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Child-free or guilt-laden?

Out of the blue, I got an e-mail from an ex-boyfriend. He announced in not so many words that his son was born on Monday. Attached was a big image file of his son. I tried to save it as my "wallpaper", but it was too big to fit my computer screen. With the right-hand side chopped off, it looked to a passerby that I was displaying a decapitated baby.

My reaction to my friend's e-mail was mixed. Could it have been my baby? No, the relationship was too long ago though the memory was not. I've never met his wife, and I'm not sure if I would ever be a part of his new life. Still, this was a special occasion for them, and I can only wish them the best.

It's one thing sharing the joy of motherhood with girlfriends, but it's quite a different matter when old boyfriends become fathers. I can't help wondering if the joy could have been mine.

It's a dilemma many single women my age face. A now or never question: to be or to have.

Will we regret not taking the time to have a child when we're able to? Despite all the scientific advances in enabling women to have babies later than sooner, motherhood is very much a conscious decision.

Last Sunday's newspaper featured a story entitled "The Baby War." It referred to a new book published in America about how the "child-free" is compensating for colleagues who have children.

The child-free don't get maternity or paternity leave. They don't get the same kind of legitimate excuse to get to work late or leave office early. As it's harder to replace older women who have children, others have to work longer hours to support the business. [In other words, you can't hire a temp to replace a 35-year old manager as you can a 22-year old secretary.]

This article struck a chord in me. The baby war hasn't started in the UK, where maternity leave can accumulate to a year's paid leave (for some professions) and 6 months for others. I've heard of working mothers feeling guilty for putting their children in daycare and at the same time being absent from work when their kids need them. So it seems a bit much to read about the child-free who resent their already guilt-laden colleagues.

13 November 2001 Tuesday

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