I was so disappointed when I stumbled across this article by The Telegraph in which Kirstie Allsopp, of Location Location Location, had been interviewed on the topic of fertility and female careers. Allsopp is one of those women I always had time for because she seemed to have great values and a good head on her shoulders, but I can’t help but feel really let down and quite angry at her comments in the article.
The woman who fronts Location, Location, Location with Phil Spencer said that if she had a daughter, her advice would be: “Darling, do you know what? Don’t go to university. Start work straight after school, stay at home, save up your deposit – I’ll help you, let’s get you into a flat. And then we can find you a nice boyfriend and you can have a baby by the time you’re 27.”
Wow. For someone who considers herself a “passionate feminist”, she seems awfully concerned with our basic biological drives and reasons for existence. What about our rights as women and about all the hard work campaigners have put in over the years to fight on behalf of women for fairer treatment both in the workplace and surrounding the having of children and retuning to work? Fair enough, it isn’t a perfect system and there are a lot of faults and there is a hell of a lot more work to be done to ensure women are being given equal pay and opportunities. But at the same time, a lot of people have worked very hard to enable our society to have the choice – the choice of education and a career, the choice to create a life for ourselves before creating a new life that dominates our own existence. Does Kirstie realise that by pushing these ideas on a hypothetical daughter could leave her without the opportunity to make this choice for herself? I am truly grateful to have had this choice, because I have always wanted an education, to learn and to study in order to benefit my career. I want a job I can love and be passionate about and I deserve that, as does everyone, regardless of their gender.
We deserve the right to choose when we want to have children, fair enough our biological clock is ticking and physically we may find ourselves unable to have children if we wait, but does that mean we should turn our own lives upside down and rush into the huge responsibility of raising a family before we are ready? One look at Jeremy Kyle will show you several reasons why rushing into having children and families before we are mature enough to deal with the relationships and the outcomes is a dangerous thing for society. Look at how the children suffer when they parents are more obsessed with sleeping around, drinking and screaming at them than raising them. Then look at how this affects the next generation when they repeat the same model of behaviour. Before you know it, we have a society of layabouts with an attitude that everything should be handed to them and they shouldn’t have to work because they are raising a family. They rely on the state and we end up in huge debt. Sound familiar? (Yes, yes, I know not all young parents are like this, but one walk around my home town will show you a lot who are.)
“Women are being let down by the system. We should speak honestly and frankly about fertility and the fact it falls off a cliff when you’re 35. We should talk openly about university and whether going when you’re young, when we live so much longer, is really the way forward.
At the moment, women have 15 years to go to university, get their career on track, try and buy a home, and have a baby. That is a hell of a lot to ask someone. As a passionate feminist, I feel we have not been honest enough with women about this issue.”
Fair enough, she raises a valid point when she talks about our biology and the fact that there is limited time for women to be able to have a baby, and as I have discussed before it can be life changing and devastating for couples to realise they are out of time. But does that mean we should be rushing and neglecting ourselves in order to raise a family we are not ready for, with a partner who might not be suitable, in order to continue the human race? It just seems sad to me. I’m sure if I came to a point in my life where I had met the man of my dreams and wanted a family but was nearing 40 and suddenly found I could not have a baby of my own – I have no doubt that would be devastating. But, there are a huge range of options available, whether IVF, surrogacy or even adoption and I think, or I hope, that would pacify me and would be enough. But I certainly don’t believe for one second that ditching university and my career in order to have a baby at 18 would have been a useful solution. I would have resented the baby for holding me back and I would not have been happy.I’ll be honest, my maternal instincts are not that strong. I have no deep-seated desire for children at this moment in my life. I can appreciate cute babies and love to hold and play with them, but I also love giving them back to their parents. I’m not in any way ready for children at 24 and I’m not afraid to say it. I actually had a dream the other night that I found out I was pregnant right before going travelling and I was so upset, it ruined my life. I see life as something that should revolve around you and you alone at a young age – call me selfish if you want. I feel quite strongly that your teens and twenties are about learning about yourself, who you are, and developing that by experiencing as much as possible, learning as much as possible and growing as a person so that in turn you can help your children do the same. This is done by working hard, playing hard and achieving things to be proud of while asserting your own independence. I feel Kirstie’s comments hark back to an age where women had to rely on their partners for financial and emotional support when raising babies, now I know lots of women who manage all by themselves.
These days your career is something you need to work on from as young as possible. As my boyfriend is finding out now, messing up your exams when you are younger can leave you in a job you hate, education is great key that is handed to us on a plate when we are young but some choose not to take advantage of it. By passing these exams young and by putting the time into placements, work experience and a degree, you can really help yourself in the long-run (I’m not saying this is the only option, just using myself as an example). Those who go back to studying and working later on often find it much harder because you don’t learn as easily as you get older and after a long time away from study and work it can be a real shock to the system. So if we women are to forget everything we learnt at school by going off and having babies and raising them for the next twenty years before heading back to work – who is going to employ us? With no experience and no education – who is going to employ us over those with qualifications, experience and a great CV?
“I don’t want the next generation of women to go through the heartache that my generation has. At the moment we are changing the natural order of things, with grandparents being much older and everyone squeezed in the middle. Don’t think ‘my youth should be longer’. Don’t go to university because it’s an ‘experience’. No, it’s where you’re supposed to learn something! Do it when you’re 50!”
I had hoped by the end of the article, might have a change of heart, but sadly it was not the case. Perhaps she is from a generation of women who put their careers first with many sacrificing families along the line. But I know so many strong, incredible women, my mum included, who had a great youth, trained and studied, had fun, fell in love later on and met a great man, who took time out to have children and went back to work as a nurse, but has now become a lecturer in healthcare. Say that’s not a success story, I dare you. For every case of heartache and sadness over not being able to have children, there are countless couples who have their own children, find another way and adopt or just live with it and still have a fantastic life. I refuse to go back to a time when having babies was the sole purpose of a woman’s body. I am here to learn, to experience and to live my own life before I create another.
I’m not saying that Kirstie’s ideas wouldn’t work for some people, but for many it would be holding them back and could create a country full of unhappy families and unfulfilled dreams which I think is far more dangerous than a couple of families who sadly cannot have children. Watch the discussion continue on BBC’s Newsnight.
How do you feel about Kirstie’s comments? Would you like to change your life around and focus first on family and then your career?
I totally agree with you. Especially your point with Jeremy Kyke! Very funny as well.
Thanks Naomi 🙂
Well said! I strongly hope that other young women realise their own potential before giving up their youth to have children. We all have a right to enjoy our lives as we wish, men and women, and your twenties are some of the best years, right? It’s when you get out of education and can really start looking into all the opportunities! We owe it not just to ourselves but to those kids we might want in the future to make the most of our own lives before raising another.
Thanks DottyJess – you’re so right. I feel like she completely devalues women as individual people in these comments, are we just babymakers? In an overpopulated world, why does our first priority even have to be children? Why do we make those who don’t want children feel abnormal? Your last comment just sums up perfectly how I feel about it all – surely if we are raising children we also take responsibility as their primary educators from the beginning, but how can we do this job if we have no real education or life experience of our own? Thanks for your comments x
Very interesting post! Was looking forward to reading this one.
I think it mainly depends on the individual, as you said, there’s no right or wrong time for a woman to have a baby (unless she’s like… 12) and one of my best friends is a great example of this. She is one of the most clever people I know, she went to uni and was training to be a pharmacist but at the end of her first year her and her boyfriend of a year found out they were expecting and now, 2 years on, she couldn’t be happier. He is her absolute pride and joy and she is the most fantastic mum I know. Like you said as well, some people’s maternal instincts are just stronger and some – like her – probably don’t realise it until it happens.
I’m very much like you, the thought of having a baby now makes me want to cry. I can just about look after myself! I love seeing my friends baby and playing with him but it’s nice to hand him over at the end of the day haha.
I too think that being young is about experiencing YOUR life, not spending all your time trying to make someone else’s – in this case, a babies. In your 20’s you should have the chance to have a lie-in or be able to sit down and read a book without any distractions or quit your job or go travelling or start up your own business. I very much agree with you in that sense 🙂
I’m not too much of a feminist myself tbh. I just don’t understand it – yes, equality is nice but at the end of the day, we’re never going to be equal – there’s some jobs women just CAN’T do but having a baby isn’t a woman’s sole purpose in life. Far from it xxx
Thanks Jenny! Was pretty nervous about publishing it because I have such a strong opinion on it, but I’m glad I did after such a positive response.. if not from Kirstie haha. You are absolutely right and this is a great example. I know another girl who had no idea what she was doing with her life/career etc and then she met a guy, fell pregnant straight away by accident and couldn’t be happier or more in love. It has completely changed her and I’m so happy for her that she has found her purpose and calling. So I would never argue that one choice is better than the other, it is the fact that we should have the choice of one over the other. Like you said, some don’t discover their maternal instincts until they are forced to!
Haha I’m glad I’m not alone in this fear of having children, I also worry that I will just never measure up. I know so many incredible mothers and I look at the way they are with their children and just can’t imagine being as good at is as they are. I guess this is the fear of every woman and mother, but something you don’t know until it is tested.
Again, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks we need time to focus on ourselves as well. I think our twenties are when we can really start to enjoy our lives. We are old enough to do anything finally, we are free from education and can move out, star work in our dream career path and holiday all over the place or we can drop everything and go travelling. I do wonder what Kirstie would think of my life – going from school to uni with a long term boyfriend, doing everything in my power to prevent pregnancy and now upping sticks and going travelling with no plans of children or further work in the foreseeable future..
I’m the same as you, I certainly don’t understand all the feminist arguments or call myself one. But I know my own values and they include having the choice to do as I please with my own life, to follow my dreams and choose myself when I am ready to make huge life-altering decisions like having children. And you’re right, baby making is not our sole purpose! LOVED the essay hun 🙂 hope you like this one back haha xx
Couldn’t agree more! I think the word ‘choice’ is central to all this. Feminism is about making choices and not being judged by other women (or men!) for those decisions. If other women begin to prescribe the life choices they feel we should be making, then we cease to be progressive! 🙂
Hi Rachel – you put it so well in your comment, it is all about “choice”. This is the choice that women have been campaigning for and dying for all these years so that we could be able to choose what we want to do with our bodies and when. You’re right, none of us can choose what is right for anyone else because each of us is living a completely unique experience and have so many different views. Hopefully if she has a daughter, she will know better than to try and make her choices for her! Thanks for your comment!
I’m nearly 30, have just stared my proper career and have a 21 year old boyfriend……babies are not in my future for maybe 10 years, if at all. This isn’t from fear, or being put on the back burner because of a career or even because I haven’t met the right guy…….I just don’t WANT one right now. Why do women have to have a REASON for not having babies at any age? Why can’t it just be as simple as we don’t see any place for them in our lives?
As for Kirstie and her hypothetical daughter, my Mum told me lots of things, most of which I ignored and I’m sure her ‘daughter’ will as well. The good thing is that girls today are surrounded by strong, independent women all around them, so unless Kirstie plans on keeping her future daughter locked in a box with no wifi until she is married off and impregnated, I’m sure she will still be able to make her own mind up.
I don’t find it too shocking though that there are still women out there with that opinion; find a man, make a home, let him look after you.
The idea of all the scary things in life being handle for you by your husband whilst you stay at home can, especially on deadline day or the day after pay day when your bank is empty, look quite appealing to some women. I cant think of anything worse than sitting at home with a baby, waiting for my husband to come home and tell me about the wonderful things he has seen and done whilst I cook dinner, however some people were born to and are genuinely happy to do that.
Great point Vikki! Why is society so set on blaming women for everything in regards to children and the choices surrounding them? We’re blamed if we have sex, we’re freaks if we don’t. Contraception is not attractive but pregnancy is entrapment/careless. Abortion – don’t get me started on all those arguments. Then if we want to work through the pregnancy, take maternity leave, return to work, how we raise/dress/feed our children – it all comes back and bites us on the you-know-what. Women always seem to have to defend their choices while men just live theirs, so why should you, I or anyone have to feel like explaining our choices? I love that “Why can’t it just be as simple as we don’t see any place for them in our lives?” – that’s how it SHOULD be! Good point about her daughter, I just think it is a shame that she seems to want to project this life on her daughter without options. I think actually there are a lot more women out there with those views than are happy to admit in this day and age. It saddens me that so many feel they rely on a guy to buy them stuff, to make a home with and to rely on for support while off having children. It is a great idea, but that is if you want no real control over your own life. You have to rely on an allowance, you have to check when you want to make spontaneous purchases and you will have limited freedom as a result. I hate to admit it, but money is often a key to freedom in today’s world and having your own sets you free from a man or partner. You can be happy with someone and raise a child without having this 1950’s set-up! I’m exactly the same as you, I can’t think of anything worse – it would be like The Trueman Show – a real horror film 😛 xxx
Agree, agree, agree! So much! At 36 I have no plans on starting a family, firstly because I’ve only just got my life close to how I want it and secondly because I’m too damn selfish to give it up. I also think I’m not anywhere near mature enough to be responsible for another life – as a very good friend of mine once said, I can’t be trusted to get myself up and dressed, let alone anyone else. I am aware the longer I leave it the more likely it is I will never have children and that’s something I have accepted as part of my life choices. I am lucky that my family accepts that – and that my mother isn’t remotely interested in grandchildren – along with all the other decisions I have made without ever forcing what they think I should do on me. I think the last time they did that it was to encourage me too go to uni straight after A levels as my mother hasn’t and forever regretted it. After that they’ve supported my every decision. I think at best a parent should advise/recommend their ‘ideal’ life choice but ultimately accept and support whatever truly makes their child happy, whether it’s what they would have done or not.
Fantastic comment! So good to hear from someone who has made this decision, is sticking two fingers up at their biological clock and refuses to apologise for it! You are a brilliant example of why I don’t feel ready for children – I love my life how it is, I have huge plans for the next few years and I am just too damn selfish to raise someone else – but what is wrong with that? I’m glad that you have made a conscious decision about this, it seems the problems arise when people just leave it and suddenly realise it is too late instead of planning around it. You are lucky to have a supportive family as I’m sure that is a huge deciding factor in pressuring us to make decisions over this. You’re right, recommendations and advice is fine, but at the end of the day it is up to the individual to choose and the parent to support. At the end of the day, you can’t make up for your own regrets and failings through someone else and they won’t thank you for it! Thanks for your comments x
This is really interesting and I totally agree. Getting my degree and giving myself time to travel the world and buy a property and have a career before even thinking about babies has been the best decision for me. It’s all about personal choice and I don’t there’s a right or wrong way to do it but I believe you need to experience life before you create life; it puts you in a stronger position and gives you the confidence you need to raise a family effectively..
Thanks Sara – you’re another great example of why there needs to be a choice. Imagine if we still lived in Victorian times and you were raised to expect to marry at 16 and have a baby within a year after or be termed barren and useless – it’s just crazy! We have so much more to give as women and that is clear from your experiences, blog and work 🙂 You put it so well in your last sentence!
M… wonder if limit exists on responses,, get an error msg saying could not be posted,… Short then , great article by yourself..
Ohh that’s a shame – haven’t seen that before, maybe try again in a while and see if it works then.. maybe just WordPress playing up.. thanks 🙂
Great post! I’ve always liked Kirstie but her values are old fashioned, why would a Mother have that hope for her daughter? Surely you’d want them to grow to become strong independent women who can make their own life choices?
Loved this, well done!
X Hayley-Eszti | http://www.hayleyeszti.blogspot.com
Thanks Hayley! I know what you mean, I was so disappointed when I realised what she had said, always liked her before.. You’re completely right and I think it is such a shame she is not advocating free choice and, like you say, strong women – you would have thought that she would understand that without all this work to make women more equal, she wouldn’t be on our TV screens and certainly not earning her own money! Thanks lovely x
The original Author’s comment surprised me as I thought we had moved on from the world of only role is motherhood. When I first was working in a print shop (ones with large presses and linotypes) we were hiring someone to work with our IT group. The HR asked me to evaluate and when I picked one person, said ,, oh she is young will probably get pregnant , move on. Times have thankfully changed yet it still exists in some manner so woman bear a double edged sword, if married, where is child or if not married , might get married. Course now it is more partnerships and having a child can now evolve to married. Today banks and companies offer opportunities to invest and it does not matter what gender you are and in fact woman are considered better loan aspects as they are more stable in financial opportunities, In fact more woman are in University and more woman manage a job and children. In a lot of cases you need two incomes which has it pros and cons. part 1 /2
Part 2/2 (seems WP does not like my log posts / lol
was raised in a Boy’s home , broken family stuff,, so decided I would not marry till seen the world and hold off till thirty. Well,,, a Caribbean woman caused me to marry at 25 and our first daughter was at 28 which I thought was old to be a parent 🙂 Now into grandchildren age , two wonderful intelligent daughters who are married but travelled and sought their dreams. My wife stayed home to raise them till teens and it took some years after new courses for her to get back into the work world. Was it worth it ,, for us yes, though had we not we might have more toys and monies in the bank which for us was not the value. We have travelled a lot and of course to see family in Caribbean but looking back , made some wise decision and I made some stupid ones . Regardless if you can do it , do it before you have loads of responsibilities or unable . Cheers / Rob
Great comment Rob – thanks for sharing your experiences. I think you are right about how for a very long time women were thought of as temporary workers who would not really stick around to develop a career if an opportunity arose for children and marriage. I know when I started my job, several girls who had worked here had gone off on maternity leave more than once and my boss evenly jokingly said to me I wasn’t allowed to go and get pregnant! It is a lot better now, but there are still instances where this happens which is very sad. In your case, you are a great example of how you’re supposed to meet someone, fall in love and then have children when you are ready – I hate that Kirstie is suggesting she would rather her daughter hook up with any guy who is willing to have a baby with her just out of school and set up a home with him, even if she doesn’t love him. It seems her daughter’s feelings are secondary to her need to be fertilised. You are a shining example of how you can indeed meet, love, marry and have children young, but still go out and achieve your dreams of travelling. Your daughters are very lucky to have been raised in this way, but I imagine Kirstie’s lifestyle for them would be much more controlled and limited until her children are raised and gone. I find it very interesting that despite your won wonderful experiences, you still advise me to do the travelling and follow my passions first before settling with lots of responsibilities – perhaps Kirstie needs to take a leaf out of your book and actually think about what she is saying… thanks for commenting!
Thank you for commenting on my piece on Kirstie Allsopp. I completely agree with all your points. I was so disappointed with her comments and truly believe that young women should have children when they are ready, no matter their age. Women should not have to choose between an education and a career, and having a family. We can have both!
No probs 🙂 and you are completely right Kayley. Kirstie is still living in a world where we have to choose between a life alone or one with children, but no career, or at least not as anything other than an afterthought. It is so sad to see a woman who has clearly been given the time and space to work on her own career, calling to deny others the opportunity to do the same in favour of continuing to populate an already overpopulated world/country.. Thanks for your comments x