08 May, 2011

Marriage, expectation and Pippa Middleton's bum

Okay, so this blog post isn't actually about Pippa Middleton's bum but good cod, you'd think it was made of solid gold the way people have been harping on about it. Not bad for a 'passably attractive arts graduate' (thank you, Daily Mail, for that most backhanded of compliments)

No, this is about marriage. You see, the recent royal nuptials got me to thinking. No sooner had they tied the knot than tongues started wagging about when their first child would be born. Now, either there's some seriously dodgy sex education floating about, or there's a very real expectation that a young couple getting married must be planning kids, and sharpish.

I've experienced this. I married at 21 (yes, it's young, no, I don't regret it, and no, I don't have to justify my reasons - just take it from me, I'm a married feminist) and the number of people who admitted, on seeing how utterly un-pregnant I looked on my wedding day, that they thought it was a shotgun deal was kind of astonishing. We're in the 21st century, I thought, surely we're past all of that?

Except that we're not. And it's one of those things I wish I'd known before getting married, because I would love to have had the opportunity to state my case. I didn't want kids. The idea of being pregnant, giving birth, raising a child...it all makes my flesh crawl. That's not to detract from those women who do have kids, and who are very happy about it; in fact, I sometimes question how normal it is to have such a visceral reaction to such a natural thing.

It's been three years since I married and I still don't want kids, which is a source of bafflement from some quarters. It's almost as if the ring on my finger means 'baby factory: opening soon!'

And so I react to this Royal Baby sweepstake bobbins with a measure of anger, because surely it's nobody's business but Will and Kate's? I wonder what would happen if they decided not to have children? It's almost a non-option really. The vows are exchanged, the ring's on the finger, ready, set, reproduce!

I've been very secure in my decision to marry, and I have never felt that it conflicts overly with my feminist ideals; my wedding was very egalitarian. We wrote our own vows (and 'obey' was nowhere in sight) My mum, dad and stepdad walked me down the aisle; his mum and dad stood with him. I took his surname, but only because my 'maiden' name was bloody horrible. I felt like I'd done my best to remove it all from its patriarchal roots.

And yet, I worry now that there is that piece of antifeminist baggage I can't shed; the expectation that I must, at some point, want children. There are only so many times I can smile and say 'no, I don't want children', and only so many times I can politely ignore the shocked reaction that follows. Is marriage, no matter how hard we try to ascribe new meaning to it, inevitably the shackle that ties us to the Bad Old Days? Is it impossible to remove it from the institution that created it?

I feel sorry for Kate. Whether she wants children or not, she will have to have them. At least I can make that choice.


  1. I feel sorry for Kate. Whether she wants children or not, she will have to have them. At least I can make that choice.

    I was thinking this, the day of the wedding. My 5.5 year old had been indoctrinated at school and desperately wanted to watch the wedding. So I put it on for him, and as I saw Kate in that beautiful dress I thought, "How long until the media is baying for babies?" She will be expected to produce the next heir, and her wishes won't really come into it.

  2. Great post! I have similar feelings towards the children expectation, and have countless times had my aversions waved away with "ha, you'll change you're mind!" Great, isn't it =/

  3. Even if you DID end up wanting children, you strike me aas the kind of person who would adopt (I mean, there are a lot of unloved children in the world, and so on).

    I am so glad. You make me feel so much better about saying "i'm a feminist who wants to get married". It gets fuckin' weird looks. I know that I'll be EXPECTED to have children (youngest of five, and all), and at least I want them. (I'm taking my friend's idea - she's a mother of nine. yeah, nine - "if you have a lot, the older ones will eventually raise the younger ones". -Jesus, though) I can't imagine how shitty it must be to have people go on about how "oh, you've got a vagina and a wedding ring! you'll have kids!"

    I, personally, am looking forward to the trials of motherhood, and taking the last name of my husband. The lad and I have discussed marrying and then changing our last name to "lovett", so it wouldn't be "Shaun and Kitty Crawford".

    Don't worry. If you get pregnant and decide not to have an abortion, I'll adopt it. :3

  4. I would be surprised if Kate Middleton married Prince William knowing she didn't want children. I assume that when she agreed to marry him, she would have wanted to have kids one day.

  5. That's a really strange thing to assume, Kirst. They're in love, she could just as easily have married him grudgingly accepting that she was going to have to have children as part of the deal for being with him. Such was part of the point of the post.

    Of course, she may well want children, so lets hope that's not the case.

  6. Marraige isn't linked to kids nowadays, people just think you must want kids-like everyone does. Like it's a default. Married or not, intending to marry or not, singles... we all suffer this annoyance of 'going to be trying soon' or 'it's been a while are you sure everything's okay?' ' when will you settle down' etc. And we women get it the worst of all!

    I want kids and i want to be married first which makes people assume the only reason i want marriage is for kids and i'll start popping them out right after- another fallacy, i honestly have reason to medically doubt we can have easily but i want to be financially secure first.

    But 'having kids' is seen as a default, an expectation, and nowadays a lot of us aren't doing it or are holding off past the age people expect us to have. Yet it's a subject people feel free to ask about and comment on, and (in the case of many parents i know) express disbelief and scorn that someone doesn't want "a child as perfect as theirs" (direct quote!).

    Whether anyone wants kids, it's no ones business but between those directly engaged in the relation as to the wants. It's always a good idea to be upfront with family memebers (according to my CF friends) though often it takes a while for them to accept and stop asking.

    What also goes hand in hand with asking when (not if!) you will have kids is also asking why it hasn't happened yet, and the jokes (such as I and several of my friends who are apparently 'expiring' due to hitting 30) regarding time running out, 'use by' dates (damn offensive) and blatently nosing into why it hasn't happened yet. And it's bad enough when you haven't got to it yet and arewaiting or have chosen not to but image being asked when you physically can't. My friend's girlfriend was devestated when a family friend set into them with all the comments again and again, shortly after she'd just experienced her third miscarriage which was kept private.

    Sorry to ramble, but I think it's an 'entitlement issue in which people think it's acceptable to impose their choices and opinions on others and deride/refuse to listen to anyne elses, as well as police peoples intentions and bodies! It affects everyone Childfriend or childless and even to a point everyone who waits.

  7. Yeah, but I would assume that if she knew she didn't want kids, she wouldn't have entered and continued a relationship with the heir to the throne. The monarchy has to perpetuate itself and if you're planning on marrying the heir to the throne, you must know kids are part of the deal.


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