If you have a vagina, then you should have children. That’s the thought that society likes to burrow into our minds. That’s just basic biology, isn’t it? All cis-women should accept their biological clock is ticking and get straight to making babies to keep our country bubbling with people. As with anything in this strange world, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
When I was younger, I assumed that I would fall into the conditioned stereotypes that society had carefully picked out for me. I owned about a bajillion (that’s a standardised unit of measurement FYI) Barbie dolls and a BABY Born®, was spoilt with a mountain of jewellery and clothing, and had sparkly lip gloss coming out of my rear (not recommended).
I wasn’t a complete ‘girly-girl’ – I wrestled with my brother, engaged in the odd sport every now and then, and cherished toy trains just as much as I cherished Barbie’s black pumps. Now that I’ve clarified that women are capable of having more dimensions than one, I recognise that I definitely identified with the ‘feminine’ products available for young people.
I haven’t really changed much; I still have more make-up than I’ll ever use in my lifetime; spend the majority of my income on clothing that I DO NOT NEED; and I’m constantly falling over the mountain of shoes in my bedroom. I am a living parody of a woman, and I’ve grown to fall into many of the stereotypical holes that society has dug for me. The one thing that I seem to have outgrown, however, is wanting to have a child.
This isn’t a new topic, by any means; “EDGY MELBOURNIAN WOMAN SAYS SHE DOESN’T WANT KIDS AND ALSO ENJOYS FROTHY CAPPUCINOS AND LONG WALKS ON THE BEACH”. Mockery aside, it’s a topic that remains important for many human beings, and is relevant on both personal and political levels.
“So why don’t you want kids?” I hear you ask (yes I definitely hear you saying it this time).
Well, let’s get into the doom and gloom. My current views on having children are heavily influenced by a number of factors; many of them come from a macro scale of societal influences, while the rest fall into the micro scale of various personal interactions and experiences. Importantly, my perspective is also shaped by the treatment of further marginalised groups within the umbrella of having children.
Despite always having many materialistic goods in my household when growing up, we certainly weren’t well off. Many complicated factors contributed to the fact that my family often struggled financially. We were on the better side of financially disadvantaged, being a white, middle class, typically “nuclear” family, but over the years, our finances had to stretch further and further, and it affected my childhood experiences in a variety of upsetting ways. While that may be a story for another time, I learnt that a lack of money can lead to a very alienating childhood, both from peers as well as the expectations of what young children should achieve in their youth.
Alright, let’s get political (and bring on the gloom). On the 14th of May 2016, Australia’s resident population is projected to be 24,073,295, which is an estimated increase of 213,195 people since the 30th of September last year. Australia is a remarkable country, with plenty of resources, however our current distribution of those resources is incredibly skewed. Looking at the year my mother was born, in 1960 the population had reached 10.28 million, showing an increase of 12.85 million (according to Google’s public data). If that data means little to you, recently Waleed Aly pointed out that in 1960 buying a house was worth 1.6 times the household’s income, where as now it’s 4.3 times the household’s income, and nowadays most households have two incomes, so “good luck if you’re single.”
So now we know that there are increasingly more people in the country, inflation rates are ruining everything, and you need to be a literal millionaire to own your first home. If we’re living in a time where financially, parents should be expected to "shell out" and buy their children houses because the market is growing more competitive and expensive, then we are certainly living in a warped version of what is fair for the country. Even if being a homeowner is a distant dream from the baby boomers’ youth, this is still a very unnerving reality of where Australia is currently.
Seeing as my family can’t dish out a generous deposit, I’ve accepted that it’s possible I may never own a home in my lifetime, however if prices are increasing but incomes are not, how are we expected to provide for our future families? Especially if you happen to be artistically inclined, like myself, there’s a very small chance of having great financial success within your preferred field.
Looking at things from a separate perspective, I think it’s important to acknowledge how current mothers and children are treated under Australian laws. Very recently Naima Ahmed, a 22 year-old Somali refugee currently in Nauru’s “care”, was not granted basic respect to give birth to her child in a safe, pain-free environment. On the 13th of May, she was reported as being “now in a critical condition…and we don’t know how likely the baby is going to recover either.” Within this example I don’t mean to suggest that no one should ever be able to have children that they will undoubtedly care for, however it is distressing that all of these elements are operating underneath one very white and very privileged government.
This is without also taking into account the stress and expectation placed upon those of us who are expected to have children, even if it’s not biologically possible for some. Let alone the children in our country who already go without much needed care and education, especially our Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander communities, who do not have the support and respect needed to raise their younger generations in ways that holds importance and relevance to their traditions.
A study in 2008 explained that despite recent improvements, Indigenous Australians “aged 15 and over were still half as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to have completed school to year 12… (23% compared with 49%).” Poor healthcare and facilities has also contributed to “approximately twice as many low birth weight infants…” being born to Indigenous mothers. This data may be a few years old, but the way our First Nations Peoples are treated is still deplorable, and continues to affect Indigenous Australians.
I recognise that my take on this topic is extremely bleak and pessimistic, with little regard for what is good in our curious little universe. As someone who is involved in art and performance, I’m consistently exposed to and inspired by many people spreading positive work into the world. Any miniscule experience could alter my choices, as well as unknown interactions and relationships that may unfold in the future. Yet, at this point in time, having a child is just not within my current life plan, for reasons that are economic and political, as well as recognising the infuriating level of care for those who are socially disadvantaged. This could definitely change, and I’m open to the idea of that – especially because of the damn fine parental personality traits that I possess.
So hey, future child of mine, if you exist then I hope I’m doing right by you, and if not, then I’ll do my absolute best to make this world better for everybody else.