The decision to have a child with a romantic partner isn't one most adults take lightly. There's usually quite a bit of discussion involved, and generally both parties have to be into the idea of procreating before they try to conceive together. However, a Daily Mail article published this week suggests that in many cases, one partner -- the driven career woman, specifically -- is making the decision for both people involved, and she's deciding to deprive her husband of the joy of fatherhood.
The piece, titled, "The broody men left bereft by wives with high-flying careers who refuse to have babies," isn't completely devoid of merit. Women are having fewer children these days in the U.S. and the U.K., and they often delay having those children until later in life. Those trends absolutely impact men, and a better version of the article might have prompted a conversation around what the Daily Mail calls "the taboo of male childlessness," which one of the men interviewed for the story, Philip Reed, 45, spoke to directly: "It didn't feel 'normal' to tell people that I was the one in the relationship who wanted children,'" he told the Daily Mail. "I only confided in a couple of friends."
The idea that men might feel less empowered than women to voice their desire to be parents deserves our attention. However, the Daily Mail piece frames the issue in a completely unproductive way -- blaming "career women" for "denying" their partners children.
Most of the article focuses on Philip and his significant other, Sophie Thomas, 42, describing their situation:
If his inability to become a father was due to fertility problems, he would receive sympathy. But the real reason is something no amount of medical intervention can remedy: His partner Sophie Reed's unwillingness to have children. An ambitious career woman, Sophie, 42, is adamant that motherhood holds no place in her life, and no amount of pleading from Philip has been able to persuade her otherwise.
The Mail later quotes Philip saying that he was "confused" by Sophie's lack of interest in motherhood because children "gravitated towards her" at family gatherings. (Note: Liking to play with children does not mean you want to birth them.) Yet he also acknowledged to the Mail that Sophie explicitly stated early on in their relationship that she never wanted children:
"I was taken aback, but parenthood was an abstract idea for me at that stage and I assumed at some point her biological clock would tick and she would change her mind."
I can only imagine how difficult it must be for a committed couple to disagree on something as fundamental as having kids. However, if they don't agree, that doesn't make the person who doesn't want kids the villain, especially if she never hid her feelings on the subject. Insinuating that women are to "blame" for not wanting children perpetuates the myth that women who don't want children are somehow defective females.
HuffPost Comedy editor Carol Hartsell recently wrote about her own experience of forgoing motherhood and her frustration with the rhetoric often directed toward "childless" women:
Just because a lot of us can have babies, doesn't mean we should; it also doesn't mean we should feel like we should. To suggest otherwise is to teach young girls a pernicious lesson: yes, you can have a career, but it's even more rewarding to have a baby.
The decision to become a parent -- or not -- is already complex and loaded. No woman needs the Daily Mail guilting her for her choices.