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The Question That Needs More Consideration

By September 6, 2023Articles, Leadership

It’s 2023. Women run countries, run marathons, run businesses. We have capabilities far outside our biology. So why are we still being asked if we have children?

I’m sick to the back teeth of being asked whether I’m a mother—and being judged for the fact I’m not. Any of you out there who ask girlfriends, the person next to you at the networking lunch or total strangers if they have kids, you need to stop it.

Last month I was doing lat pull downs at the gym. A woman I know only to say hello to came over. ‘Do you have school age children?’ she asked, out of nowhere.

No, I don’t.

She persisted. ‘Do you have older kids?’

No, lady. No kids of any age.

Her jaw dropped. She was like, ohhhh. I could see the cogs in her brain turning: ‘Okay, either she can’t have kids and I put my foot in it, or she’s one of those ambitious career women who put career first and left it too late.’ I’ve seen that reaction before and the way people try to process a Woman With No Kids.

I kept going with the pull downs. What I really wanted to do was forget the lats and give my tongue a workout instead. Like, for starters, ‘Why the hell are you asking me that personal question anyway?’

Over the years, I’ve been asked the kid question hundreds of times. When I was in my thirties and single it was like a broken record. Will you have kids? Adopt? Try IVF? You’d be a great Mum!

And I’ve heard one statement repeatedly pronounced as fact: You cannot experience real love unless you’ve had a child.

Where to even start? It’s all so judgemental and none of anyone’s business. We don’t bowl up to women and tell them they’ve put on weight, that their hair’s bad, that they might want to brush up their conversational skills. Yet we feel free to hone in on something much more personal.

Fertility. Life wishes. Freedom of choice.

Personally, I haven’t gone through the IVF battle but I feel for women and couples who do and face incessant questions because other people believe that women have to have a child—otherwise why are you on this Earth?

The flipside is in business that decision or reality is applauded. Organisations love childless women, especially single ones. They make leaders’ life easier. No need to fill mat leave roles, no need to retrain, no need to worry she’ll come into the office with something to tell me. Her priorities won’t change (huge assumption). Just let her keep making money for us without pesky kids.

So here’s my public service announcement: stop asking about kids. Just because that’s your lot in life, your choice, doesn’t mean it has to be mine.

I’m not anti-child. I’m anti-expectation and anti-judgement. And you know what, there are plenty of people thinking like me. According to the ABS, some time between now and 2029, more Australian couples will be living without children than with them.

And please, please, stop saying ‘you’ll never know love unless you’ve had a child’. How would you know that? Do you know what my heart has felt its whole life? Do you know what and who I hold dearest?

Recently a cab driver asked the kid question, probably assuming it was safe ground with a woman in her fifties. He seemed personally affronted, as if I’d let down the team: ‘Having children is part of your role as a woman.’ Then, a zinger: ‘Without kids, your heart is arid.’ Really now! Fortunately for this completely unself-aware idiot, I was recovering from having melanoma removed from my foot and unable to walk. I needed to get home in that cab and not be potentially turfed out on the road by telling him a few home truths. What I did want to do was hit him over the head with my crutches.

I have pets I love ridiculously, and a gorgeous man and family and friends. Let’s get with the times, things have changed.

Here’s my message: Shut up. You cannot judge how someone else loves and how they choose, and in some cases not choose, how to live their lives. It’s none of your business. Blunt? Yes, but necessary.

Thank you for not asking the question.