All hail Kirstie Allsopp (for non-UK readers, she’s the queen of prime time property-hunting TV).
This week she stuck her head above the three-bedroom semi and told the world – in an interview for The Telegraph – what age women should be having children. 27 apparently. What’s more, according to Kirstie, they should forgo university and careers to find a man, buy a house and make a baby first. Actually the article was about lots of other stuff but it was these comments that made for the kind of contentious headlines that the media adore. Feminists around the world united in indignation and, following my blog on internet trolls last week, I just hope Kirstie didn’t read below the line.
Personally I’d like to commend Kirstie for going where many people wouldn’t dare. I have written myself about the need for better understanding of female fertility and the possible dangers of leaving motherhood too late. And whilst I’m not about to tell anyone how to live their life, I do find it weird that when life expectancy is increasing many women seem to feel the need to cram all the important stuff into their first forty years. The approved feminist order still seems to be school, university, career, man and then baby. Why leave the one thing that has a finite time limit to last on the list?
I’m going to venture here that I might have got far more from going to university now than in my twenties. If I was taking my English degree again, I would savour books like Middlemarch rather than force feeding myself in an afternoon the day before a tutorial. Besides, lectures and tutorials were just a way of passing time until the Union opened. Or is that just me? Surely not!
In fact, going to university put me right off reading books for years but, thankfully, I rediscovered them. Right now I’m reading Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman (yes, I know it came out in 2011 but I’ve always been slow to catch up). I’m currently on the chapter entitled ‘I am a Feminist’. The one where you’ve got to stand on a chair and shout it out! She says that it’s probably one of the most important things a woman will ever say: the equal of ‘I love you,’ ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ or ‘No! I’ve changed my mind – do NOT cut my fringe!’
I felt that crumpling in my chest again when I read the words: ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ because maybe this woman will never get a chance to say that important thing…BUT, putting self-pity aside, I’m going to do what Caitlin says. I’m getting up on a chair…I’m opening my mouth,…I’m shouting out ‘I AM A FEMINIST…
…I AM A FEMINIST AND, KIRSTIE ALLSOPP, I THINK YOU’RE ALRIGHT!’
So for this week’s question, are you with me?
Totally with you x
Thank you! Jessica x
I agree with you Jessica (& Kirsty), & I’m so glad that she raised it, epespecially that , at 35 our fertility ‘drops off a cliff.’ I appreciate that now all women are in a position to try for children earlier, and I know that age is not the only factor that causes infertility, but it is a big issue for many women. And if you know the facts then you can decide accordingly.
And, as Kirsty says, if you don’t start trying until you’re 35 & then you find you have a problem you have little time to fix it. My life might have been different had I known this.
I’m all for choice and equality & I’m grateful for all that we can do in life, however we can’t change the facts about our fertility so it’s important that this issue is raised and thanks to Kirsty for doing so. .
Lesley – you put it so perfectly. Age is most definitely not the only thing that affects fertility, but it is a big thing and there is a time-limit on conceiving naturally. The more people who understand that and are in a position to use that understanding to live the life they want the better. Those of us who have potentially or actually been denied it understand it more than anyone! Jessica x
Arghh! Biologically, she’s right, of course, and brave to come out and say it. And i’m 100% with you, Jessica, that i’d be a better student with the benefit of life experience. –but at 27, I was so o o o o far from being ready to have a child responsibly–though admittedly, I dabbled big time in my 20s. I think the model of having children in your late twenties works if you’ve followed a very straight life path, and especially if you have familial support — I’ll try to make that support available to my children if they want to start a family younger. But I’m also not 100% convinced about being able to pick up where you left off once you’ve raised your family. I hope I’ll regain the passion for writing & public interest work I had pre-kid, but having children means opening myself to the huge possibility of being derailed — all sorts of things (good & bad, wonderful & tragic) could pop up to steer me off course forever, b/c I’ve hitched my star to these two crazy, unpredictable vectors–and they come first every time. So maybe, again, it comes down to choice–and recognizing that you are making those choices: If you start a family young, your odds of having children increase, but you are accepting that other goals may or may not be fulfilled. If you career build in your 20s/early 30s, the converse is true. But all of us (myself included) chafe big time about having to make those choices–and young people, who are making those choices, are perhaps most convinced about the possibility (necessity? logical certainty??) of having it all.
And there lies the conundrum of womanhood! You are, of course, absolutely right in so many ways. I really hope you do regain your passion for writing and public interest work. The sentence ‘I’ve hitched my star to these two crazy, unpredictable vectors – and they come first every time.’ is just beautiful – therein lies a great writer who I for one definitely want to read more from! Jessica x
I think it’s good to discuss fertility and age. I don’t think it’s good to give general advise on the life path to follow. For multiple reasons. One of these is for instance that not everyone meets their life partner in high school or even in their twenties. Isn’t it better to be sure you are with the right person before making babies (I looked at stats and divorce rates are generally higher for couples that marry young)? So why generalising and saying we should all have babies young? Also, while I agree with you that we could get a lot more out of education now, I think University is not just about learning. It’s also about finding ourselves and understanding what we want. Isn’t it better that that’s done before making a baby? I know children are resilient but I am seeing mums who married and had babies young who now in their mid-thirties are going to school. The result is that they are into their studies and do not have time for their kids because they think exams and friends etc. I’m sure this is not the same for everyone and it may not be a negative thing but I’m not sure it’s the best way to go about it. I am quite sure in any case I would not advise everyone to do it.
I have studied too long (undergrad, master, PhD). I regret not having tried for a baby earlier. But then it wouldn’t have helped in my case, it would just have prevented me from getting a job I like and a salary that makes me able to afford IVF. (Because seriously the plan of making babies at 20 something is ok if you are fertile, but if you are infertile it also adds 10 years of medical treatments or stress on how to afford them….).
I’m sorry, a bit of a long answer. It’s good to talk about fertility and age. It shouldn’t be given for granted. But I don’t think I agree with the babies before degree path for everyone. xx
I always love your comments and you are so right about so much. I agree that meeting a partner that you will want/should be with for the long term in your twenties is a challenge, and I also agree that University is about more than learning and it’s such a privilege to be given it at a young age. Above all I think your comments highlight that there is probably no right answer, but the debate is definitely a good one, and personally I do think that the facts about fertility and age are not commonly enough understood and I feel a responsibility in some small way to make that point given that infertility seems to be a growing phenomenon (which is definitely not just about age – who knows what it’s about – but age is definitely compounding the problem!). PS. Just read your blog, and whatever you decide (to pee or not to pee) I hope it feels like the right decision. Thinking of you…Jessica x