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Blame the childfree for everything – even if it makes no sense at all

By Allix Denham 

In a recent mainstream media article, writer Maureen Brookbanks managed to blame childless women for infidelity, the struggling economy, burdening the NHS and even reducing life expectancy. Perhaps next week she’ll say we’re responsible for obesity and a rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

“The number of people aged 65-74 without children to care for them in old age will almost double (to more than a million) before the end of the next decade,” warns Clare McNeil, author of Generation Strain, a report for the Institute of Public Policy Research.

The implications for the social care system are ‘terrifying’, according to Brookbanks, who must be under the impression that offspring drop everything – their careers, their own children, their lives in Australia – to care for their ageing parents, while retirement homes exist solely for the childless.

The reality, of course, is quite different. According to a factsheet produced by Age UK, some 2 million people aged over 70 live alone, while around 400,000 live in residential care. They can’t all be childless, can they? They also found that 17% of older people have less than weekly contact with family, friends and neighbours, while 11% have less than monthly contact.

Brookbanks goes on to explore our negative impact on the economy, quoting Jonathan V. Last, author of the book ‘What to Expect When No One’s Expecting’, who says that the childless are to blame for reducing the number of consumers and taxpayers who contribute to society.

Shame on us! Never mind how over-populated and polluted the planet is already, or how mankind is using up vital, finite resources, the only purpose of humanity these days is to consume goods and pay tax.

Next, we’re blamed for putting a strain on the NHS. ‘The number of people over the age of 80 arriving at A&E has risen by 65% over the past five years,’ claims Generation Strain. And there I was, thinking that most offspring are capable of fixing broken limbs and administering CPR.

Rampant infidelity is all our fault too. Relationship counsellor Andrew G. Marshall claims that many marriages don’t survive the ‘blight’ of childlessness. “Childless couples normally seek help as they approach retirement,” he says. “Usually one of them’s had an affair…because people without children often feel that life is meaningless”.

So only the childless have extra-marital affairs? With each other, I presume? And given that 34% of marriages end before their 20th anniversary, haven’t these couples actually done pretty well?

Finally comes our reduced life expectancy. A study of 21,000 women seeking IVF treatment found that those who were unsuccessful were four times more likely to die prematurely than those who became mothers, loneliness being the presumed cause.

For all this doom and gloom, Brookbanks seems to have overlooked the fact that Britain has the third highest birth rate in the EU, after France and Ireland.

Fortunately, that means all this strain, economic ruin, infidelity and loneliness will surely be short-lived.

Allix Denham is a writer currently based in France. She and her partner have no children, but entertain the neighbour’s cat on a regular basis.

Comments

  1. I have to admit that I was completely taken aback by the sheer misinformation, when I read the article blaming childless women for pretty much everything. It was wrong on so many levels, including about the birth rate in the UK, which is on the increase because of immigration, not the other way round. It is sad that some people still hold such negative views about childless people.

    The article just recycled old stereotypes, including the now discredited assumption that not having children means you will automatically end up lonely in old age. I worked for a charity for old people for 8 years, and I can reassure everyone that that assumption is false. In fact, the majority of people we helped with day to day activities such as cooking, cleaning and going to hospital appointments, were people with children. I was privy to a lot of stories of old people not seeing much of their children because of their busy lives, or because they lived in different cities, or had moved abroad.

    I think most people would agree that the article in question was lazy journalism, more intent on creating controversy than telling the truth.

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