Sep 19, 2014

Do we still judge childless women?

The level of childlessness in England and Wales is increasing. According to the Office of National Statistics, one in nine women born in 1940 were childless. It is predicted that now, close to one in four women at the end of the childbearing years (age 45) don't have children. Childless women today are often judged for not having any children, however childfree lifestyles are also widely accepted.

Labelled “child haters” or criticized for not wanting children, many women remain childless due to infertility, which is a problem not exclusive to females. One in six British couples have difficulty conceiving and the rate is on the increase. British Employment Minister Esther McVey recently admitted that while she loves children, similar to other childless women, she hasn't found the right person to have children with.

Infertile or single women are furthermore expected to either opt for adoption or donor offspring. Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women, a support network for childless women above 35, recalls being berated from a stranger for dismissing the idea of adoption and therefore not desiring children enough. Moreover, plenty of childless women have “mother potential” but simply want to have a baby with a man (or woman) that they love.

Whilst childless women are largely judged, they are still accepted and defended. It's untrue that the only job a woman can do is raise children. Almost 35% of UK managers are women, some of whom focused on establishing a career prior to even thinking of motherhood. Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is a prime example. Women are content with delaying childbearing to older ages, at which point it is sometimes too late.

In terms of costs, raising a child has become nearly unaffordable. A couple spends on average £340/week whereas a couple with a baby spends on average a whopping £578/week. Not surprisingly, mums feel that they now must earn more than £26,000/year to make it worth returning to work after maternity leave.

Proven by the UK's plummeting birthrate, indeed, fewer women are having children nowadays, causing one to question whether childfree lifestyles and unconventional family set-ups should be more embraced. After all, regardless of childlessness by circumstance or by choice, a woman is not less of a woman without child.

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