It seems the trend to postpone motherhood till later has produced an army of women in their late 30s and early 40s who, like me, wonder if they’ve left it too late. We had succeeded in our careers and now we were ready for a family, but no one informed our ageing ovaries of the plan. We thought we could have it all, but statistics tell us that not all of us can.
That's an important point to make, particularly when one in five British women are reaching age 45 without having had children. And I have no doubt that putting careers and independence first is part of the problem. But there are other reasons why women end up childless, reasons which Katherine Baldwin discusses at her own website (more of which later).
My wife has two female friends who are both beautiful and feminine women, but who have remained childless. One of these women chose obviously unsuitable men for boyfriends right through her 30s. The other didn't go out with men.
I've had a chance to get to know these women and the problem isn't really a desire to remain independent. Rather, it's that they weren't able to overcome problematic relationships with their fathers.
I've noticed too that the women at my workplace who marry well and in a timely way seem to have close and affectionate ties with their fathers.
It seems that fathers matter. The work we put into our relationships with our daughters has long-term consequences.
Katherine Baldwin explains her difficulties in partnering partly in terms of an absent father:
I seem to be one of those women who craves intimacy and affection with a man but is so scared of it that she chooses people who aren’t up for it or ready for it or she sabotages relationships with anyone who is. This pattern seems to be common with women of “absent” fathers...
She writes also that:
my tendency to choose inappropriate or unattainable partners is definitely the most concerning at this stage in my life...
The above quotations also chime with something I read a few weeks back in the Mail on Sunday’s You Magazine about daughters of absent fathers. It said that “as adults, women with absent fathers are often torn between longing for a committed, loving relationship and a fear of having one in case the man they love abandons them as their father did. It is only when they realise what they are doing that they can move on and have a healthy relationship.”
...For many years, I’ve had far too many boxes that a potential partner had to tick and I’ve found fault in many a boyfriend. I’d always concluded they weren’t right for me. I’m finally realising that maybe my tick boxes and fault-finding were my ways of avoiding commitment – the commitment I so craved but was so terrified of.
That's not to say that other factors might not be involved. When women are told that their 20s are for "freedom" rather than for family formation, they are more at liberty to choose "inappropriate or unattainable" partners - men who push "sexy" buttons rather than "potential husband/father" ones. And pickiness seems to be a part of our natures - we build up idealised, romantic images of our soul mate that are difficult for people to measure up to in real life. (That's one of the problems with leaving family formation too late - we are often so driven to relationships in our early 20s that the pickiness is overruled - but later on in life it can take control).
Katherine Baldwin's career has been a glamorous one: she has travelled extensively overseas as a correspondent. But she is honest in discussing her mixed feelings about it. There are aspects of travel and life overseas that she has enjoyed, but she has also found it exhausting and unsettling. And it is not career itself from which she derives higher meaning:
I think relationship is key to addressing that sense of emptiness some of us feel. And I’m not just talking about getting ourselves a partner...For me, it’s about my relationship with myself, my relationship with something greater than myself (or God as I like to call Him) and then, once those two things are in a good place, my relationship with others.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re in the company of someone you love or of someone you’re really comfortable with – you could be having a laugh or just sitting in silence – those existential questions rarely come up? We feel connected, content and are able to live in the moment.
The same goes when I feel connected to God. I feel grounded, I feel a sense of purpose...
This is relevant to the discussion I've tried to open up recently about problems with the current culture of Christianity. I see what Katherine Baldwin is expressing here as being both basic and authentic to the spiritual life. She is not dissolving herself or abstracting herself; she describes herself as feeling "grounded" and having a sense of "connectedness" which brings her contentment and a sense of purpose and an ability to live in the moment.
Finally, I know that some of my readers will react angrily to Katherine Baldwin, seeing her as a representative of women who have made family formation difficult. But I'd ask that she not be attacked personally in the comments. My aim isn't to antagonise her personally and I don't think it does our cause much good to do so either. There's nothing I've read at her site which is anti-male; she is someone who is trying to work things through and she is doing so with a degree of culture and intelligence.