While babies in prams got my friends all gooey, they left me cold. I didn't see how I could juggle a career with children. And I didn't see why I'd want to. [...]
I know Mum didn't begrudge the time she gave me and my brother. But I feared I would. After taking a fashion course at college, I landed a fantastic job in retail and rapidly started climbing the career ladder.
I couldn't imagine giving it all up for children.
Her essay admirably busts some myths about childless women. She's not cold or selfish — she has a close relationship with her family and mentors a teenage mom. She doesn't worry about who will take care of her in old age — not having children has allowed her and her husband to save up some money for nursing care, and, as she points out, most elderly people aren't actually cared for by their children anyway. She bristles when people tell her "that one day, when my ovaries have shrivelled, I'll regret not having children." "It's ludicrous," she writes, "No one should rush into something that life-changing."
I tend to agree that "just because you might want them someday" isn't a good reason to procreate. But unfortunately, this is the Daily Mail, and any article about a woman's lifestyle has to pit itself against — you guessed it — the lifestyles of other women. Zoe Lewis railed against feminists for supposedly forcing her to forgo marriage and children, and Scott slightly more subtly disses women who choose to breed. Married for 21 years, she says she and her husband Robert "enjoy a wonderful, passionate marriage and fantastic lifestyle largely because we don't have children." She explains,
We hold hands, we kiss. We do all the things couples with children somehow forget to do any more.
Not having children means we have time to focus totally on each other. So many marriages fall apart when children come along because parents don't have time to talk, and problems fester. That doesn't happen with us.
Apparently, couples with children have bad marriages. Also, when mothers get old, they're lonely anyway. Scott says as they age, she and her husband will "be better off than those sad old women waiting to be taken out to lunch once a month." Oh, and also you can't be a mom and have a successful career. To illustrate this one, Scott references one of the women she interviewed for her book, Two Is Enough:
Gina is a high-powered businesswoman in her 30s. ‘If you're going to be successful, you have to pour yourself into it,' she says. ‘And that wouldn't be fair on a child.' Does it make us selfish or sensible? I don't see anything great about trying to play Superwoman and ending up small-changing everyone.
Scott says "I don't want to sound smug," but she definitely does, especially when she says things like, "I suspect some of my friends envy me because I'm living the lifestyle they wish they could have. Do I envy them? Not at all." Given that friends and strangers alike accuse her of being selfish and ask her when she's going to pop one out, a little defensiveness is natural. But Scott ends up sounding almost as bad as those who say all women should stay home and make babies. Like them, she seems to be arguing that there's no good way to balance family and career, ignoring the fact that there are lots of ways governments and employers could help women do this. By claiming that nothing can make motherhood and work compatible, she gives society yet another excuse not to try.
She also seems to be saying having children is incompatible with happiness. Again, a certain amount of backlash against her wrongheaded critics is to be expected. And she does pay some lip service to moms by mentioning her friend Karen, who loves her kids. But couldn't she simply have explained why being childless works for her and her husband, rather than claiming their lives are better than those of people with kids? By doing so, she may actually be giving ammunition to the kinds of people who criticize her for not breeding — they could just as easily fire back with how much better their lives are than hers. Memo to Scott: the way to get other people to respect your lifestyle is not to malign theirs. Choice feminism: ur doin it rong.