Sunday, 16 September 2012

On Choice

I have been through so many stages of Will I/Won't I on my desire to (not?) have kids. I have thought about so many potential situations of accidentally getting pregnant, and what I'd do, depending on my circumstances at the time (who, if anyone, I'd be seeing at the time, how much money I'd have, where I'd be living, if I had a decent job or a job at all. Could I do it while writing a PhD? Who knows). The variations on a theme are endless, and I almost never come up with a proper answer - a definite YES or NO. I've been through stages of thinking I would definitely have kids "one day", that being a parent is something I'd be great at, and stages of thinking "no way never, not a chance in hell". But almost all those thoughts, through all those years, have been to do with me.

I know my feminism. I know that it's all about me, and my right to choose, and anyone who puts pressure on me either way should be shown the metaphorical door (or at least, totally disregarded). I know all the stories of people whose partners or families or friends (or doctors or government or counsellors, dammit) put pressure on them to have or not have children, to get pregnant or stay pregnant, to prevent pregnancy or end it. And I know that it's my choice.

All that went flying out of the window when my mum casually(!) mentioned that if my sister or I had kids in the next five years, she'd still be at least 80 by the time they were 15.

Suddenly, I didn't think about whether or not I wanted kids, or how they would fit into my life if I had them. That stopped mattering. What mattered was that my mum is born to be a grandma. I'd never really thought about it, beyond the normal joking about that kind of thing that happens between mums and daughters (or is that just us?). But as soon as she said that, it hit me right between the eyes: the only way my mum gets to be a grandma is if my sister or I make it so. And I'm sure that's a dreadful reason to have kids, but damn I love my mum. I'd do anything for her, absolutely anything, and apparently that includes having children.

Quite possibly this is just my silly brain going "Phew! Someone else has made the decision, now I can just relax and go along with it". That sounds like something I'd do, on such an important life decision. Just go with the flow. I sometimes catch myself thinking that I'd quite like to accidentally get pregnant, just to see what I'd do if I was forced to make the decision. Obviously I am enormously privileged in being someone for whom choice is even possible. Equally obviously I'd have to do make that choice pretty fast, before the damn Coalition starts rolling back abortion rights. Otherwise someone else would be choosing for me, and that would never do! But, seriously. I think I would genuinely consider having a child solely so that my mum could be its grandma. Because she would be an even more amazing grandma than she is an amazing mum - and that is saying something.


  1. Hi Ollie - your mum sounds amazing! And I know that 'born to be a grandma' feeling but I guess it depends what it means to be a grandma. It might be as 'simple' as the biology but I know one lady who is a grandma to a little girl in every sense other than genes. She loves her unconditionally, she helps with childcare, she spoils her rotten, she's changed nappies, she does school runs, she takes her out, she stays in with her, and she's completely supportive of the girl's primary carers. And this is a choice SHE got to make, rather than one that was made for her. I know I can't speak for her and I know everybody is different but I don't think she's any less of a grandma than I would say that the girl's primary carer isn't her mother because she didn't carry her in her womb. My own experience tells me that biology makes a difference but I'm not sure whether it makes THE difference or the ONLY difference. It's a tricky one but your post has definitely got me thinking (when I should be thinking about archives, oops), not only about the semantics but also about how many women I know who are great mums and grandmas - thank you!


    1. You are welcome Jess! And thank you for your lovely, thoughtful comment. It's a very good point and something I hadn 't really thought of - if I can claim that biology doesn't matter in so many areas of life, why should being a grandparent be any different? I guess the issue comes in that you can't choose it, at least not on your own - there has to be a lot of cooperation and enthusiasm from at least 2 people (child and primary carer), probably more (other carers, grandparents, siblings etc). Whoa, that brings up all sorts of stuff about rights and ownership, doesn't it? How thought-provoking!

  2. Ollie, I love this text! But while I was reading to my mind came my father as a 'grandfather' because he is the one that tells me about having children. And this is the kind of think that my dad would say: I would be 80 by the time your child is 15!!! I went through a phase of knowing for certain that I want children, then I went through a phase of knowing for certain that I don't want children and now I just stopped being through a phase! xxx