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

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Eliza

    Sabina, absolutely agree with you! It is a privilege to bring another human into the world, and one that often comes at the cost of parents’ (men or women) sharing their ingenuity to change the world for the better. It takes so much time, energy and intellectual power to raise a child (indeed it often takes a ‘wife’). Imagine if more people dedicated that time to improving the world, even in a small way, through promoting peace, universal health care, education, donating to the starving and impoverished, or caring for the environment or animals. I understand people’s choice to bring another human into the world – it’s one I’ve considered myself. But, honestly, the reasons parents (including my own) give for deciding to have children often sound thoughtless or self-fulfilling. It seems having children is something people desire, if not only due to biological urges, but to make their lives “fuller” or “happier”. That is a personal decision, but there are other, more community beneficial ways to pursue happiness of fulfillment. Having 5 cars could be justified in the same vain (“my life is more complete”), but the decision to have 5 children is rarely questioned or criticised. To play the devil’s advocate, Sarah, I would suggest flipping the question back to them – “Why did you decide to have children? read: perpetuate the over-population of the planet?”. Peace.