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Penny Booth: Having children?

Date:15 JUN 2010

Having children?

Penny BoothTwo family law items this week struck me in the middle of the forehead: one on abortion of IVF babies, the other on nurseries being good for children.

As a reminder of young motherhood (to be PC, perhaps I ought to say 'young parenthood'), both items seemed to provide that nudge on what was, at least for me, hard work and angst. It still is hard work and angst, only the things I personally worry about in parenthood have changed, but it remains for me a time I would never have swapped for the world. A time that is also, personally, a long time ago, so maybe the pressures for parents have changed, but surely not that much, though?

It seems that nurseries are good for children, so parents should not fret ('Don't fret Mum, nurseries are good for them' The Sunday Times, 6 June, 2010). Well, there, there, we shan't. Educational psychology is telling us that the children will be ok, so if parents want to / need to work outside then you should not let worrying about nursery provision stop you. Have I got news for you - and have I got news for The Sunday Times. It isn't about the nursery; it's about money - just money. Agreed, parents should be able to bring up their children the way they want, so long as it is within boundaries of what is agreed within our society to be appropriate care. If we had a better attitude towards the value of childcare and being at home, I wonder what the attitude towards outside day-care would be then? 

Parents are under so much pressure these days - pressure to keep working to pay for the mortgage and bills to provide a roof that will be theirs in anything up to 25 years time. Some might add - only if the relationship lasts. Another problem here is that women cannot (could not then, still cannot now) be away from work either because the additional money is needed to fund the family, or because if they take a suitably long period of leave they risk losing out in the career ladder and the pension - no matter what sex discrimination and equality provisions say. What a shame we, as a society, do not appear to value children - holidays abroad, ready-meals and mortgages being far more important. Parenthood isn't for everyone, but one is reminded of Bowlby's ‘Child Care and the Growth of Love'. I must say, political propaganda is a truly wonderful thing.

Saddened by ‘IVF babies aborted as mothers lose in love' (same newspaper, same day) which brought out the biased best in me, I thought of all that money on IVF that could have gone on other NHS services, including IVF for those who really wanted the babies in the first place. No, I do not mean let's make women go through with a pregnancy just because they are, or because it was funded by the NHS. To do that would be ridiculously wicked. However, the attitude of babies being a lifestyle choice in terms of ‘designer children' is simply unsustainable in every respect: we should not be paying for everyone to have a child just because science tells us we can help them to do so - choices have to be made to help families.

I don't know what the answer is, but I know it isn't this.

Penny Booth is an Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool University Centre for the Study of the Child, the Family and the Law. Click here to follow Penny Booth on Twitter.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.