Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is motherhood the pinnacle of a woman's life?

The lovely Clem Bastow, Melbourne freelancer and hip chick about town, celebrates her 29th birthday today with an opinion piece in Fairfax about the plans she has for her uterus.

So many parents (particularly new ones) look with pity on those who are childless through cruel circumstance, and with scorn on those who remain so by choice.

Often I'm chastised, by those who have had children, about my "choice to remain single and childless". When I respond that it was likewise their choice to have a family, they fall mute or change the topic.

I refuse to subscribe to the idea that having a child is the pinnacle of a woman's existence. We're constantly told that people didn't know true love, or understand the meaning of existence, and so on, until they had a child.

Read the full article in today's Age.

Happy Birthday Clem!

Update 25.6.11

This article garnered a lot of varied responses, not the least from the comments on Fairfax. The hornet's nest was well and truly stirred. The following comment was not atypical of the majority of those who felt compelled to tell Clem what they thought of her.

Miss Bastow, you would be best to simply stay silent rather than use your words to spread your own negativity, weirdness and confusion. Too many young women (and men) have been encouraged to supress their natural inclinations by the likes of you to their regret latter.

A more thoughtful (and useful) ripple can be found in the local blogging community. I really valued Penni Russon's post on her blog Eglantine's Cake.

I wanted to say something here, about choices. About the many women I know who have chosen not to have children, and those of us who have chosen it. I wanted to say that choices pretend to be bipolar, especially in mainstream media, but they are actually nuanced, complex and as individualistic as the individuals who struggle with them.

And as a mother of three Penni continues, "Motherhood is nuanced too".

Parenthood is something other than the pinnacle of existence. But this is because existence is a continuum too. There's no pointy end. Motherhood doesn't have to negate ambition, creativity, professional success, sexual desire or individualism(as Clem Bastow comes dangerously close to implying). But neither does the desire to be childless negate a sense of family, community, love or selflessness and I support both Clem Bastow's choice and her need to write about it.

Beautiful post Penni.


mid-Japan-crisis said...

Hello, I just came across your blog and I hope you don't mind if I am a follower now.
Thank you for posting the link to Clem Bastow's article; this is exactly how I feel. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

Penni Russon said...

Thanks for the link and the further discussion. I was really appalled by the comments on The Age (but then I so often am appalled by comments on The Age). I can't believe how intolerant people are of other people's choices. Though I have been wondering if there is a base biological drive to nag young women to have children (though I think we should be evolved enough to rise about our base biological drives.)

Another Outspoken Female said...

The drive definitely exists. We are very primitive, biologically driven beings.

I've read interesting things about oxytocin, not just all about milk production and baby bonding, but released in high doses after (female) orgasm. It explains why you can have great sex with an utter jerk and fall for them. It appears this response tails off over about three months, just long enough to be impregnated and carry on the species.

Oh and some not-so-young but still premenopausal women feel a big tug to have sex when ovulating! Those happy hormones get me every time!

But biology and destiny are still two different things.