Well, if I had a wife…

Posted on November 13th, 2013

This post has been updated to include the Weekend Sunrise segment from Saturday November 23.

I’m sitting on a plane from LA to Sydney writing this. The 9238749823th person has just pointed out to me that I’m clearly very busy (it came out, since I was on my computer the whole way, that I have three book deadlines this week) and that “no wonder you don’t have kids” (it came out after I asked if my plane neighbour had kids of his own).

Image via Tracing Rainbows

Image via Tracing Rainbows

I get this a lot: theories on why I’m single and childless. I’m acutely aware there is a stigma attached and that I flag a disruption in the universal flow (what, a woman not procreating!? And not devastated about it?!). People want to stake the idea, give it a reason, a conclusion, because we generally like conclusions when something disturbs us.

The general conclusion most arrive at is that obviously I can’t have both (great, world-roaming career and family and kids), but at least I’ve got one of the two things a modern woman seeks. “You can’t have it all,” comes the next platitude. I don’t mind this line of thinking. Because it’s largely correct.

Seriously, five minutes after my neighbour shared his thoughts, I read New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s op-ed about her recent chat with comedian Sarah Silverman (who I love). Silverman gets taunted all the time for being childless and in her forties. It’s the gag other comedians level at her. She tells Dowd: “Maybe I would have had kids if I had a wife. I have a lot of guy comic friends who have families because they have wives (who) raise the kids.”

And ain’t this the truth.

The thing is, men at the top of their game can be outrageously busy and have families because in the main they have a loved one happy (?) to follow them around the world, supporting their income-earning ability. They have someone to pick up the kids, get the dry cleaning, be at home when the plumber has to be let in, book the motel for the Easter holidays, buy the meat for dinner before the shop shuts. I can’t imagine someone saying to a man, “No wonder you don’t have kids, you’re so busy”. I can’t imagine the CEO of some big bank or media company saying he had to forego family because his career was too demanding.

This is not to diminish wives in any way, or to suggest that many wives don’t have careers of their own to attend to in addition to attending to the family. Nor am I having a whinge. It’s just the way life works. Hypergamy is a biological imperative. The chances of a man wanting to be my wife (and hopefully you’ve worked out by now I see “wife” to mean more than just the female half of a marriage) is incredibly slim (although I do know a number of women who have house husbands who are reasonably happily to play this wife role).

Meantime, perhaps the most accurate way of explaining my “predicament” to the curious and challenged is to simply say, “Well, if I had a wife…”.

Weekend Sunrise contacted me after one of their producers read this post. They asked me to come on the show to discuss. If you’re keen to see the segment, click here

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  • Kate

    I understand, it’s your life, you get to make the choices

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  • Loz

    After 11 years of marriage my husband and I have only just had a baby. In those 11 years I was endlessly asked why I didn’t have children. People could be damn rude! Now bigger! people have been quick to suggest that I don’t leave it too long before having a second. The baby question never stops. I love my baby, but I was no less of a person before I had her. I’m content and happy with my life now and I was content and happy before I had her. Its crazy that some some people treated me as less of a woman pre baby.

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  • MsV

    I wonder if a woman just replied with a flippant and unapologetic, “Because I don’t like children” it might actually shut the rude person up. They wouldn’t be expecting that response.

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  • http://www.lifelikelola.blogspot.com Karli

    I just think sometimes that some things just don’t happen. And some things just do.

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  • cheryl

    You are enough, either way, by choice or circumstance!!!
    But I do remember saying, a long time back, exactly that phrase.. ” I would if I had a wife..” Sarah, gloriously, beautifully and in honesty you are enough !!!

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  • http://www.vitaminL.com.au Marla Bozic – Nutrition and Health Coach

    You’ve put it out there eloquently and perfectly.

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  • http://Minegetyours.com Leann

    Here is a super downer. I said I would NEVER have children or get married. I was a freelancer, studio assistant, and head of a marketing department for a start up company. Long story short: I had two beautiful children who I fell immediately on love with. I married the father. My daughter and son both were born with severe heart and lung problems. I had an awesome pregnancy with my daughter and she almost died at birth. Six months later after living in the NICU with her; she passed. I was now married(we married in the NICU) I left the hospital married with a child I had to plan a burial for. After six days of her funeral I returned to work. After 27 days of trying to be normal I was picking up my friend’s from New York. My husband called and said our house had burned down. We ended up living in the hotel room I had snagged that night because of a snowstorm my friend’s flight was delayed.
    I was told by the medical system I had a one in a billion chance of ever having another sick child. A year later I did have a beautiful healthy boy named jack Elliott. Through several medical errors at his birth he aspirated. Two weeks in the NICU and sent home. Four months later he was diagnosed with a severe lung problem and given 6 months to live. We rebuilt out home, moved in, and left for The Children’s Hospital of Denver from October till Christmas. He was sent home for Christmas and died shortly after. Once again in tragic dispair I started a parent advocacy support group to assist in educating unprepared parents how to educate themselves to work with the medical system to be the voice of their child. I then started my own skin care line and company to create a quality product for children and humans in general. I can say everyday my heart leaps when I see kids. I miss my role as mom. If I could have what I want I would surprisingly enough just be a mom. When you meet your child you change. A very powerful part of you awakens. Don’t take it off the list of possibilities. I had an awful experience; but a beautiful one as well. There is no way you can do both. I’m buried back in the cycle of work. Contracted Lyme disease while hiking and follow your recipes and blogs from a young girl I met from Australia who met me at my shop. She said I know someone who talks about as fast as you and cannot eat sugar. The girl was maybe twelve! So thanks for all you hard work. Madonna did it. So can you!

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  • Leann

    Sweet of you to reply Steph. My comments of truth can clear a room. It’s not pretty; but it is truth!
    Be the inspiration you seek!

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  • Rose

    You have a point, aussiebeachgirl. Speaking as someone who has suffered from severe insomnia for a couple of years as a result of Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s and RA, I think I
    would go nuts, if I was in your situation and on a long flight!
    And so… in reply to Nicole, i find her suggestion of ear plugs, flight mask and herbal relaxants, somewhat flippant and thoughtless.

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    aussiebeachgirl Reply:

    Thanks Rose. I appreciate your kind words of support. Like yourself I suffer with fibromyalgia and hypo-thyroidism – something which neither ear plugs nor relaxants will ever alleviate. I also have a very low tolerance towards lights. One of the annoying things for me on longhauls is that I cannot sleep. Even more annoying for me is that on nearly every flight I take, whenever I lift the window flap to take in the beautiful pre-dawn skies, or photograph them while everyone else is sleeping, a flight attendant will come down and tell me to shut it as I am “disturbing” others! The irony isn’t lost on me. I spend 3/4 of the night staring into the glare of the overhead lights around me, yet when the perpetrators’ computers have finally died and they’ve decided to join others in the land of nod, I’m suddenly being reminded not to disturb everyone. My husband travels extensively for work, and when I put this question to him, he tells me he uses his time on board to read, relax and unwind! I guess some people are better time-organised than others. :D

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  • aussiebeachgirl

    Touche! However, you don’t own the sole rights to air travel. Use your time prior to boarding more effectively and maybe make good of that “herbal relaxant” yourself! ;-) No-one (and nothing) is that important they have to take their office on board!

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  • http://www.livecleanjuiceplus.com Carla

    I love this article and the point that no one berates a man for not having a child and choosing career but somehow if you haven’t shacked up and conceived by a certain age you are missing out or not doing as you should. If you are happy with your life as it is and circumstance means you haven’t found the one or had the opportunity to procreate when you may have liked (should you have wanted to) than that should be your own choice and business. Success is in the eyes of the beholder. If you achieve what you want in life then you are a true success. xx

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  • Ange

    Thank you all for sharing so honestly, I too am mid 30′s childless (by circumstance) and I find as 40 (and closing of realistic fertility windows) nears it weighs heavier on my mind.

    In my close group of 5 girlfriends (all mid-30′s professional women, a mix of married, single, separated) only one has children for a myriad of reasons (infertility, miscarriage, career, and perpetual singledom) yet all of us would freely admit we want/wanted them at a time, for most of us I know it is a source of grief.

    Australian woman Gillian Guthrie has written a book called called Childless: Reflections on life’s longing for itself, which I found to be wonderful and helped me honestly explore how I felt about my childlessness. I didn’t realise it (to be a mum) was something I wanted until it became increasingly apparent it wasn’t going to happen. Thank you for sharing the other book Lopsy, I will be looking into that for sure.

    I comfort myself with the idea that maybe, in 10 years time if I have the financial security & flexibility in my career to do it (which I don’t have now – I too have said many times to elder male colleagues at work who ask why I don’t do this or that, why I need time off to go to the post office in the middle of the day(!!!!) that I don’t have a ‘wife’ to do it for me… Distracted, where was I??) – oh yes…) I will become a foster mum. So many kids need a loving home, and as an adopted kid myself, I know that blood bonds with a child are not the only ones that qualify you to be their mother.

    And even though I don’t show it on the outside, I bristle everytime stay at home mums with kids complain about how tough and boring their lives are, I’d swap them in a second! After 18 years of working mon- Fri with 4 weeks leave per year, I’m up for a change!!

    I totally get the Christmas thing too!! Sunshine Coast for me this year.

    Have a wonderful warm festive season all, wherever you are!!

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  • Ange

    Sounds like a very ‘successful’ life to me Michelle, such a shame society these days focusses on the ‘material’ things in life as a sign of success. It’s your life and the only definition of ‘success’ that counts is the one that you and your family are aiming for. All the best.

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  • queenbubblypiss

    ah, so true. so very, very true. especially when WIFE is the one who does the Washing, Ironing, and F*$#*ing Everything Else.

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  • Rose

    Yeah, each to his own :) We all have a right to decide whether we want children or not and not be judged for it. But I have to smile, because for all of you who don’t desire or want to have children, regardless of single/marital/relationship status, it’s just as well your mothers decided to have you! Lol

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  • Amy

    Great article!! I just sent this to my mum saying “I think I am your wife and vice versa!”
    I’m 25 with a long term boyfriend and no kids. Mum and I just moved in together after living apart for 6 years. We both work full time, I’m starting a business on the side, mum runs her own successful and stressful business, we both have numerous serious hobbies, and dietary requirements we share that mean we spend a lot of time in the kitchen but enjoy it. We work so well together like a well oiled machine!

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  • http://www.heartflutterings.blogspot.com.au Amie

    Oh Sarah, this made me cry.
    With two children, one autistic and a husband with an intense career, I struggle with the fact that it is realistically impossible for me to follow my dreams. Quite simply they need me to be the housewife far too much. Any time I take a small step towards my dreams it hits me smack bang in the face- I can’t have what I dream of. Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t give them up and I am extraordinarily happy, but there will always be that part of me missing.

    So dream big Sarah for those who can’t.

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