As teenagers, women are endlessly warned that getting pregnant is “a tragic mistake that will ruin your life”, says Rachel Cunliffe in The New Statesman. Then comes the “emotional whiplash”. In your twenties the message changes almost overnight: your motherhood potential “is about to fall off a cliff”, and if you don’t have a family by your mid-thirties you’ll end up childless. That’s what female Cambridge students were told at recent “fertility seminars”. With the birth rate in England and Wales at just 1.53 children per woman, the implication seems to be: “They must be educated, to avert the looming population crisis!”
But women aren’t stupid. Modern society “feels purpose-built” to put us off parenting. Britain’s “extortionate” childcare costs are the third highest in the developed world. Graduates face a marginal tax rate of 42.25% on a salary below the median wage. If you’re spending almost 40% of your income on renting in London and you don’t have a hope in hell of ever owning a home, would you feel secure enough to have children? What we need is “adequate childcare provision, a functioning housing market” and an acknowledgement from men that they’re half the problem. It’s ridiculous that men can just sail through life, bolting from relationships when children are mentioned, says Hannah Fearn in the I newspaper. They should feel the pressure too – and realise that if they casually put off reproduction, ageing sperm is linked to miscarriages and babies with birth defects and autism.