One to One Coaching

I offer free 30 minute telephone/Skype consultations for people wanting to find out more about coaching on the 'baby decision'. Email me at mailto:beth@ticktockcoaching.co.uk and assistant Laura will respond and arrange an appointment with you. Visit http://www.ticktockcoaching.co.uk/ for more information about my coaching services.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Economic Crisis and the decision to have children

This interesting article appeared this week in a Settle newspaper. It looks at how the recession is affecting couples decision whether to have children or not. Apparently, this happened in the last recession and it was called a 'Baby Bust'.

I'd like to wish all my regular readers a very happy New Year and I look forward to hearing from you all in 2009!!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Another blogger on deciding whether to have children or not

I came across this reflective post from a woman blogger on her and her partners decision whether to have children or not. Here it is!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

A perspective from a woman artists

This article came through my in-box - it's a very thoughtful reflection by a woman artist on her decision to have children.

I love how she refers to history - to the history of women artists who felt they had to choose between having children and their art. And her own process of making decisions is very thoughtful.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Should I freeze my eggs?

Today this fantastic article came out in the Guardian - the writer is worried that her time is running out and decided to explore the possiblity of freezing her eggs - for the future when she might decide she does want children.

I do get asked this question by clients I coach and I refer them to websites and specialists. But my personal view is that freezing eggs is no solution really. As the writer of the article describes, it is a painful and lengthly procedure (just like IVF - you need to inject hormones and then your eggs are harvested). And it is expensive.

As the writer of the article notes:

'I began this process believing there was a magical solution to my biological limits, that I could somehow cheat time and put off-deciding whether or not I wanted children. But egg-freezing is not the solution: it can only provide women with a choice that comes with a very high cost - financial, physical and psychological'

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Sterotypes of Childfree Women

I came across this witty column looking at one of the most silly sterotypes of women who are childfree - that of the 'Crazy Cat Lady'.

The columnist is great - really funny but points out that men who don't have children and who are into dogs are not tarred with the 'Crazy Dog Man' sterotype - far from it, they are considered butch and alpha male!

As regular readers to this blog know, I hate steretyping of both the childfree and parents - it's far too easy to sling silly insults at people who have choosen a different path in life!!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Update on the book!

Hello readers!

Well, I have been a very poor blogger of late - I have been doing about 6 zillion other things lately - including a leadership programme, building my coaching practice and doing more fundraising consultancy work with various not-for-profits in London. So the blog has suffered!

I thought I would give you all an update on the book 'Baby or Not?' - a publisher is still being sought by myself and my literary agent! I guess now is not the best time in the world to try to get a book deal!

I might look at self-publishing or an e-book - if anyone out there knows of a publisher who might be interested, do get in touch!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Advice from Miriam Stoppard on the decision to have children or not

Here is Miriam Stoppard giving some advice on the decision whether to have children or not in her blog at the Mirror.

It's fairly sensible advice. The only thing I'd say is that - in my experience coaching women on the issue - is that often, there are fears that need to be addressed when looking at the issue. If it was just a matter - for instance - just of finance, it wouldn't be such a difficult or emotional decision.

And, the big difficulty is, when one partner wants kids - and the other doesn't. How you resolve that can be very tricky - as there is no compromising.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Another bit of advice!

Firstly - sorry to regular readers for the long break!! It has been a very crazy November for me and I've been away doing a range of different things.

Now I'm back and I found this in a longer article/advice column by the Brooklyn Eagle

Go to this link for her full article Brooklyn Eagle


'I am 35 years old and while not a parent yet myself, I follow your weekly columns religiously. How did you know you were ready to become a parent? I feel as though I am waiting for some sort of sign and growing a bit worried that the sign may not come in time.

Sorry, but I don’t think those signs come. At 35 years old, time is limited. (As if you don’t know this.) At the risk of repeating myself, I would say that if you’ve enjoyed the first book of life, then to go on to the next book, which is really rewarding and exciting. The second book is a full series, and it’s different from the last. If you don't have children, you stick with the same book, and that can go on and on and get repetitive.
Certainly, no one should have a child if he or she doesn’t want to. For me, the richness of life comes from the unfolding series. I don’t know if you have a partner or not, but it might help you solidify the decision by taking small steps like getting your hormone levels checked, and then see how you feel as you're gathering this information. Are you excited? If you're passionate or totally uninterested in the information, those could be signs, as well. By the way, holding somebody else's baby or sitting on a park bench at the playground or going to a kid-friendly restaurant won't necessarily help the decision-making process. It may well have the opposite effect! When you think of yourself at 50, if you see a child or two sitting at the breakfast table with you, get moving. And good luck.'

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Is he the one I want to settle down and have children with?

This appeared in Private Lives in the Guardian today.

The person writing in is not sure if her current partner is 'the one' - she is thinking she needs more excitement/passion but, aware of her age, wonders if she should stay with her partner and have children.

I really liked the reply to this query!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Deciding not to have children

This short article came my way - it is about the old stereotype that deciding not to have children is in some way a selfish decision - which is not true of course!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

When your friends have children

This is a really lovely article that appeared in the Guardian Family Section today - about the changes in friendship that happen when friends have children and you are childfree. It touches on the issue of making the decision whether to have children or not.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

The Economy and the decision to have children or not

Here is an interesting blog post - asking the question whether the economic situation is affecting your decision to have kids or not?

Funnily enough - I've been writing the chapter on the financial impact of having children for my book 'Baby or Not?' . So I found the post very relevant.

It's tricky - because let's face it, if everyone really thought about how having children would stretch our finances, no one would ever have kids!!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Canoeing Star Eggs Frozen till after 2012 Olympics

This article appeared today. Helen Barnes an Canoeist who is 36 has decided to freeze her eggs so that she can still conceive after the nex Olympic games.

She is single and this is an option some single women are taking.

However, I do worry that it isn't the cast iron guarantee that it might sound like. She says in the article that she is glad that technology will allow her to still be a mother. However, I think some of the problems with women conceiving after 40 is the high risk of miscarriage - which sometimes has to do with the quality of the egg but sometimes not? I'm not totally sure but I think egg freezing could be an expensive option that doesn't neccesarrily result in motherhood.

But, then, if it does work then I guess why not?

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Choosing Sterilization at an early age

An article appeared in the Daily Mail ast week about women who choose to be sterilized in their early 20's because they don't want children.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

What no baby?

This article from Australia caught my eye today. It focusses on the move away from committed relationships to single lifestyles and it homes in on the difficulties faced by women who find themselves unintentially childfree - after finding it difficult to find men who will agree to have children. A researcher has done a study and written a book called 'What no Baby?' looking at this issue. Here is an excerpt from the article.

'In What, No Baby?, Dr Cannold estimates that 25 per cent of women of child-bearing age in contemporary society will remain childless - and about 10 per cent are "childless by circumstance" rather than choice.
"There were two main groups of women - those who really wanted to have kids and some who were ambivalent, but all of them, given the right circumstances, would have had children," she says.
"They needed a partner who wanted children, a good person to father their children.
"Others split up at the wrong time or met a partner who didn't want to share the work with them - 'OK, you have a kid, but you do the work' mentality."
Dr Cannold says that at the time of conducting her research some of the women involved were "just devastated" about not having children.
"But I came across some of them some years later and those who hadn't had kids had come through it...they had moved on, dealt with the grief.
"They were those who moved towards motherhood but didn't end up having kids because they never found the right person or the right partnership, or they split at, say, 35 and by the time they found another partner, it was too late.
"These women didn't want to be called childless by choice - because it doesn't characterise what happened to them."
American research shows that of single men, one third are disengaged from commitment and long-term partnerships and parenting. The rest are more traditional males, happy to have children, but nothing much is going to change for them. '

'Tricking' men into getting pregnant

Well, I just found this REALLY interesting article in the Times. Basically, it's about women who purposely 'accidently' get pregnant to have a child.

It's not something I advocate doing generally. However, I completely understand why women do it! As this quote from the article says:

'However, when even eminent fertility expert points out that there is “a shortage of men in their thirties and forties who seem capable of real commitment”, what is a girl to do? Katya, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way: “I’m looking forward to bringing up my baby alone. Much better that than in a second-rate relationship,” '

But, if anyone was to ask my advice, I would suggest going through a fertility clinic and use donor sperm - there could be many complications as the child grows up through accidentaly getting pregnant on purpose.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Having it all? The view from Ireland

Just came across this article - I found the tone rather strange and couldn't really decide what point of view the writer was coming from. But again, touching on some the usual relevant issues for women trying to make the decision to have children or not - how it will effect your career and your relationship. And of course, the disparity, with men being about to enjoy work and family without a huge conflict

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Single Mothers by Choice

An article appeared today in the Guardian looking at the phenomena of women who are choosing to be single parents. It confirmed a choice that I see alot of my clients making - to stop waiting for the partner who hasn't materialised yet or to leave a partner who doesn't want children and go it alone.

It's interesting - because as the article points out, usually heterosexual women wait to look at assisted donor conception untill they have given up on the male partner. And, as more of us become aware of the limitations on our fertility, this is an option that women are aware needs to be made sooner rather than later. Yet, the implications are huge - for some women it means giving up on the 'dream' of having a traditional family. And, of course, being a single parent means that it can be difficult to get into a relationship.

But for most of the women who have choosen this option - there is very little regret and, the benefits outweigh the downsides.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Almost half of women in the financial industry forgo having children

This article appeared last weekend. It turns out that almost half of women in the financial industry in the UK aren't having children.

The question is - is this out of a positive choice to remain childfree? Or is it out of a sense that one can't have children and work in the industry?

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Should I be a mother?

This is a very interesing problem that appeared in the Guardian's once a week advice column.

The writer asks if she should be a mother as she came from a dysfunctional family. In essense, she is fearful that she will be repeating old patterns of behaviour and dysfunction with her own child.

My advice is that fear should never be in charge of you making this decision. Making the decision to have a child or not out of fear is not a good place to be. Far better is to throw a spotlight on the fear and challenge it and then ask yourself if you want kids.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Having Children and the Green Issue

One of the debates I've become increaseingly interested in is the environmental issue around having kids. This article discusses findings by the BMJ.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Flying Solo - Documentary

Just finished watching this fantastic (if abit long!!) documentary on the BBC, Flying Solo - Confessions of a Free Woman. The filmaker, Jennifer Fox turned the camera on herself and her life decisions - one of those was around having children.

I had to check out her website and she has a blog - and it's actually kept up to date! Woo hoo!!

So this post 'So I forgot to have children or did I? And what I like about it is how thoughtful it is on the issue - from the perspective of someone who has tried to conceive and who now is thinking what it might mean not to have children - after wanting them so much.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

One in five women not having children

New research from the US shows that one in five women have decided not to have children.

See article here

Friday, 15 August 2008

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Co-parenting

One of the options that people have is to co-parent. What is co-parenting you might be asking? Well, co-parenting is mainly known in the lesbian and gay community as a way to raise child. Traditionally, it happens when a lesbian or lesbian couple ask a man (usually although not always) to be a 'co-parent'. The man provides his sperm and is not just a sperm donor but takes on the role of father. There is an excellent article in the Canadian magazine the Walrus which discusses lesbian and gay families.

This model of parenting can be extended to single heterosexual women and men - and in some cases heterosexual couples who may be infertile. I have know single heterosexual women who don't have a partner or who have a partner who doesn't want children to look at co-parenting as a way to raise children. I'm definately going to be blogging again about this topic and I'm very interested in interviewing anyone out there who is involved in co-parenting in this way!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Men and the decision


As I've oft mentioned in the blog, the issue for many women who do want children but are struggling with the decision is in either finding a partner or they are with a partner who doesn't want kids.

This column in an Australian newspaper neatly captures that dilemma - and it was written by a man!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Reaching the age of 40 and the decision

Read this highly amusing blog entry in the Huffington post about turning 40 and all the questions that childfree women get asked - like are you going to see a fertility specialist?

I guess my only caveat would be that - it doesn't seem like the author has definately choosen a childfree life yet.  And she mentions that it is a social driven biological clock fear.  But, it is true that the odds of having a baby do go down fairly sharply after 40!  Although, as one person who commented on this post said 40 is the new 30 - the reality is that our biology says otherwise.  Women can start entering the menopause at 45.

I know I sound like the voice of doom and gloom - but I'm really, really glad if people choose to be childfree - it's just that if you do want kids, it's a heck of alot easier to conceive in your 30's than early 40's.  But, then, this blogger talks about all the benefits of being childfree - so that probably is her choice at the end of the day.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Making the Choice

I found this really interesting and thoughtful blog post on making the decisions - basically the blogger was saying how our actions speak to the choices we make in life around this issue.  

Some of you have asked how the book is progressing - it is going well!  I totally revamped my sample chapter for my literary agent - basically I realised the chapter I had written was actually three chapters in one! And this means it was really unfocussed.  And I didn't have enough practical exercises/tips/advice etc that a self-help bool really needs to have!!!  So, I've given the book to 3 readers who are going to make thoughtful and helpful comments.  And then off to the literary agents.

Friday, 18 July 2008

My Husband doesn't want a baby but I do

Another familiar tale - this time in the advice column in the Mirror newspaper.

As many of my regular readers know, this is a common issue.

For me, the important thing is to keep the lines of communication.

But ultimately, if your partner doesn't want a baby and is clear about that - then you need to be clear too. Do you want to stay in this relationship and be childfree or go?

For the reader in this situation, being only 24 helps alot!! She's got plenty of time to think about it and decide. For women in their mid 30's however, the issue is less easy as time is not on their side.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

I love this blog!

I really love this woman blogger - Holly Hoffman and her blog WORKLOVELIFE

She wrote this great post called Why I might be ok with having children Such a fantastic look at the dilmma - like, looking at people with kids and how they seem to make it work, how she could see herself having kids when she is with them. And then with the families that don't make her want to have children.

That's the thing - every family is completely different, every one has it's own dynamics, problems issues. Some work well, some are disfunctional. And, we never really know, we can never be certain what kind of family we'll have!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Happiness and having or not having kids

A columnist recently wrote about recent research showing that people who have children are less happy than those that are childfree. Here article can be found here

I thought her article was fairly balanced - many of the comments to the article less so!

She quotes from the research saying:

"Parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers," says Florida State University's Robin Simon, a sociology professor who's conducted several recent parenting studies, the most thorough of which came out in 2005 and looked at data gathered from 13,000 Americans by the National Survey of Families and Households. "In fact, no group of parents—married, single, step or even empty nest—reported significantly greater emotional well-being than people who never had children. It's such a counterintuitive finding because we have these cultural beliefs that children are the key to happiness and a healthy life, and they're not."

The columnist goes on to say:

Parents may openly lament their lack of sleep, hectic schedules and difficulty in dealing with their surly teens, but rarely will they cop to feeling depressed due to the everyday rigors of child rearing. "If you admit that kids and parenthood aren't making you happy, it's basically blasphemy," says Jen Singer, a stay-at-home mother of two from New Jersey who runs the popular parenting blog MommaSaid.net. "From baby-lotion commercials that make motherhood look happy and well rested, to commercials for Disney World where you're supposed to feel like a kid because you're there with your kids, we've made parenthood out to be one blissful moment after another, and it's disappointing when you find out it's not.....

For the childless, all this research must certainly feel redeeming. As for those of us with kids, well, the news isn't all bad. Parents still report feeling a greater sense of purpose and meaning in their lives than those who've never had kids. And there are other rewarding aspects of parenting that are impossible to quantify....Perhaps it just comes down to how you see the candy dish—half empty or half full. Or at least as a parent, that's what I'll keep telling myself.'

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

When you don't have a strong biological urge to have children

I just came across this blog where the blogger has decribed the difficulties she and her partner had in making the decision to have children or not. She perfectly describes the difficulty in trying to decided when you don't seem to have a strong biological urge to have children.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

More on acadamic women and the decision

Well, I am so honoured - I've been mentioned in the blog of the Dean at the University of Manitoba! Well, not me exactly - this blog!

He raises some interesting points in his post so do go and check it out!

Anyway, on a personal note, I'm off for a short holiday up to Newcastle in the North of England - I'm hoping the rainy weather doesn't follow us up from London. Will be posting again when I'm back next week!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

The decision to have kids and financial considerations

Found this blog post on Dual Income No Kids.

Lots of good tips on what to take into consideration in terms of attitudes towards finance and money when you are trying to decide.

I guess my only point would be is that if you do decide to have children, you might find your viewpoints changing - but at least you will know where you are both starting from!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

'I adore him but he doesn't want kids'

Here is another advice column which appeared today in Canada's Globe and Mail on that common question - what to do if you want kids but your partner doesn't.

There was quite a range of opinions offered - I liked the last opionion in the last paragraph:

'Treat your vision of the future as a strength and not a need. Tell your paramour that you adore him, but that you are re-entering the rugged world of dating. There is something undeniably sensuous about the person who knows what he or she wants - the cowgirl, the soldier, the statesman all move forward like singular arrows.'

Monday, 9 June 2008

Whose 'fault' is it that women have delayed having children?

I came across this article called Baby Gone which argues that feminism has played a key role in encouraging women not to think about babies and having families untill it is too late and they find that it is difficult (if not sometimes impossible to conceive). The author says this:

'THE strategic silences of feminism are having profound effects on society. For all the brilliant choices ushered in for women - the freedom to forge ahead with careers, to stay single, if that was their wish, not to be tied down by family and babies, if that was their choice - feminism failed women by refusing to inform them that their new-found choices came at a price.
By failing to remind women about their biology and their declining fertility, feminism deliberately ignored the innate desire of most women to have a child. The silence continues. It is there in the classroom where, like previous generations of young girls, the present generation is still not taught that fertility cannot be taken for granted.'

I find it quite shocking that someone can actually seek to blame the feminist movement for women not having choices about their biology! It's something I'm aware of in writing my book - I know how easily it is to turn this debate into 'all those career minded feminists - look where that has led!'

I don't want to turn back the clock - I don't want us to return to the world of my mother - who was told in her senior year of a top ivy league college in the 1950's that her degree made her very well qualifited for an admin post in an art gallery!!! We have a lot to be grateful for - the feminist movement has fought for our right to have control over our bodies and lives.

What I feel is that women in their 30's now are dealing with a dilemma or issue that our mothers and grandmothers never had to deal with - it's an un-intended consquence of having more choices. Whereas in our mothers and grandmothers day, it was implicit that women would get married and have kids - it wasn't really seen as a option. Yet, today it's not. Therefore, we now have more responsiblity to make that decision, to choose. Unfortunately, as I've explored before, for some women who are ready to have kids, they have to deal with the reality that the men in their lives also see themselves as liberated from past expecations of settling down and raising a family.

The solution isn't to hark back to an idealised 'glory days' of motherhood and apple pie. But to deal with this new reality and explore alternative solutions and new realities which weren't so acceptable in the past - including fostering, co-parenting, child-free life and having a child as a single women.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

I came across this blog entry at the Brazen Careerist on the decision not to have children.

I really liked the piece - it was a very cheerful and honest look at the decision to step away from the traditional 'Good Housekeeping' ideal of relationships and family life.

My favourite quote from the piece is this:

'There’s something about magazines like Real Simple and TV shows like House Hunters that depresses me. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but every time I attempt a sit on the couch post-work I am irritated by things like Everybody Loves Raymond. There’s a part of me that is suspicious that these forms of entertainment have been created to make us believe that not only are you content with your life, but you are enthusiastic about it, a subtle (or not-so-subtle, in my opinion) brainwashing of home-improving, toddler-yogaing, exasperated-but-happy-at-the-end-of-the-day, we’re-the-same-kind-of-unique status quo. Welcome to the new yuppiedom.'

The author, Holly Hoffman, goes on to say.

'When I get a case of the I-just-want-to-be-upper-middle-class blues, I daydream another life.
In this life I usually am married, or in a long-term committed relationship. Yes, I am happy and content being single, but like many, I would like to have a companion through life. I think a character in Shall We Dance? sums it up best when she says people get married so that in a world of billions, one person says they will be the witness to your life. I agree with this.
At any rate, 90 percent of me says no to kids. This is mostly a financial decision in my mind. Yes, I know you can be financially well off and have kids also, but the majority of folks are not. ...Mostly, though, this daydream life is about being able to do the things I am passionate about without any compromises or guilt feelings, such as diving tirelessly into my own businesses, having a partner who I still find sexually appealing, coming nowhere close to any variety of poop/snot/vomit, and traveling at will and on whim.'

There is so much that is WRONG with the stereotypical views of how we are supposed to be happy and fullfilled as portrayed in the media. It makes everyone wrong really! It's insulting to child-free people that their reality is somewhat less happy than those with kids.

AND, I also think it makes things difficult for those who are in the middle - trying to decide. My view is that it isn't a stark 'either you become a surbanan mum/mom' OR be a'hip, cosmopolian city girl'. Most mums I know find their way between being a mum and having a life - they are going to yoga, are environmental activities, feminist campaigners. Personally, I'm abit insulted by the stereotype that I'm either a desparate housewife or mad career woman with a team of nannies to look after her kids! Which is generally how mums are portrayed in the media - falling into one or more of these stereotypes.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Tteaching about infertility in schools?

One of the issues that some of my clients come to me with is resentment at their sex education classes in school. A typical conversation with these clients goes like this:

'At school, I was told that it would be the most dreadful thing in the world if I did get pregnanat and that I would get pregnant the second I neglected to use contraception.

And now, I'm finding that I'm bombarded with hysterical newspaper headlines that say that I've put my chances of ever having children at risk by leaving it till my late 30's!'

So I was very intersted to read this article about how the new head of the Human Embryo and Fertizalisation Authority is urging young people to be taught the issues around infertility in sex education and to prepare them for the fact they might not get pregnant!

I'm kinda thinking - though while it would be useful for young people later in life - it might simply increase teenage pregnancies!!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Academic Women less likely to have children

Thanks to the blogger Quirky Economist for pointing to this research showing that women academics are less likely to have children.

Particularly relevant I think is this quote from the article:

'Key differences were found with regard to work/home balance: men in the field are more likely to be parents, but women are more likely to be more responsible for child care or other family obligations. For instance, of men who experienced a career interruption, 7.4 percent cited child care as the reason and 3.7 percent cited the experience of being a “trailing spouse,” one who moves when a partner is hired elsewhere. Of women who experienced career interruptions, 22.9 percent cited child care and 9.1 percent cited being a trailing spouse. And women were much more likely (52.9 percent to 5.6 percent) to anticipate a future career interruption due to child care responsibilities.'

As I've mentioned before, women shoulder a disportionate amount of the responsibility for childcare . And we know this as women. We know that if we have kids - it's likely that we are going to be the ones doing more childcare, or sorting it out. So if you are a woman with a glittering career in academia ahead of you, I can see that the decision to have children or not, would be weighted down by the knowledge that it is likely to be your career that faces difficulties, not your partners.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Deciding When To Have A Child, If Ever: The Impacts Later In Life

I've just come across this article with the title above http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070511080340.htm

One of the points the authors make that it's not if you decide to have children that impacts on happiness - it's whether you have someone in your life to love that impacts on you later in life.

"Whether a woman has had children or not isn’t likely to affect her psychological well-being in later life," said University of Michigan sociologist Amy Pienta. "What is more important is whether or not she has a husband, a significant other or close social relationships in her life as she ages."

They also point out that women who waited to have children untill later - i.e. late 30's where more likely to be happier than women who had children earlier in life.

I can see how as humans it makes us feel good to love someone else. And that may be a child or it may be your partner or it may be a significant other or close social relationships.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

More research into the decision to have children or not

I found this article about whether deciding not to have children can be considered a selfless act in order to save the envrionment. It also looks at whether research that shows that having children leads to greater unhappiness in marriage is valid or not.

I have been interested in the phenomena of some environmentalists calling on people to have no or fewer children. It does seem like a plausible arguement. But this author debunks that. I don't really agree with his views that not having children is a reflection of our selfish society - as I've said elsewhere, I think there are many, many ways that people who are childfree can live out selfless and giving values - like volunteering, caring for older people, mentoring etc.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Is there a 'good time' to have kids - particularly when thinking about your career?

It's a question that I do hear - when is the right time to have kids? Is it when I've reached a certain stage in my career? The blogger Grad Mommy, who I mentioned before, has this to say in this post:

'There is so much consternation amongst graduate students about when the best time to start a family is. I’ve heard it everywhere along the grad student - tenure continuum: wait until after classes are done, no, wait until you’ve defended your proposal, no, wait until you’ve landed your first position, no, wait until after you’ve gotten tenure. I remember a professor back in my freshman year of college saying,
'There’s never a good time to get married or have children. Just do it.'
I followed his advice.'

She then talks in the post how it is more difficult with kids but it is all doable.

My feeling is that while you do need to weigh up the pros and cons of whether you want to do certain things before having kids (for example I would love to do a programme called Leadership in the US now - but I'm not willing to leave my 3 year old to travel out there 4 times a year for a week each so I'll have to wait till he is abit older), at the end of the day, if you do want kids, if you know you want them in your future (but just aren't sure when), I'd have to say, yeah, just go for it!! The problem is - when will you know it's the right time? As Grad Mommy says above, you could go on forever. In my case, I could have thought 'oh, just after my coaching course, oh just after Leadership, oh just after I land a few great coaching contracts.'

And before you know it, my biological clock would have been running down.

It's a tough call. Not to be made lightly.

But, then if you want to make it work - you will.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Finished the Sample Chapter!

As regular readers will know, I've been working on a self-help book on the issue of trying to decide whether to have children or not. My literary agent - having pushed me to write a 40 (!) page book proposal. Once I had done that and revised it till she thought it was great, she then asked me to write a sample chapter before she would take it around to publisher.

Well, I've done that now - just finished and I've emailed it off to her!

I've sure she'll have lots of useful comments as I feel it grew into a bit of a monester. But having worked on it for this past month, I can't even 'see' it anymore to edit it down.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

More from an economist on the decision

I am fascinated by an on-going discussion on the Econlog (see blog links) about the decision to have children or not. One of the economists Bryan Caplan, posted this summary of a lecture on 'Selfish Reasons to Have More Children'

It's very interesting - although, as I've said many times before and particularly in this blog post I don't think that happiness can be boiled down to whether or not you have children or whether or not you have more or less children.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Grad school and the decision to have kids or not

I've noticed lately that grad schools are actively encouraging students to discuss and think about the issue of when it's right to be a parent. The Chroncile of Higher Education discussion boards regularly have discussions around this issue.

I also found this great posting from Grad Mommy on seminars she has been to on the decision.

It is great that this is a discussion that is being held in universities!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Freezing your eggs as an insurance policy

I've blogged about this before but there was an interesting article in the times about freezing eggs this weekend.

The woman featured has a very similiar story to a woman I've recently interviewed, Em. Em was married in her early 20's and now divorced. In her early 30's, she is aware that she might not have much time. But although she is in a new relationship, it's far to early to be thinking about having children.

A colleague recommended egg freezing - but she is doubtful.

That's my main worry - that the technology has flaws and women may spend alot of money to find it still doesnt' work.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Do you settle for Mr. Good Enough or quit stressing and enjoy life?

I read two very interesting articles from two different perspectives published in the Dallas Dailey News:

In the first one called ‘ Don’t be afraid to settle for Mr. Good Enough’ Lori Gottlieb basically encourages women to settle for a good enough partner – not wait for ‘Mr.Right’. Interestingly, she talks from the point of view of someone who decided to have a child on her own by AI. But she says she has realised the difficulties of having a child on her own and feels it is preferable to be in a relationship.


The other article by, Catherine Cuellar called ‘Quit stressing about finding Mr. Right and start enjoying life’ puts the perspective that women shouldn’t be panicked into getting into a relationship that isn’t right for them. One of the most powerful quotes from this piece is this one:

‘Whether I reproduce, adopt or abstain; am step-, foster-, or godparent; or just love my neighbors, I'll teach children in my life they are precious, unique individuals who should respect themselves enough to enter a relationship only if they find a worthy partner.

Meanwhile, I'm active in church; practice yoga and meditation; and have worked with a therapist and a personal trainer – so if an ideal mate comes along, I'm ready. In my professional and volunteer work, I pursue my passions, surrounding myself with people who share my values and interests. I don't believe it humanly possible for any one person to meet all my social, emotional, spiritual and physical needs. Rather, I live in a gracious and generous community with married and single people, some with and others without children – some by choice, others by circumstance. ‘

I do understand where Lori Gottlieb is coming from – the reality of long term relationships is that you do have to accept that it is not a whirl of romantic love. It is a steady love – a partnership. And if you are always holding out for the fairy tale notion of love and relationships, you are bound to be disappointed. It is also stressful for women who have always wanted children in the context of a long term relationship. As Emma, one of my interviewees for my book pointed out ‘I was married at 27 and divorced at 29. Now I’m almost 31, and I’m aware that if I want to have a child, I need to start in a few years. But although I have a boyfriend now, he is just into having fun and not being committed. So what do I do? I never imagined life without a family, without children.’

So it is a tough one.

However, Catherine’s article really resonates with me and it chimes with one of the key messages of my book and my coaching. That you can have a fantastic and fulfilled life – regardless of whether you are married or not, whether you have children or not. You can live a life in alignment with your values whatever choices you make, whatever life throws at you. That’s why in the coaching I do, I always ask people to step back from the decision and look at their vision of life 20 years from now and at their values.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Gender and the decision to have children or not

I found this interesting blog piece on a blog all about ecomomics. Basically, it points to a survey done which shows that there is different expectations on men and women in a relationship/marriage when it comes to the decision to have children or not. A survey asked the two questions:

'If the husband in a family wants children, but the wife decides that she does not want any children, is it all right for the wife to refuse to have children?' and

'If the wife in a family wants children, but the husband decides that he does not want any children, is it all right for the husband to refuse to have children?'

Survey says: 82% affirmed the wife's right to refuse, but only 61% affirmed the same right for husbands. Men and women are almost equally likely to have the same view with 83% of men (versus 81% of women) affirm women's right to refuse; 60% of men (versus 61% of women) affirm men's right to refuse.

The blogger asked the question why would there be such different expectations of men and women's duty in this matter?

My answer and that of some of the other posters is that the decision affects women disproportionately either way. A woman has to bear the brunt of carrying and having the child and will have to take on more child-caring during the first few months (maternity leave, b'feeding, etc).

Because a woman has limited fertility time available, she will also be serverely affected is her partner/husband says no. As a friend of mine pointed out, if her partner keeps saying he isn't ready yet, she is going to have to leave him as she only has about 6 more years of optimum fertility time left. Whereas, if he changes his mind, even at 60 years old, he can still find a younger woman to pro-create with!

On another matter, I wish I hadn't been put off studying economics in high school - it seemed so dry and boring. But over the past few years, I've been realising how important the subject is - how it applies to all aspects of our livses. Probably reading Freaknomics had something to do with this change of heart.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Relationship between amount of child-rearing/housework done by men and the decision to have a second child

I found this very interesting article today on the above topic!

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/national/news/20080404p2a00m0na020000c.html

And, I've been featured in the Japanese magazine AERA!! I've put a link to this article on the homepage of my website - it will allow you to download a JPEG of the article. Go to my site at http://www.ticktockcoaching.co.uk and the link is half-way down the page.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Sensible advice on the decision to have a baby or not

Some sensible advice found in the Telegraph!!

A very excellent piece of advice to a woman feeling pressured into the decision to having children can be found here with a mixture of good and not so good comments.

Anyway, just a quick update on the book for all regular follower of the blog - I finished my extended book proposal and this met with the approval of my literary agent. I am now working on the sample chapter!!!

Monday, 31 March 2008

A perspective on the issue from Jamaica

Well, I came across this article in the Jamaica Observer.

On one level, it neatly outlined the dilemma for many women - as we've explored in the blog, more women are aware of the limitations of fertility.

And, if they are in their mid 30's with no partner and they want kids, the situation could look bleak.

However, I found this article rather limited in terms of options they present - I sent in this letter to the paper which, I hope they print as I think women reading the article, might feel like their only option is to march any bloke up to the wedding chapel!

Dear Editor,

Many women in different parts of the world are experiencing the same difficult decisions. I'm a life coach specialising in coaching women in the UK and (via the phone) in other parts of the world including the US, Canada, and Australia.The issue varies from woman to woman.

For some, they have found the man they want to spend the rest of their life with - but he is saying he doesn't know if he wants kids yet because he is too young or not ready! This leave the women in a difficult position - do they wait, knowing that their biological clock is ticking or leave to find another relationship or, have a child as a single parent? It is becoming more and more culturally acceptable in many parts of the world to have a child as a single parent - and this might be an option for some of your readers. Rather than drag an unsuitable man into marriage if you want a baby, an option could be to have a child on your own.

Some of the women I coach don't actually really want children but feel pressured by friends, family, their church etc into having children. When that is the case it may be, that with abit of support they are able to be clearer to their friends/family about why they have choosen to live a child-free life.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

The decline of marriage

This topic is slightly off the beaten track of the discussion around whether to have children or not but I think they are related.

There have been a surge of articles on marriage following latest release of stats that show marriage is on the decline. Some articles - like this one - are despairing (pointing to a decline in committment) and others put a more optimistic spin on it like this one.

Personally, I've never been a great believer in marriage myself. Sure, it's a powerful symbol of committment and love but surely, there are many other ways to some committment in relationships?

When it comes to the decision to have children or not - marriage is a loaded issue.

If you are married, there is an expectation that having kids is part of the deal - and married couples who choose to be childfree are regarded as oddities.

If you aren't married and have kids, you are seen as slightly suspect.

And if you are single and want to have children, this is seen as feckless.

I don't think any of these concepts is particularly helpful, useful or true!




Friday, 21 March 2008

A very interesting article appeared today by Rachel Cusk - on her experience of the furore around her book 'A Life's Work' which was one of the first books to explore the issue of maternal ambivalence. She writes about how she was shocked that she received such personal criticism about her honest reflections and has been asked time and time again if she regrets having her children!! As she points out, it seems that anything that threats the pervasive ideal of 'motherhood' is an extreme threat. I must say, I was quite shocked at the vitroil on the Women's Hour message board about the topic of maternal ambivalence - with some posters likening it to child abuse.

Click her to read her article.


Thursday, 20 March 2008

Must I choose between my partner and a baby?

Today the Guardian has published a very familiar dilemna to readers of this blog - someone who wants a baby and their partner doesn't!

http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/privatelives/story/0,,2266613,00.html

I thought all the replies were quite interesting - I do like what Linda Blair said here

'It is impossible for anyone to feel totally happy and confident about becoming a parent for the first time - it is after all, new and unknown territory.'

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Research relating to the decision of whether to have children or not

There hasn't been a huge amount of research on this topic. Some of the research I have come across in writing the book is around declining birth rates.

According to the UK Office of National Statistics in 1996, 14,952 mothers over 35 years of age had their first child; in 2001 this had risen to 27,468 with the total number of women having a first child remaining relatively consistent. Fertility rates reveal that between 2001 and 2004 the number of births per 1,000 women increased from 669,100 to 716,000. Over the past 30 years birth rates have increased for women aged 30-40 while they have fallen for younger women

A report from Finland called ‘Trends in Social Protection in Finland 2004’ stated that:

‘There is also an increasing number of women who remain childless. At the moment, 15 percent of middle-aged women are childless. In the future this figure is expected to rise to 20 percent. Childlessness is most common among highly educated women.’

At a recent European summit on population and family policies across the European Union, Joakim Palme, Director, Institute for Future Studies, Stockholm, described the findings of their recent report Sustainable policies in an ageing Europe: modernising family polices. This analysed social trends in Europe: an ageing society, declining marriage, fertility and birth rates, and an increased female labour force.

Mr Palme said that if the European social model was to be sustainable, policy-makers needed to make wide-ranging reforms to current social protection systems and fine-tune the relationship between encouraging higher birth rates, improving Europe’s skills base and increasing the labour supply to enlarge the future tax base.

Education plays an important role, as building up Europe’s “human capital” (i.e. a highly-skilled work force) will increase GDP per capita growth, providing revenue to care for an ageing population.

However, the study also found that, in some Member States, prolonging education reduced fertility levels as women delayed having children to continue their studies and some then decided not to have children at all because of the negative impact this would have on their employment opportunities.

Reports from Japan have been published with similar findings. In 2005, the Japanese government reported that the birth rate was the lowest since the government began keeping records in 1947. The declining rate threatens to leave Japan with a labour shortage, a reduced tax base and a strained pension system. As a response, Japan's government began a five-year project to lift the rate, building more day-care centres and encouraging men's paternity leave.

"The trend towards having fewer children will have a grave impact on the economy and society as it slows economic growth, increases the burden for social security and taxes, and reduces the vitality of regional society," Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said to a news conference on 31st May 2006.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Feature in magazine - journalist looking for an interviewee

I've spoken to a journalist who is interested in interviewing a woman who is trying to make the decision to have children or not. She is happy to interview someone in the UK or overseas. Her request is below

Mail on Sunday, You - Real Life Feature Request

You magazine is looking for women in their mid-thirties who are facingthe dilemmas of whether or not to have children. Here some examples of dilemmas you or one of your case studies might be facing:
You might have found the right guy but it's not happening and you'rehaving fertility treatment.
You might be ready to have a baby and in the absence of a man have are going to go it alone.
You might be single and not ready to have a baby but want to freeze your eggs as insurance (or have already).
You one day want to have babies but you are at the top of your gamecareer-wise and worried about what would happen if you went off now.
You want to have babies but keep putting it off because you're worriedabout the physical aspects (ie pregnancy, childbirth etc.)
You never wanted kids but everyone around you is having them and you'reworried you'll regret your decision.

Even if your baby dilemma doesn't fit the bill, if you're in your mid-thirties and at some kind of baby crossroads, get in touch. Contact Anna Magee on anna@annamagee.com

Friday, 14 March 2008

The ticking of the biological clock and careers

Have been surfing the net looking for relevant articles and found this rather blunt article about women, our biological clock and careers. Basically the author recommends that we all turn our attention to finding a mate in our 20's with the same zeal as we did for our careers. She also has a blog and wrote a blog entry here with lots of comments on her entry

On one hand, yes if you are planning on having kids it is better to try to conceive before the age of 35. (although this author argues it's best before you are 30!.

But I don't think that we can plan our lives and our relationships around our biological clock. I don't think it works like that for most people. It also implys that we can plan and control everything in our lives - we can't. For some of the woman I coach, they have fallen in love with someone and then, it turns out that they don't want kids. Or you don't meet the right person - no matter how many personal ads you answer.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

To be happy in marriage, baby carriage not required

Just came across this interesting article..have just been able to skim it but will blog more about it later.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/30/AR2007063001071.html

Again, interesting in that it's showing a trend towards married couples choosing not to have children and be childfree.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Freezing Eggs

A report on the BBC's Inside Out featured women in their early 30's who were freezing their eggs - 'as insurance.'

One women in her early 30's talked about how she hadn't found Mr. Right yet and wanted to freeze her eggs so she would be able to have children later.

Interestlying, it turns out that only 3 children have ever been born in the UK using frozen eggs!

The presenter, Miram Stoppard commented that she felt it was a risky strategy to adopt.

I do find it interesting as it does again relate to this discussion. One of the women interviewed said she felt that we are leaving everything later and later, we continue our university years into our late 20's and then think about settling down - when it might be too late.

Then again, are stories like these just designed to scare women even further? Is it related to Susan Faludi's point she made in the article I mentioned before that the fertility industry is scaring women into retreating to child-rearing? As Miriamm Stoppard pointed out, she had a child when she was 35 and didn't think anything of it.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Susan Faludi - Women and 9/11

I've been meaning to do a blog entry on this extract from Susan Faludi's recent book for a few weeks now and finally I have the time.

One of the extracts can be found here

Basically, she is looking at how women were positioned by the media and by decision makers in the wake of 9/11. I found her analysis facinating and agreed wholeheartedly with how she shows how women were set up as the victims and men as the heros. When women - such as the four widows of men who died in the building - didn't fit into the role of passive victim but, like the four widows did to challenge the government on their failings and how the mistakes made, they were vilified.

The extract that had the most relevance for this blog (and the subject of this blog) is the extract I've put the link above.

After 9/11, the media widely reported that women were retreating from the workforce and into pro-creation. Yet, no evidence for this was found. Again, it seems as though there is a desparateness to push women back into the traditional roles of child-rearing and homemaking.

For childfree women, this must have felt like another blow during this time as one of the media messages Faludi reports was common was about women 'regretting' child-free status and feeling desparate to have children. Again, as she points out, this wasn't based on research - just a few ancedotal stories

My only slight unease is that Faludi - like other feminists of her generation - sees work very much as women's salvation - Rosie Boycott made a similar arguement in an article that I'll find and post the link to here. Again, very much that child-rearing is a trap.

I find this a difficult arguement sometimes as I don't think that it is neccessarily our salavation if we are mothers to be working 70 hour weeks and hardly seeing children. Yet, I definately think that it's important to be able to work and develop an identity away from being a mother - not every mother will want this of course. For alot of mothers, part-time working is the ideal solution. Yet often, part-time jobs are difficult to come by and are often more poorly paid.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Maternal Ambivalence

Just found this interesting article today on maternal ambivalence - it raises some important things about the ambivalence many mothers have to being a mother.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/feb/25/health.children

This is one of the reasons I've decided to start training to be a post-natal group leader (in addition to the coaching!) - to help new mothers through this time of transition.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Childfree Women's Overtime Burden

Today is a day for finding relevant news paper articles about this decision

This article points out that women who don't have children do much more overtime than both working mothers and men who either do or don't have children.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2008/feb/22/workandcareers.gender?gusrc=rss&feed=uknews

Discrimination against mothers and child-free women of child-bearing age

One of the issues that comes up when women are trying to decide whether to have children on not is the affect of having children on their careers. Unfortunately, women with young children are some of the most discriminated aganist in the workplace. At least in the UK, it is illegal to ask at interview about whether a woman has children or not. But in the US, this is perfectly legal in most states.

And, as this article points out, 'mother profiling' can affect women of child-bearing age who have no intention of having children. So it affects both women with children and women who wish to be childfree.

http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/family/story/0,,2259070,00.html

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Book Proposal finished and sent off

Sorry I haven't posted in a week - I've been busily finishing off my book proposal! It was 41 pages in the end! So it's been sent off to the literary agent and I'm now awaiting her feedback!

So I'll be back posting a proper blog entry soon - but I need a rest from my keyboard now!

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Should we all have a life plan?

Well, I've found another relevant snippet to this discussion! have a look at this article!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,2252496,00.html

Again, it's back to that issue of trying to get the issue sorted with your partner first!

And I guess I've found another celebrity who is trying to make the decision!

Fictional book on the decision

This came through my inbox from Canadian bookstore Indigo
http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Baby-Proof-Emily-Giffin/9780312348649-AllReviews.html

Basically, it's about a woman who doesn't want children, finds a bloke who doesn't want kids and they get married and decide to be child-free. But he changes his mind and she has a decision to make.

I read the reader reviews and (sorry if I give the ending away!) it would appear that she does stick to her decision to be childfree. But she really goes through alot in making her decision. I think I'll order the book as I haven't seen alot out that around women trying to make the decision to have kids or not.

Monday, 4 February 2008

How the Childfree can help safeguard the futre

I saw this really interesting article in the Observer Cash section on Sunday

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2008/feb/03/1

Basically, it's about how childfree individuals are more likely to leave legacies to charities in their wills. In addition to being a coach, I'm also a fundraiser for charities and I know what an amazing gift a legacy can be to a charity.

I also know that before I had my child, I did leave a proporation of my (meagre) estate in my will but now I have the boy, I have left everything to him and my partner if he survives me. The article has made me re-think this - although because my partner is so much older than me (early 60's), I would really want him to be finanically secure to bring up my child.

So it think it's really an important point - particularly when people accuse childfree people of being selfish. When I'm coaching someone around the issue, one of the things I have them do is to identify there core values and look at how they can live those values - whether they have children or not. A strong value like 'Caring' can be lived in many ways - not just by having children. And leaving a legacy to a charity in your will is a great way to do this.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Random Research

According to the UK Office of National Statistics in 1996 mothers over 35 years of age 14,952 had their first child and in 2001 there were 27,468 mothers who had their first child over the age of 35 with the total number of women having a first child remaining relatively consistent. Fertility rates reveal that between 2001 and 2004 the number of births per 1,000 women increased from 669,100 to 716,000. Over the past 30 years birth rates have increased for women aged 30-40 while they have fallen for younger women

A report from Finland ‘Trends in Social Protection in Finland 2004’ stated that

‘There is also an increasing number of women who remain childless. At the moment, 15 percent of middle-aged women are childless. In the future this figure is expected to rise to 20 percent. Childlessness is most common among highly educated women.’

At a recent European summit on population and family policies across the European Union, Joakim Palme, Director, Institute for Future Studies, Stockholm, described the findings of their recent report: Sustainable policies in an ageing Europe: modernising family polices. This analysed social trends in Europe: an ageing society, declining marriage, fertility and birth rates, and an increased female labour force.

Mr Palme said that if the European social model was to be sustainable, policy-makers needed to make wide-ranging reforms to current social protection systems and fine-tune the relationship between encouraging higher birth rates, improving Europe’s skills base and increasing the labour supply to enlarge the future tax base.

Education plays an important role, as building up Europe’s “human capital” (i.e. a highly-skilled work force) will increase GDP per capita growth, providing revenue to care for an ageing population.

However, the study also found that, in some Member States, prolonging education reduced fertility levels as women delayed having children to continue their studies and some then decided not to have children at all because of the negative impact this would have on their employment opportunities.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Interviews for book

I'm keen to interview women who have decided not to have children, have decided to have children or who are still trying to decide. All the interviews will be anonomised and used as case studies to help women who are trying to decide whether to have children or not.

I was going to send questionnaires via email but having done a few interviews I'm finding that I tend to just have conversations and think that sending out a questionnaire I would lose quite alot of valuable information. Anyhow, some of my regular blog readers like decide have said they'd be up for being interviewed so if you still are, please email me at bethATticktockcoachingDOTcoDOTuk (I've done that to avoid the lovely spam spiders which search for email addresses!). Even if you live overseas, I'd be happy to ring you and conduct the interviews via phone.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

I love the Office of National Statistics!

I love these people.

I've been working on my book proposal - slowly but surely.

I really need to have some hard data that shows the trends for women having and not having children.

I remember a few years ago seeing a report in the paper showing that only 40% (or so) of women who were 35 had children - and this indiciative of a steady decrease over the years.

So I went to their website but I couldn't find what I wanted. I noticed a number to call so I rang them - the first person I spoke to couldn't help but she put me through to another department. As soon as I explained what I wanted, the woman said 'Yup. I know what you want. What is your email and I'll send you the relevant reports.'

YEAH!! And it's a free service - love it!!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Research on the effect of having children on your relationship

In the Saturday Guardian, I came across this interesting response to a query on how having children will affect your relationship. Appartently there has been research to suggest that there is quite a high impact on your relationship - which doesn't surprise me at all.

It's one of those things that you have to weigh up when making the decision or whether to have a child or not.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,,2241725,00.html

Anyway, it's good to see that there is research about this - and more research to add to my book proposal - which I really must work on this week!

Thursday, 17 January 2008

So you want to be a single parent and Baby Borrowers - useful TV or total tosh?

Last night, there were two programme featuring people who don't have kids who volunteered for two reality TV shows to look after children for several days, on their own (with a nanny in the background as backup and of course, the TV crew!)

They were abit different - 'So you think you want to be a single parent?' took celebrities (including Rhona Cameron who I also spotted today on the down escalator at Warren Street) and had them look after children (in a single parent family) for a week. And the 'Baby Borrowers' took teenage couples and had them look after babies for a weekend.

The idea was to show us how hard parenting is and, in the case of the teenagers, put them off getting pregnant too young.

Are these programmes also useful for people trying to decide whether or not to have kids? Would they help someone with the decision? I'm really not sure.

Anyway, these random thoughts are probably distracting me from my main task for this month - mainly to revise my book proposal in line with advice I've had from a literary agent. I really must get some more discipline!!

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Celebrities or figures in the public eye as examples or case studies?

I was talking to someone today about this issue and she asked if I could point to anyone in the public eye who sort of represented some of these issues.

I'm not the most up-to-minute with celebrity gossip person and the only one I could think of off the top of my head was Jennifer Ainston. The last I heard she had broke up with her current boyfriend and was wondering whether to adopt a child or not. Her dilmma does reflect that of women who are thinking about whether they should go it alone or not. (Of course, she has the luxury of lots of cash to employ help which most of us don't have and certainly most single mothers don't have!)

A friend of mine mentioned she saw a film on the TV by one of the BBC new readers - Natasha K I think? about her decision and angst about it a year or so ago.

So does anyone have any other celebrity types or people in the public eye who reflect women who might be working through this decision to have a child or not?? All suggestions welcome!

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Choosing to be Childfree

In regards to this decision, there are often fears that people have that if they choose a childfree life, they might regret it when they are older. That's why I felt it was really important to talk to older women who had made the positive choice to be childfree. I've done one interview with an older woman in who had done this and I think her story is so positive and interesting.

In her early 60’s, Margaret is an artist and Librarian, living happily on her own in South London. She was brought up in ‘an austere age’, the 1940’s by her widowed mother, whose strength and independence she admired. While her sister always loved looking after younger children, she thought it was boring. ‘Even at that early age, I was put off looking after little kids; I wanted to get away from them!’

She started working in public libraries and briefly dabbled in teaching. ‘I’ve always been interested in education and helping kids get a good education, particularly kids from a similar working class background. I benefited enormously from the 1945 education act and I got an excellent education. So I started teaching in Bermondsey but I soon realised I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. I sympathised too much with the kids and took too much home with me.’ So I went back to work for the libraries and did my Librarianship training.’

In her mid twenties, she toyed with the idea of going to art school and started to build her portfolio. Having kids would have got in the way and ‘put me off what I wanted to do. If I had had a child, I wouldn’t have gone to art school’ She went to Camberwell College of Arts at the age of 33. ‘I enjoyed it so much, they were the best years of my life. It was so open and free, it taught me to take nothing for granted, it broadened my mind and stretched me. I just grabbed it with both hands. My family, being from quite a working class background couldn’t really understand, they thought I was just off the wall, crazy! But they accepted me.’

Margaret’s desire to be childfree had an impact on her relationships. At university, she had a relationship with a student 11 years younger than her and one of the reasons she thinks they broke up was that ‘in the back of my mind was the knowledge that he might want to have kids and I didn’t. I didn’t want him to be bitter or be a martyr, so I ended it.’ She nearly got married at age 24 but called it off 2 weeks before. ‘It was during the Cold War and I felt strongly that I didn’t want to bring a child into this world. He disagreed and felt that children were lovely and could bring you a lot. I didn’t think it was just about what children could bring you but what you could bring a child.’

There was one moment in her life when she did want a child. Margaret had a passionate affair with a married man, 25 years her senior who was the love of her life. ‘I wanted to have a child with him and he would have been a wonderful father.’ The affair ended and so did Margaret’s desire for a child.

The culture of the period she grew up in influenced Margaret and her decision. ‘I always wanted to be a strong and independent woman – not dependent on a man. I’ve always had boyfriends but they’ve never been the centre of my world. In the 60’s, even though there was a lot of talk about liberation, you didn’t have a child on your own if you could help it so the idea of having a child as a single parent was not an option. The idea was that you married and had kids – that was it. If you weren’t married, you were on the shelf, you were a spinster. I think there was a lot more pressure to ‘fit in’, to be socially acceptable, to fit a neat, little box. Now, there is much more freedom to live how you want to.

The decision for Margaret has never been cut and dried. ‘I do feel like I have missed out on some things and now, when I see some of my friends with their grandchildren, I do have a slight pang. Of course, I have the usual worry of who will look after me when I’m old but I have other friends who are single, and we have agreed that we will all end up in some big house together and look after each other!. I would have liked to have brought a kid up ‘from scratch’, to see a child’s development from the beginning.

'I became very close to my cousin’s son. The same things made us laugh, he was very funny and so interesting. I think I influenced him a lot and we stayed close even when he was a teenager. He was very special - not just to me, but to everyone he knew. He had strong views about the world, rooted in socialism. He invented things which were taken up by industry (he attended a school for gifted children in the summer vacations). He was also extremely entertaining with a really witty sense of humour. He was very challenging, and taught me a great deal. He died at the age of 17 of Cystic Fibrosis, which means he managed to fit a lot into a short life. His death was a deep tragedy for me.’

Margaret doesn’t regret her decision not to have children. ‘I wouldn’t do it any differently if I could go back. I’m sure that if I had had children, I would have been as positive about that life as well. I wouldn’t have gone to art school and I wouldn’t have led the life I did though.

My art can be my legacy, my ‘babies’ live on in the British Museum and the V&A!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

How to hold the contradictions within this discussion?

I've been really reflecting on the contradictory nature of this blog!!

And that highlights a key problem that I need to address if I'm going to write a book on this topic - can I actually 'hold' the contradictions that come up when discussing this issue?

As I mentioned before, in my first post, the nature of the decision to have children or not means that women are coming to the discussion from wildly different points on the continium - all the way from being 'pretty much want to be childfree' to 'pretty sure I want kids'. As I'm dealing with the individual 'where they are' - the coaching isn't the same for all women facing this dilemna - I'd suggest different things for women at different points in the continium.

Sure, the common point is my main belief that the important thing in life is that you live a life that is in alingment with your values, that whatever you decide to do - what is important is that you feel that you are living fully, that you are living your 'Big Agenda'. You can do that regardless of having kids or being childfree.

But then, there are decisions we need to make in life that feed into the Big Agenda - and having or not having kids is one of those decisions. And if you think you want something - like you are learning towards having kids but something that is within your control is stopping you then I think you should be able to reflect, look at the issue, identify what you want and go for it!

When I'm writing these blog entries - I'm aware that the things I want to say to women who are in different situations is of course completly different. i.e. What I would say to a woman who pretty much wants to be childfree but worries that she might regret her decision is different from what I would say to a woman who wants kids but whose partner doesn't.

But of course - sometimes this might appear that I'm saying contridictory things, that I'm giving off contradictory mesages!!

A friend of mine pointed out last night that it's very difficult to find a common message across women who are facing this decision - without the usual 'Do what feels right'. Which isn't particularly helpful!.

So my question to blog readers is 'How can I hold all these contradictions within one book or blog?'

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

What if you want kids.... and your partner doesn't?

Note: I've revised this orginal blog post in light of some valid criticisms and have explained this in the comments section.

Janet is thirty-one and soon to be thirty-two. She wants children, has always wanted children.

‘There has never been a point when I didn’t always know that it was a given that I’d have children.‘

She’s now with a partner who she has been with for six years who is the same age as she is. Yet, although he wants children some day, for him now is not the time.

‘Mark has a fear of giving up what he enjoys about his life now. None of his friends have kids yet and he has no role models his age with children. His best friend is talking about having kids but Mark sees it as pressure on him. His career is taking off, we have all these grand plans with the renovation of the house, he is worried that now is not the right time.‘

Janet is all too aware of the biological clock and the problems that she might have in conceiving.

‘At thirty-two, I wanted to be in the position of at least trying to conceive. It’s a very practical decision – I want more than one child and if we don’t start until my mid thirties conceiving the first, then I will be older when we conceive the second.‘

For Janet, the problem is around the unpredictability of what may or may not happen.

‘You don’t know how long it will take – it took a friend only two to three months to conceive. If I was to conceive now, it would be too soon. Yet, I know it could take much longer and then if there were complications, we’d have to go for tests and procedures.‘

Janet feels the unfairness of the situation – that men don’t have the same pressures or worries.
‘Men in their thirties still feel that they are young – they don’t feel the urgency of the situation. So many of my friends are in the same position. He is in denial'.

One contributor to this blog said:

'It is my observation among many of my friends (I am 31 by the way) that while my female friends are aware that this is a crucial time for fertility etc. their male partners are still keen to live their life as they did through their twenties. They are often reluctant to fully commit to their relationship let alone contemplate having kids. Newspaper articles berate 'selfish' women yet often fail to mention the other side of the story: men that are refusing to grow up and follow our biological lead.'

Often, the problem isn't that their partner has decided he wants to be childfree - the problem is that there is a lack of communication between the two about what they really want in their future, whether they want children or not.

If you are in a relationship with a man who doesn't want children, in your mid thirties and want children, you need to be bold and take the 'bull by the horns.' Questions to ask yourself before approaching your partner include:

1) How long am I prepared to wait before we start trying for a child?
2) Have I established whether he does want children?
3) What is my 'bottom line' and what am I willing to compromise on i.e I am willing to wait one year before we start trying and what am I not willing to compromise on i.e. I need to have a definate start date and I need to have a clear answer from him about whether he wants children or not.

Then, set a time and date to have a through discussion with your partner about the issue. Express your worries and concerns. Ask him is he really sees children in his future. Ask him what HIS bottom line is and what he is willing to compromise on.

I sometimes meet women who are desparate for children but in relationship with men who are very reluctant and who are constantly stalling the issue. At some point, these women have to face the issue - if having a child is so important to me, and my partner doesn't want to even discuss having a child, is this relationship viable?

I'll end this post with the story of Laura - a single mother I've interviewed for the book.

Laura had several serious long-term relationships in her early twenties and thirties. When the issue of children was brought up however, the men always prevaricated – it wasn’t the right time, they were too young, they weren’t sure - there was always some excuse.

‘I just accepted it – I thought the decision should be mutual, consensual and I shouldn’t put pressure on them. I wasn’t so worried at first – not about my fertility and I thought I had plenty of time. Most of my friends were younger and didn’t have kids and fertility didn’t seem to be a big issue.‘

As she got older, a few warning bells started to ring. Her sister and her husband were having trouble having kids and a friend of hers who left it till her early forties and was now desperate for a child made her more aware of the limitations on fertility.

At thirty-five, she spilt up from a long-term boyfriend and was single.

I was at a real crossroads – I decided to leave a job I hated and go travelling, do some volunteer work in a developing country. I was in a casual relationship - nothing serious and no demands. And then three weeks after I had left my job, rented out my flat and moved into a temporary house share, I found out I was pregnant. It was a complete accident – it just happened because I forgot to be careful.‘

Laura assumed that it would be difficult to get pregnant, that it would take planning and would take a long time but, as it happened, it didn’t.

‘I can’t believe that if it hadn’t happened like this, by accident, it might not have happened at all. My only regret is that I left it so long and that I didn’t force the issue earlier with my previous partners. I always deferred to their needs and their indecision. Now, I always say to women just get on with it! If you want kids, don’t hang about and don’t let your partners block your decision either. Waiting around for the perfect relationship or perfect time is ridiculous. I wasn’t in my ideal situation - I didn’t want to be a single parent but I am and I have this lovely little boy now. It’s a life I wouldn’t change for anything.‘

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Article in the Observer

Today an article came out in which I was featured on a panel of experts helping 7 readers with different problems/dilemmas. I'm matched with a women who is trying to decide whether she wants children or not.

You can read the article at http://observer.guardian.co.uk/magazine/story/0,,2235546,00.html

Saturday, 5 January 2008

My fake child or the commodification of desire

I was going to write more about the role of men in the decision to have a child but I haven't been able to get a 'documentary' TV show I saw a couple of days ago out of my head.

A brief synopsis of 'My Fake Child' is this: There is a new market of dolls called 'reborns' which are made to resemble newborn babies. They can come equiped with heartbeats and breathing mechanisms. The women (and it appears that buyers are 99% women) who buy them dress them like babies and wheel them around in prams.

I don't really want to comment on the women portrayed in this programme because I hate the way TV programme makers take real people who have deeper issues which could be explored and portray them as freaks. The programme confirmed my general wariness of TV makers - which is why when I've been approached by TV companies to do a programme featuring me and my clients I've said no.

What I've been thinking about is how this programme highlighted - in quite stark terms - how our culture seeks to commodify desire and happiness in relation to having children.

Unfulfilled? Unhappy? Want more connection with others? Want to nurture something? Dress it in pretty clothes? Buy a doll! OR have a child!

This is why I think the decision to have children or not can be confusing. It is so often framed around being able to be fulfilled - as if fulfillment is something that comes from something outside ourselves. Many of the women clients I see who are on the childfree end of the scale say that they get lots of comments from others about how having a child would be so fulfilling, it would make them 'complete.'

It's about how you live your values, how you honour what is important to you. You can have kids and be unhappy or happy - you can be childfree and unhappy or happy too.

I was asked the other day by a friend who is a parent whether I'm not tempted just to tell people to have kids because I know how wonderful it is. She was shocked when I laughted and said no, not at all! Because no matter how wonderful I find having my son, I know that if I had choosen a child-free path, I'd be finding my life wonderful as well.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Role of Men

What really angers me about debates around fertility and having children is how the role of men is often overlooked.

Hysterical newspaper articles focus on the sterotype of the 'selfish' woman, too busy to have children.

But so often, when a woman is struggling around the decision to have a child or not, it is related to the decisions that men make.

A member of my Facebook group on this issue pointed out that she resents the fact that if she was a career minded man who had a child with a woman, she could count on her female partner taking at least half the responsiblitity for helping to raise the child. But as a heterosexual woman, she can't depend on the man in her life to take this responsiblity if they had a child.

And the reality is, despite advances by the feminist movement throughout the years, the role of women as the ones who take the majority of responsiblity for raising children hasn't changed.

One the days it's my turn to pick up my kid from nursery, it's mainly other women picking their kids up - although a significant percentage of parents like me and my partner do seem to be sharing the task equally. Alot of these women are working parents who do live with a male partner or husband. They are getting the kids up, getting them dressed, take them to nursery, do a full day's work, pick the kid up, get them home, fed, bathed, put to bed.

And then, more often than not, the male partner comes in after this has done.

I knew someone who had a high powered career with a male partner in an equally high powered job. When she returned from maternity leave, she found herself on the receiving end of snide comments about how she always had to leave at 5pm sharp to pick up her child from nursery. And everytime her child was sick, it was she who took time off to care for him. So not only was her working day made more stressful by the fact she couldn't just leave the house child-free or come home to a child who was fed, bathed, etc - she also was facing discrimination at work.

The complicating factor in all this is that women do collude in their own discrimination and don't demand/ask for men to do their equal share as well - for example, my friend wouldn't consider that her partner would be able to share in the nursery pick-up as his place of work was much further from the nurse. When her child was off sick, she wanted to be the one to care for him.

So when we are trying to decide whether to have children or not - we know that it is them who are going to be shouldering most of the burden of child-care, they know that it is women with young children who are the most discriminated against in work. And for those of us who do want our partners to share equally in the raising of their own children, we know it is really difficult to find men who are really going to do this!

There is another issue revolving around men in this decision - which is the 'kidult' syndrome which affects so many men in their mid 30's - but this will have to be another blog post!

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Identity

Central to the decision to have children or not are fears around how having a child would change our identity.

'I don't want to be thought of as just a mum'

It's really hard for us as women to see how we would still be able to hold on to the identities which are so important to us if we were to become mothers.

Can we still be the traveller, the social animal, the career woman, the free spirit AND be a mother?

When I was trying to decide on having children or not I was really worried that I would be lost in an idenity, that of someone's mum, that I wouldn't have choosen and that I wouldn't like very much. I also didn't want to lose aspects of myself that I was fiercely proud of - that I loved. I did love being independent - being able to go off and sit in cafe's or go to afternoon matinee's on a whim. I knew this would change - that I would have to let go of that part of me, that I would forever have responsiblities that I couldn't escape from.

But life isn't so black and white. It's not - despite what papers like the Daily Mail tell us - necessary for women to completely abdicate aspects of ourselves that are important. Like careers or going to cafe's when we have children.

What aspects of your identity are you firecely protective of? What would you not want to change if you had children? What would you compromise? How could you ensure that you are able to keep these bits of your identity that are important to you? What do working mums think about these questions and how do they manage? How do people who are childfree see how not having children has allowed them to maintain their identity?

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Sterotypes of women trying to decide

Media stereotypes of women who are in the midst of this decicesion are rife. The driven, career mad women who doesn't want to give up her high powered career, or wild nights out.

The infamous postcard 'oops, I forgot to have children.' bubble above a cartoon woman looking surprised and confused.

It presents these women as being driven or ditzy or selfish or callous.

In fact, the stereotype of this woman is a cartoon. It's a cardboard figure - someone to be pitied or to laugh at.

When get asked about what type of women comes to me, I can honestly say that there isn't 'one type.' They work in all sorts of careers, come from a range of backgrounds and cultures.

[Insert case study?]