The model and broadcaster Kelly Brook has given an interview in which she discusses her “nice, selfish life” as a childless woman heading towards 40.
Our heroine observed: “My family never put pressure on me to have a family: they see how happy I am in my life. I never dwell on the things I don't have, I'm just positive about the things I do have - which is a lot of free time. I get to spend all my money on myself, I live quite a nice, selfish life.”
It is possible that this counts as a modishly radical statement in Brook’s neck of the woods. However, others among her middle-aged, child-free cohort – myself included – will roll our eyes over her perpetuating of the stereotype of the sybaritic, cash-rich, lotus eater that breeders too often take us to be.
More to the point, the fact that Brook feels she even has to defend her biological choices feels a bit – well – old. I have justified my own contented childlessness in print at the ages of 35, 37, 40, 41, 45, 46 and 47.
Now 48, I honestly thought I’d stopped - and not just because of the assumption that that ship has sailed. (If only: I continue to deploy the pill, condoms and everything short of a wetsuit). I like to think that this isn’t just because of my aged- crone status, but because society has changed; or my beautiful metropolitan bubble, at least.
It’s true that, among my age group, only a fifth of women do not reproduce, according to the Office for National Statistics (albeit even this is double the figure it was in the Nineties). However, among those with degrees born between 1965 and 1978, the number rises to 43 per cent, making being child-free neither selfish nor unselfish, merely normal, ordinary, business as usual for educated females.
Half a century on from the contraceptive pill taking hold, biology is no longer destiny - it’s a choice. In this context, not becoming a mother doesn't require a reason: it is simply one of life's many options. This very normality means that the notion that mothers and non-mothers are somehow at war also feels anachronistic.
Personally, my reasons for not having children are very much tied up in my sympathy for friends who have – and the fact that “having it all” turned out to mean doing it all, dressed-up in fancier pants. Women routinely use metaphors of war, terrorism, hostage-taking, madness, Satanic possession and global catastrophe to describe their relationships with the charges. Even fathers claim to find it challenging – largely at arm’s length; the physical and emotional labour of it all still shouldered elsewhere.
I get it: I’m the oldest of five. It’s hard, I’m awestruck, and grateful to everyone prepared to give it a shot. In turn, I expect mothers to see beyond Brook’s stereotype of the selfish, loaded, child- free kidadult. Sure, there are aspects of my life that could be spun as selfish (my obsession with middle-aged archaeological holidays springs to mind).
However, I prefer to see this as self-aware. Wouldn’t it be infinitely more self-centred to propel myself into parenthood unconvinced, not least for the human dragged into being? Factor in the eco-apocalypse born of over-population and “selfish” is the last term one might use. “Rich” is not a word that my accountant would recognise, despite political parties lionising so-called “normal, hard-working families,” as if the rest of us constitute abnormal, layabout millionaires.
Brook may want her life to appear all loafing and Louboutins. However, the child-free can end up working still harder for their buck, without the excuse to say no to overtime, anti-social hours, or working over weekends, Christmas and the like. There is an argument that parents should be cut professional slack. If so, the childless are the ones making matters taut.
No less ludicrous is the idea that people who have chosen not to pop sprogs somehow dislike the young whippersnappers. For my part, I adore children – it’s one of the reasons I don’t have them. My nephews and nieces bring immeasurable joy. I count my friends’ offspring among my closest allies. Damn it, I prefer nippers to most adults: relishing their wit, honesty, and idiosyncrasies yet to be quashed.
I even love babies; something I’m informed is top-level lunacy. It’s because I love them that I wouldn’t want to inflict upon them someone not up to the job. More than anything, I’m tired – despite being a work-shy, responsibility-free, barren flipperty-gibbet. I’m tired of the impertinence that demands a reason for any of us to spawn or not to spawn. I’m tired of motherhood being such a polarising issue, while fatherhood remains uncontested. And I’m positively exhausted by the constant war of attrition in which each “side” is required to play a part.
As someone who has long been a foot soldier in the mother versus non-mother turf war, I am laying down my sword. My hope would be that none of us ever has the need to write about this again. It won’t happen.
Does Kelly Brook describing her "nice, selfish life" without children do a disservice those child-free by choice? Are you tired of defending your decision not to have children? We want to hear from you in the comments section below and in the Telegraph Women Facebook Group.