More women choosing to be childless

CHILDLESS BY CHOICE: Former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

CHILDLESS BY CHOICE: Former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark wasn't afraid to state her choice to be childless.

In the 1993 book Making Policy Not Tea, she is quoted as saying: "Having children has never been something I've wanted to do because I value my personal space and privacy too highly. I cannot think of the sort of life I would want to have where I would want to give up those things for children."

However, "That Clark and her husband chose not to have children was raised during the 1999 campaign and reiterated in every campaign thereafter," write authors Linda Trimble and Natasja Treiberg in the 2010 book Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling: A Global Comparison of Women's Campaigns for Executive Office.

Women who decide not to have children often face judgement and questioning from outsiders, says Sue McCabe, head of the National Council of Women. "Women face questions around whether they've been too picky, if they're going to settle down, or implications they've focused too much on their career instead of finding the right man."

The responses have become so frequent and predictable for 30-year-old Aimee Malpass, a veterinarian from Hamilton who does not want children, she has dubbed the phenomenon 'Baby Bingo'.

READ MORE: Do women without children have to work harder?
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Malpass has a mental list of unwanted remarks, and crosses them off as they're called out: "You're young"; "You'll change your mind"; "Who will look after you when you're old?"; "What does your partner want?"; "You just haven't met the right person."

Thirty-nine-year-old Sarah (not her real name) says reactions are sometimes moronic: "I've had one person tell me the human race is going to die out if we don't all have kids," she says. "One look at projected population figures for the next hundred years makes it clear how ridiculous that argument is. If anything, we need more people to remain child-free."

Beyond the unwanted comments, women who choose to be childless also face offensive stereotypes, the crazy cat lady cliché a prime example: "A single man with a cat is seen as a sensitive bachelor. A single woman with a cat is 'crazy' and undesirable," says Sarah.

When Malpass adopted two cats, it was assumed to be a yearning for children, she says. "The majority of people told me I was clearly longing for a human child and this was my way of 'practising'. That wasn't the case at all. When I adopted cats I did so because I wanted cats. They were never, and still are not, a child substitute."

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 - Sunday Magazine

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