Sydney psychotherapist in The Drum.

Apart from wondering if there are perhaps more pressing questions to ask, I was struck by how insulting, hurtful and unimaginative this question is. Not necessarily to Ms Gillard who seems to be accustomed to it, but to every man and woman who, for one reason or another, has found themselves living their lives without children.

I'd encourage you to read Siobhan Hannan's eloquent article Childlessness, a parent's best friend.

Another gem from Hannan.

Apart from wondering if there are perhaps more pressing questions to ask, I was struck by how insulting, hurtful and unimaginative this question is. Not necessarily to Ms Gillard who seems to be accustomed to it, but to every man and woman who, for one reason or another, has found themselves living their lives without children. target=-blank>the value of childfree adults in the lives of children

...and let's all move on from the inevitable question.

Monday, July 26, 2010


A few weeks ago I attended a dreaded interstate "celebration of family", one focused on my brother and his pregnant partner, and the fact that they were announcing, to the "family" that they were, indeed, pregnant. I should, perhaps, have popped in here to this quiet, family-free space to think aloud about it sooner, but I needed to sit alone with my thoughts (and the houseplants (and a whisky)) for a bit.

Now, nothing makes me happier than the fact that my brother - long unhappy and troubled - has met such a vibrant, delightful woman and that they are, at long last, procreating. The news has made my mother in particular ecstatic as a baby brings a whole bundle of new shopping opportunities and potential baby-and-grandmother outings. The planning has already begun. I too am happy, because despite the Barren nature of the writing here, I think children - and having them in your life in some capacity - are vital to a good life. I'm looking forward to being an aunt immensely.

Halfway through the (microwaved) lunch, my brother dropped to one knee and proposed in front of her HUGE family (and our much smaller one). The Honest Woman comments that followed were appalling, but to be expected (for some reason, vast amounts of people seem to think that marriage makes a woman honest and insist upon repeating it, in joking fashion, ad nauseum).

What I wasn't expecting was the following comments, made to me, by two incredibly lovely women who would be devastated to know I was upset by them.

"At last", they said, "your parents have something to be happy about".

I took the comment on the chin - it was my brother's moment, afterall - but it smarted. These women ARE lovely people, but their experience of life is limited; small and very, very suburban. My partner may not have been invited (another post, that...) but we have been happily co-habiting for 9+ years. We are interesting, we are well-travelled, we are creative and can converse with anyone and everyone equally well. To think that all of that is irrelevant - and that out-moded models of behaviour are all there is to life - is absurd.

My question is this: why do we women do this to one another?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Australia's first deliberately barren PM!

Congratulations to Julia Gillard, the patron saint of the deliberately barren, on becoming this country's first female prime minister.

How exciting to have an unmarried, child-free, outspoken woman at the helm of the ship for a change.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What me? One dimensional?

I've tried to ignore the latest media flurry created by our leader of the opposition, well known for his devout Catholicism and equally well known for his own sexual romps before the sanctity of marriage (due to a very public paternity test), regarding the sanctity of virginity. In 2010 I find it frankly ludicrous that any want-to-be Prime Minister is playing the girls-should-be-virgins-til-they-marry card. I mean, marriage? In 2010? Surely we've entered the age when the State or church having any rightful place in an intimate relationship is irrelevant?

Obviously (and sadly) not.

But now the whole parliament has gotten in on the act and as Our Julia (Patron Saint of the Deliberately Barren) has been attacked once more for her child-free status - I have to cough up the old fur ball.

Senator Brandis (The Hon George Brandis, Liberal Senator for Queensland) is all his wisdom has denounced Julia for being "one dimensional" by not being a mother.

Senator Brandis said: ''Julia Gillard, who … has chosen not to be a parent - and everybody respects her right - in the vehemence of her reaction in fact shows that she just doesn't understand the way parents think about their children when they reach a particular age.

''Although Julia Gillard is a very clever politician, she is very much a one-dimensional person and I do think her reaction, her overreaction to the quite unexceptional remarks Tony Abbott made as the father of daughters, is not something she would have said if she were herself the mother of teenage daughters.''
Source The Age

Almost every friend I know with a teenage daughter has not expressed any desire for their offspring to remain an eternal virgin, til kissed like sleeping beauty and awoken by a husband. Most have bought them a double bed, given a pep talk about choice versus social coercion, discussed safe sex and said - if its going to happen its better here where we know she is safe.

It's Tony Abbott who resides in a single, out dated dimension. It's Abbott whose shown himself unfit to lead a progressive country.

And Julia whose shown wisdom and multi-dimensionality by not taking the barren bait and spitting it back in the oppositions face.

Who'd you prefer to lead the country?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

even barren ones can be too busy to blog

Phew Christmas is out of the way. Just how much plastic, non-recyclable crap got wasted on the kids who have too much around the globe, I wonder?

Sorry, that last statement may lumber me in the bitter and twisted barren camp but actually I’m not, hence my decision to not join the facebook group entitled “Not Having Children: Let's make a deal: You keep your little monsters under control, and I will continue to slow down in school zone.” But just for the hell of it I’ll post some of the wall links from the group, you decide if it’s bitter or funny.

7 helpful tips for the child who made my flight hell: Oh we’ve all been there, got snuggled in for a long haul flight only to find next to us, across the aisle or behind us is the child from hell. No let’s rephrase that. There are no “bad” toddlers, only bad parents who should not be allowed to travel on long haul flights with their children until they’ve been appropriately trained.

Why the fuck do you have a kid?: A very scary site depicting the parents to be and the kids that could have been avoided with decent contraception education.

STFU, Parents: for those who want to rant about their once fun friends, now boring parents, kid-centric FB updates.

Breeder bingo (will need a Facebook account to access graphic) Actually, I found this one hilarious.

For the record – all my friends’ children are absolutely unique, darling individuals. I don’t critique their parenting and I’m glad so many of my stunningly intelligent and artistic peers have done their bit to enhance the gene pool. It’s other people’s children that I wouldn’t want to sit next to on a long haul flight!