Childless PM Debate: Why Do These Attitudes Still Exist?

Childless PM Debate: Why Do These Attitudes Still Exist?

14/07/2016

David Cameron has stepped down as British PM and his successor has been named as former British Home Secretary Theresa May.

If you thought all the drama ended in the UK with the Brexit vote forcing Cameron to resign, think again.

May had long been a frontrunner to replace Cameron but that didn’t stop her fellow Conservative Party member Andrea Leadsom from throwing her hat in the ring.

Controversy ensued when Leadsom explained to The Times why she was a better candidate,” I have children who are going to have children who will directly be part of what happens next.”

The article also quoted her as having said that May must be “really sad” not to have had children.

The comments have set off a major debate in the UK and it’s something that I’ve taken a real interest in.

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I support women who are childfree by choice, or childless for a range of circumstances.

Whilst Leadsom has since apologised to May for her remarks, she was playing to a large sector of the public that still views childless and childfree women to be lacking in some way.

This situation highlights yet again, the archaic prejudice that exists for women without children.

Based on this narrow-minded perspective, it also suggests that a woman who is working directly or indirectly with children, has nothing beneficial to share unless she is a parent.

May is certainly not the first female politician to come under heavy criticism for not being a biological mother.

Australia’s former PM Julia Gillard copped a lot of criticism and her ‘barren’ status was mentioned more than a few times.

Former Labor Party leader Mark Latham attacked Gillard’s decision to pursue her career over children, saying, “Anyone who chooses a life without children, as Gillard has, cannot have much love in them.”

Ouch, so the only way to show love is to have children?

Gillard may not be a mother but she’s contributing to the education of thousands of children worldwide.

In one of her roles as Chair of the Board of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), Gillard is focused on increasing children’s access to learning and education resources.

It does surprise me that these attitudes still exist in 2016.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies has found the proportion of couples without children has increased from 28% in 1976 compared to 37.8% in 2011.

So more Aussie couples are without kids now than 40 years ago but somehow the old attitudes remain.

The women I work with often face intrusive questions from well-meaning people about why they don’t have children.

What I find is that every woman’s story is different: some have chosen not to have children, others were unable to conceive and then there are those women who sadly did not meet a suitable partner with whom to have a family.

My hope is that we can all set our judgements aside and focus on increasing support and opportunities for all women.

I’m keen to celebrate the fact that two very accomplished women were contenders for the British Government’s top job.

I look forward to the day when the role that women without children play in society is given greater recognition.

By Michelle Marie McGrath

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Michelle is a life coach and writer who supports women who are childless or childfree. She’s also the host of the Unclassified Woman podcast, which was nominated for an international award. For more information on Michelle, click here.

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