Now it's official: child-rearing is women's work

Share

On Sundays, dads up and down the land look forward to football with their kids and a lazy family lunch. It's an idyllic picture of life in 21st-century Britain, but for once I want to talk about all the men who don't have children. What's wrong with the one in five who don't become fathers?

If you haven't heard this statistic before, the reason is simple: I made it up. I haven't a clue how many childless men there are, but then it isn't my job to count. You might think it's the job of government, which assiduously collects figures on women's childbearing habits, but apparently it isn't. Last week I read the latest publication from the Office for National Statistics, which enjoys the gender-neutral title Cohort Fertility, England and Wales, and realised that every single statistic relates to women. One in five women born in 1966 has remained childless, compared with one in eight from 1939, and fewer women are having four or more children.

All of this is fascinating, so I called the ONS to ask for comparable figures on men and fatherhood. That's when I discovered there aren't any. They don't collect them, and they sounded surprised by my question. Yet the impact of not collecting data on changing patterns in fatherhood is obvious, reinforcing the age-old notion that the business of having children is "women's work". It ensures that any discussion about individuals who don't have children is bogged down in female stereotypes: career women who have left it too late and lonely middle-aged women who tried to deny the maternal instinct.

I've never wanted to have children and I don't see why childless women should be pitted against mothers, as though one choice is better than the other. In any case, the size of families and the wider subject of the way people organise their private lives are hardly specific to women. Yet every time I read about an increase in single-parent families, single households or childless adults, it's as though the changing nature of the family is entirely down to the whims of women. A couple of days ago, the Daily Mail used ONS research to create a double-page "portrait of 21st-century British woman" and you don't need me to tell you what made headlines. Naturally it was all those childless women, along with results from another study showing that fewer than half of adult women are married. This is a world where marriage and motherhood remain the ultimate goal for women; domestic abuse, which affects more than one million women each year, isn't mentioned despite being a significant cause of single-adult households.

It shouldn't need saying that there's nothing wrong with choosing not to have children. It's also obvious that the traditional family hasn't evolved as quickly as women's expectations, which is why so many end up living without a partner. The statistics don't surprise me at all, but I just have a sneaking suspicion that it isn't all down to the behaviour of women.

www.politicalblonde.com; twitter.com/@polblonde

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon and her former boss Alex Salmond  

I voted Yes in the referendum – but that doesn't mean I'm going to vote for the Tory-esque SNP

Alasdair Clark
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd shrink the gap between the highest and lowest paid

Marina Warner
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power