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Belinda Brown: Shannon Robertshaw will discover that a child needs a father


The society that feminism has created is fragmenting and disintegrating. Children have become commodities and even reproduction has been commodified – something to be bought or sold like any other transaction.

Yet neither craving for motherhood nor the opposite – the fear of being burdened with an unwanted child – has changed. The difference from the past is that there is control over fertility and termination of pregnancy  and both have become a matter of ‘right’ or rather of women’s rights.

Prior to effective contraception children arrived unbidden and sooner, in many cases, than women would have chosen. Only the ‘barren’ were known to crave for children. Today maternal craving, the ticking of the biological clock, is rather different; ironically, a consequence of the liberated woman’s emphasis on career and self-fulfillment, over and above family.

For feminist ideology has transformed work for women from something which was done from either a sense of duty or from financial need to a vehicle for ‘self-fulfilment’ and for necessary social status.

Despite this, work still loses its lustre for many women. For many feminism turns out to have sold them a pup – they find, surprise ,surprise, that it does not, after all, offer the wholly satisfying and all encompassing world promised.

Indoctrination has not managed to trump biology. The desire for the baby that work or career has deferred turns out to be the one fulfilment that women still crave.

It’s a realisation that comes too late which is why we see women today – out of desperation – setting out to have children in circumstances which are unlikely to be conducive to the wellbeing of the child.

The case, which mirrors many before it, of Shannon Robertshaw in the Daily Mail, is one in point. She decided at the age of 37 to have a child alone. She had heard the regrets of a friend who had remained childless and she herself didn’t want the difficulties that she’d had to date in forming a long-term relationship to lead her to the same childless fate.

Fortunately for Shannon, today’s culture means conception no longer requires, or even is meant to require, commitment of any sort either between the two parties involved or between a sperm donor and child.

So when Shannon met a young man who was prepared to be casual about contraception, she was saved the fee of going to a sperm donor clinic. Even better, from her point of view, the young man didn’t want to be involved in the child’s life.

In this way women like Shannon bypass the law which very sensibly restricts surrogacy to situations where there are two parents willing to bring up the child. But with sperm donor clinics and reckless men, women like Shannon, can make this choice – to have a child on their own.

Of course, there is nothing new under the sun about children growing up without one or both of their parents. And although there are abundant statistics on the difficulties that such children risk suffering, it is also true that some children growing up without their fathers thrive and do well. However, there are two key differences and I think the consequences of these need to be explored.

Firstly, unlike the many cases of accidental or unintended pregnancy or separation or divorce, there seems to be absolutely no acknowledgement that the resulting situation could cause very serious difficulties and disadvantages for the child.

Children may well have reserves of resilience, and many will overcome, or at least learn to live with the challenges that life hurled at them. However, an essential pre-requisite is the ability to acknowledge the cost, the pain and the suffering and at least recognise that  difficulties and disadvantages exist.

Shannon Robertshaw appears to be completely oblivious to any of this. As far as she is concerned, there are so many advantages to the situation – to her – that she advocates that more women take this route. Her child will be spared rowing parents, she says. Nor is she an embittered put upon single mother because she became a single parent through choice. It is all about her.

But if Shannon thinks that just because she has chosen to be a single parent all the difficulties will be magicked away she is in for some surprises.

It seems not to have occurred to her that little Hannah will also only have half the parental time available to her and only half the extended family she might have had. Nor has it occurred to her that rows can be resolved and that is how both children and adults learn to form and sustain relationships.

Nor has Hannah any chance of learning how two previously unrelated adults come resolve conflict out of love for each and for their child and build a loving relationship. When Hannah is ill there will be only one person there for her – maybe none if Sharon can’t get time off work and no paternal grandma to fill the breach. And when important decisions are made they will be informed by one person rather than two.

When little Hannah has an argument with her mother, her mother may ‘win’ but not through parental authority but rather because little Hannah may be afraid of losing her only source of love and support. Above all, she will suffer the huge, gaping hole of having a father missing from her life.

The most frequently touted argument to support this kind of non-traditional parenting is that the child is very much wanted. I think we need to question the extent to which this is some great healing salve for the otherwise ‘deprived’ woman. I can’t help feeling that coming into existence in order to fulfill someone else’s parental ambitions could be stifling and deeply undermining in a way which is seldom taken on board. The process of adjustment required to welcome the unbidden, or even for a while unwanted, child might actually be a pre-requisite for healthy parenting. It may be that self-effacement is a more healthy goal than self-fulfilment when it comes to bringing a child into the world.

Feminism has not only commodified reproduction, it has placed almost absolute control of it in women’s hands. Yet has this made for any more happiness? Looking at the state of the social unit we still call the family is in, I suspect the answer is no and that we have made an absolute pig’s ear of it.

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Belinda Brown
Belinda Brown
Belinda Brown is author of 'The Private Revolution' and a number of well-cited academic papers. More recently, she has started writing and blogging for The Daily Mail and The Conservative Woman. She has a particular interest in men's issues and the damage caused by feminism.

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