I was travelling by train recently, something that I haven’t done for a long time. I had forgotten the forced insight you receive into the lives of others. The proximity of so many people, along with their reasonable desire not to pass the time in monkish hush, means that you can be instantly plunged into worlds by turns infuriating, fascinating or banal.
One of the pair sitting near me on this occasion made a throwaway comment about her latest online shopping obsession. Her companion retorted, ‘That shows you haven’t got children – you’ve got a disposable income.’
Er, hello? Reality check. You CHOSE to have children.* You made a one-time long-term high-stakes death-or-glory decision to dispose of your income on a Mini-Me or two. You might later regret this, or look wistfully on your childless friends jetting off for city breaks or buying three pairs of shoes and a copper warming pan, but that doesn’t make it any less your CHOICE to dispose of your income in that way.
The right to family life may be enshrined in law but childbearing is not statutory – no-one is forcing you to do it. You may argue that you have the wellbeing of future generations at heart, but to that I would retort Pah! Is that ticking you hear the demographic time bomb or your own biological clock? Please don’t occupy the moral high ground just because some of us have chosen not to fill up our primary schools with the replicating units of the future.
*Unless you are one of the unlucky women who is denied the right to choose whether and how to limit her reproductive potential. I am writing from a comfortable middle-class middle-income middle-England perspective here.