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But you would make a great mother!

By Allix Denham 

A few weeks ago, Ellen DeGeneres and wife Portia de Rossi announced a happy new addition to their family: a puppy they’ve called Kid. They chose that name, Ellen explains in an interview, because they were getting tired of people asking when they were going to have a kid. Now, they can say they’ve got one.

Ellen admits that she loves children but explains her reasons for not wanting any herself: “It seems long term, like a commitment you have to stick with and it’s too risky – what if I don’t like the kid?” The interviewer, however, begs to differ. “I think you’d be an amazing mom,” he insists.

He means it nicely, but how does he know? What deep insight into her psyche does he have that she doesn’t? Why wouldn’t a woman in her fifties know what she does or doesn’t want in her life, and what she might or might not be ‘amazing’ at?

Childfree-by-choice comedian Jen Kirkman, author of the memoir I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life without Kids considers the You’d Be Such A Great Mom line ‘at best condescending, at worst, patently false and potentially dangerous’. Likening it to ‘telling a friend who you know has a paralyzing fear of wild animals that she would make a great game warden.’

She goes on: ‘Random people who want me to have children are the same type of people who won’t let up on me because I haven’t watched The Wire and don’t plan to….In the same way my Netflix queue remains Wire-free, people seem really agitated that my womb remains baby-free. ’

Why should her choice be of any concern to anyone else? The implication is that raising a child is the pinnacle of a women’s achievements – never mind that she might be a brilliant lawyer or a talented entertainer or a courageous war correspondent – having children, apparently, is what we should all aspire to.

And plenty of women do, and how wonderful that is. If only all the children in the world could be brought up by devoted, caring mothers who genuinely love that role. For the minority of us who feel otherwise, can’t we just get on with our lives, without being pressured or patronised?

Still, for a good comeback, we can take inspiration from Little Hipster, a poster on the news and social networking site Reddit. Her father kept telling her what a great mother she’d make: “Just because I have the skills doesn’t mean I want to do it,” she told him. “I would also probably be a good prostitute or drug dealer – why aren’t you pushing me into those?”

It left him speechless. Definitely one to remember.

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.

Childless by choice

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