I have no plans to have children. Given my situation in life, this is hardly unusual. I’m 24, the age my mum was when she had me. My nana had a five-year-old and twins on the way. But as we know, times have changed and so I live without the stigma of being a barren old maid.
I’ve been a bit of a late starter with my career after a few years of faffing, but I’m a qualified journalist and about to move to London. Although I’ve been in a relationship for almost five years, it will be a long time before we need to have a chat about the marriagemortgagebabies combo that seems essential to all life.
Not only do I have no plans to have children, I’m not even keen on the idea for the future. I am not a maternal person and having a family doesn’t strike me as fun or the best use of my time on earth. If my career train sticks to the right tracks, I don’t relish the idea of taking time away from it to look after a constant crier who can’t speak the English language yet.
If you, like me, are a woman who has expressed these feelings towards having a family, you will know the reaction. There is only one. You will change your mind. It is what all humans are hardwired to do. Eventually, a yearning in my uterus will no longer be quietened and I will be overcome with a strong desire to procreate. The family unit is upheld as the ideal. Not a career. A woman’s day job must take a back seat to her destined role as a baby-maker.
I ask then, of the political party Ukip: What do I do when that day comes?
The Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom was interviewed on Radio 5 last week regarding comments he made in 2004 about women in the workplace. Comments he stands by and describes now as “wisdom”.
“If you want to have a baby, you hand in your resignation and free up a job for another young lady…Regulation in protection of women is all well and good in academic and government circles. If you’re a small business, you’d be a lunatic to hire a woman of childbearing age.”
Spectator journalist Isabel Hardman was present for the interview and responded: “I am slightly baffled by those comments…the fact that you should think twice when hiring women of childbearing age would mean I would be unemployed until I was 40. I’m not sure what value he thinks women can’t bring to the workplace, particularly if they might be of childbearing age but don’t have any children.”
It would be (as far as I know) illegal for an employer to ask me in an interview if I intend to have a family and if that would be any time soon. Since a huge percentage of people (funnily enough, as many men as women) have children, it would be safe for that employer to deem me a future liability. Perhaps they would write “Danger of pregnancy” on my CV before I even got through the door for the interview process. There’s another one for the shredder…
Bloom responded to Hardman: “I wouldn’t have a problem employing Isabel (lucky her…) because she’s a writer – she can do her work from any work station, that’s not a problem – but if I wanted a receptionist or I wanted a dental nurse, I would be thinking very carefully about the age of that woman because she has to turn up at 9 o’clock every morning.”
Isabel Hardman went on to write about the radio show for the Spectator and I read her column last night. Scrolling down to the comments section, I was astounded by the responses. I thought everyone must feel the same as I did, with a few exceptions. That Bloom was being extremely sexist whilst offering no suggestion of an alternative policy. I was wrong. I will freely admit I struggled to get to sleep last night because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Here are some examples:
“I can’t see anything radical about suggesting people actually work for their pay.”
“77% of NHS staff are women and for every £1 spent on men’s health, £8 is spent on women’s health, despite the fact that men pay 72% of taxes.”
“Of course we have got to have women in the workplace, we can’t possibly have them staying at home and looking after their own children, can we? What a preposterous idea!”
“Thanks to Nick Clegg (I believe), maternity and paternity leave are transferable, so at our company, we now have a male member of staff taking six months off while his wife goes back to work. Crazy!”
Why is that crazy? I salute any man who decides with his partner that it makes more sense for them if he were the one to stay at home for at least nine months to change nappies and heat bottles. Maybe he has the option to get some work done from home or go freelance. Maybe his wife earns more money. Making a new human is a 50/50 job.
Not a single person leaving a derogatory comment, such as the ones above, gave any hint of an alternative. No-one said how they thought maternity or paternity leave should work in a way that would benefit small businesses more than the current system. I would be all ears. Most interesting of all, nobody spoke of their own experiences of having children. We can then safely assume themselves or their partners did the noble thing and handed in their notice when the time came.
I will simply leave you with this thought: Last month, several members of Ukip said (separately) that allowing unemployed people to vote in elections is “dangerous”, as they contribute nothing towards society. If all women of childbearing age (I still don’t know what that means, it could be 16-50 for all we know) were to hand their notice in like good Samaritans to free up jobs, it would leave all women in this age group unemployed. And according to Ukip, these people shouldn’t vote.
That sounds to me a lot like women not being allowed the vote.