Perhaps start a little earlier?

Or be less selective?

Saturday mornings are the worst. Claudia, a teacher, wakes up alone in bed in her London flatshare. The weekend stretches out before her, an interminable expanse to be filled as best she can – with walks, and TV, and more walks. Sometimes, she finds it hard to summon the motivation to get out of bed. “It sounds dramatic,” Claudia says, “but I’ll lie there, thinking: ‘What’s the point of getting up?’”

She goes over the arithmetic that has tortured her all year long. She will be 34 next month, single, no closer to finding a partner to have kids with. Even if she did meet someone next year, say, would they be ready to start conceiving within a year? Probably not. That could mean she will be 36 before she even starts trying – if she meets someone next year. And there’s the rub – because the Covid-19 restrictions have made dating nearly impossible. “My friends are either pregnant or looking after small children,” Claudia says, “and I struggle to even get men to talk to me online. It feels hopeless.”

Or be a strong and independent woman who lives with her choices?

44 thoughts on “Perhaps start a little earlier?”

  1. Freeze some eggs, find a womb for rent? Find a donor sperm and try her luck, maybe even IVF?
    Lots of things a single middle class woman should be able to afford.

    Finding a man to love, that can be harder. Plenty of men around that age looking to start families though. She isn’t flat out of luck. But it seems like neither sex know where to look for partners, or how to.

  2. Perhaps start a little earlier?

    Yes, but she needs to grow up a bit first, don’t you think? The blend of self-entitlement and immaturity probably make her a rotten teacher, tortured by arithmetic, and if she doesn’t know the point of getting up then she might as well stay in bed – nobody will much care.

  3. This is too depressing to even make snarky comments about:

    Claudia, a teacher, wakes up alone in bed in her London flatshare

    You could precede this with “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” and it wouldn’t change the tone.

    All those years of education so she could be a childless spinster who has to share a toilet with strangers.

    Just stuck, hollow and alone. And the fault is her own, and the fault is her own.

  4. Tinder et al didn’t close down during lockdown. A friend who uses it says it was never busier. The problem he finds is that 30+ women start talking about babies on the second date.

  5. But it seems like neither sex know where to look for partners, or how to.

    The internet, and its consequences, have been a disaster for the human race.

  6. tweedle dee

    “Freeze some eggs..”

    The success rate for frozen eggs is lamentable: frozen at 30, 15%; frozen at 35, 8%.

    Those companies, like Google, who are trying to persuade their female employees to build their career by freezing their eggs and having children after they have built their *carrer* are acting evilly.

  7. Maybe we should make Garfunkel and Oates’ “29/31” song required education for 25 year old women. It’s funny, witty and raucous (rude words) with a profound message that might sink in with the operating system that operates below the level of bullshit that they’re regularly living.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-gfxjAaZg0

  8. As a society we do the education and family thing the wrong way round.

    Have your kids in quick succession starting at 15 and you can still graduate before you are 30 and have a long, rewarding career.

  9. The world is full of hopelessly single men and women who thought they could ‘do better’. Women like this are the equivalent of incels, refusing to accept men who are prepared to settle down with them and getting shagged and rejected by people like Philip’s tinder-cruising mate.

    So I suppose they are the occasional shag less sad than incels, but that’s not saying much.

  10. One of Jordan Peterson’s points in that interview where that poor woman embarrassed herself was that women need to sort out their lives earlier than men, lest they look up one day and find the clock is running out. It was one of the points where she agreed with him once she understood why.

  11. @big

    Not sure the optimal starting age. Few people who get into a “serious” relationship that young manage to keep it going especially with kids involved, though I have known some. And having a partner about is important for childcare (even if it’s more about affording professional childcare than the partner providing it hands on).

    But as for the basic sentiment, I used to work in adult education and that was dominated by teenage mums going back to education in their twenties or thirties. And they had a lot more focus and maturity than their equivalents taking A-levels – knew more about the world and what they needed to do to get where they wanted. Bearing in mind they were still well on track for a 30+ year career I think that it largely worked in their favour. On the other hand, they also had more issues to deal with (child care crises, sick parents etc).

  12. One of Jordan Peterson’s points in that interview where that poor woman embarrassed herself was that women need to sort out their lives earlier than men, lest they look up one day and find the clock is running out.

    I her case she needs to become the woman the sort of man she wants would wish to settle down with her & have kids. She obviously isn’t or it already would have happened.
    But that’s the advice I give people on all sorts of things. If you want to sell a product or a service, look around for what people want, work out a way of providing it, sell it to them.
    It really is that simple.
    Except most people start from the other direction & try to flog what they have.

    So my advice to her would be, firstly, stop talking with Guardian journalists.

  13. Steve: ’ The internet, and its consequences, have been a disaster for the human race.’

    Much as I hate to disagree, ‘Looking For Mr Goodbar’ is a pretty old film. No Internet. Same issue.

  14. “and I struggle to even get men to talk to me online. It feels hopeless.”

    Ha!
    Women don’t struggle to get men to talk to them.
    What she means is she can’t get the right sort of man to talk to her – the rich, good looking ones who are her birthright obvs.
    Or she’s an awful person/scaring them away

    @Steve
    Nice Linkin Park quote 🙂

  15. So she is 37.

    She has never set foot in a nunnery, her partner count will in double or even triple figures.

    She shares a flat at 37. So useless with money and finances.

    She is picky.

    She is a nightmare of infertility and inevitable divorce rape. Hard pass.

  16. Bloke in Nort Dorset

    The weekend stretches out before her, an interminable expanse to be filled as best she can

    A teacher with nothing to do? Yet every article about how hard teachers are done by tells us they have no spare time because of all he marking of homework and exams, make you minds up.

  17. Steve,

    “The internet, and its consequences, have been a disaster for the human race.”

    The internet is just the modern version of nightclubs. Tinder has the exact same effect as nightclubs: a tiny number of men get all the alpha-seeking women. So, most men who go to nightclubs don’t get mates because the women are looking higher, and the women don’t get mates because the alphas use them for fun.

    MC is spot on. There’s plenty of women matching, shagging and breeding. They give up the dream of Patrick Swayze and settle for Dave in accounts. But some don’t.

    And frankly, if you put a load of daft government regulations before all of this, you’re going the way of the dodo.

  18. “The problem he finds is that 30+ women start talking about babies on the second date.”

    My (former) brother in law said exactly the same. Plenty of nice women out there, but they go far far too fast.

  19. Even if she did meet someone next year, say, would they be ready to start conceiving within a year?

    My wife’s grandfather likes to tell (and re-tell ad nauseam) the story of how he met his wife when they were 19 and 18 respectively, and she was pregnant within two months.

  20. BiG,

    “As a society we do the education and family thing the wrong way round.

    Have your kids in quick succession starting at 15 and you can still graduate before you are 30 and have a long, rewarding career.”

    I think this too, but you’d need some intervention so that families have money. Or you have larger multi-generational homes with grandparents funding the early years (this is probably the best solution).

    Women get sold a whole lot of shit (by other women mostly) about careers and travel and other sorts of “finding yourself”. Most women don’t have careers and most travel is just wanking around trying to make yourself more interesting, but actually being dull AF because you visit the same places as every other woman who read Eat, Pray, Vomit. And you have plenty of time to travel later.

  21. @bom4

    Interestingly that’s about the solution in the Philippines – nominally and indeed if you asked people a highly Catholic country, yet nobody cares if the teens shag like rabbits and indeed reproduce like them – very little stigma to being a teen single mum, and grandparents do a lot of the looking after. The teen mums often go on to college and then on to work.

    Not saying we need to turn Britain into the West Philippines but they at least seem to have found a workable model for national intergenerational survival.

  22. It’s the old dichotomy, women aiming for the best there is, men aiming for the best they can get, results in loads of unsatisfied women because the best men have already been snapped up by the best women, and unsatisfied men because the women that forced themselves to settle for the best they can get instead of the best there is keep reminding their man of the fact.

  23. I had a friend for a long time.A beautiful beautiful woman. Think Kirsty Alsopp. Began an affair with her boss/company owner when she was our neighour- 20 something. She’d come out with us, barbecues, dinner parties, house parties, great fun, but obviously not with him. He was leaving his wife when he sold the business. He was leaving his wife when the market picked up. He was leaving his wife when the children went to board. It just got embarassing asking about it. I haven’t seen her in a while, but always though of it as an effing tragedy, but there is no government policy in the world (that’s not a challenge Eks) that would have made a darn difference.

  24. bloke in spain said:
    “So my advice to her would be, firstly, stop talking with Guardian journalists”

    Second, stop talking like a Guardian journalist.

  25. Bloke in Germany said:
    “Have your kids in quick succession starting at 15 and you can still graduate before you are 30 and have a long, rewarding career”

    Do women still regard university as a marriage market? Might explain why they want to go to university first. (Even if they don’t marry someone they meet there; it’s what they think about it at 16 that determines whether they go for someone from home or think they’ll find something better at university).

  26. @Ottokring

    I have a feeling that Caribbean cultures are still somewhat judgemental about teen single mums whereas the Philippines seems to accept it in an “oh those young girls, what are they like! Still, we were all young once, probably less than 20 years ago ourselves…” kind of way. Maybe a Protestant/Catholic attitude to sex thing? Also multi-generational households are common (and in fact becoming even more so) in the Philippines, so it might be more natural for the whole family to muck in with rearing the child… though apparently in the Caribbean that’s also quite common in lower-class Afro-Caribbeans (particularly matriarchal, grandmother-led households) as well as the broader social sweep of Indo-Caribbeans, so family-supported child-rearing might be more widespread there than I’m thinking. I know more about the Philippines personally, where it’s hard to overstate how common and normalised teenage single mums are.

    Also not an expert on how these things translate to the UK once people migrate. Hasn’t the traditional complaint here been that teen mums tend to move out very early? One of the criticisms of priority list for council housing even, that it actively encourages teens to have kids? One of the reasons Gordon Brown thought it would be a vote-winner in 2009 to suggest 16-17 year old teen mums ought to be sent off to government-run hostels? I don’t know how true that stereotype is but when I worked in Adult Ed (and from my experience via friends/family), certainly the young mums tended to be living independently or with boyfriend, while maybe using their parents for a few hours of childcare a week. Though times have changed, and more under-30s and even under-40s in general are still living with parents, so perhaps that holds for young mums too, while teenage pregnancy has been in long-term decline, so it could well be that more recent ones differ in some way. This is all just subjective impression and informed speculation though, sadly. I did have a turf about for some figures, but difficult to find data since birth registrations in the UK don’t record ethnicity.

    I do suspect Afro-Caribbean teen mums in the UK are a lot rarer than you might imagine. Two IFS reports (Ethnic Differences in Birth Outcomes in England, 2005 and Teenage Pregnancy in England, 2013) shed some light. The first points out that black women in the UK actually have kids later than white women, on average, and it’s Asians who have kids earlier (white 29.3, Asian 27.4, black 30.4, other 29.3 – this is based on race of child so, given that a relatively large proportion of black women are with non-black men, a lot will show up in the “other” section for mixed race kids, but that won’t skew things substantially since that mean age is the same as for white children anyway). Would have been more interesting if that was age at first childbirth, but it’s something, and “number of older children” is fairly similar across the ethnic groups (0.83 white, 1.19 Asian, 1.07 black, 0.81 other) so it isn’t just that black women seem to have kids at a higher average age because they start younger but then keep procreating non-stop until they’re much older. A major difference, as you correctly surmise, is the proportion that are lone parents though: 13% white, 5% Asian, 47% black, 26% other. Would be interesting to see the breakout of Afro-Caribbean versus black African, since they are culturally quite distinct and occupy different socio-economic status in the UK. In terms of teenage mums in particular, the second report suggests that by end of compulsory academic education at 16 (“year 11” in the English system), pretty much the same proportion of Black Caribbean girls have given birth (1.5%) as White British (1.4%), with Black African substantially lower at 0.5% and South Asian down at 0.1%. An interesting difference is that while quite a few more Black Caribbean than White British girls got pregnant by this age (3.8% vs 2.9%), this was cancelled out by a greater willingness of Black Caribbean girls to seek a termination (2.4% had an abortion by end of year 11, versus 1.5% for White British – it’s actually South Asians who abort the greatest proportion of their pregnancies, though that’s out of a low number of conceptions to begin with). Which is another distinction with the Philippines, where terminating a pregnancy would be much more unthinkable (and indeed the fact it’s illegal in all circumstances still seems to be broadly socially supported).

  27. @RichardT

    “Do women still regard university as a marriage market? Might explain why they want to go to university first. (Even if they don’t marry someone they meet there; it’s what they think about it at 16 that determines whether they go for someone from home or think they’ll find something better at university).”

    Don’t think so, from what I can gather from those I know it’s more like going travelling – they don’t do that in any realistic hope of meeting an exotic stranger to whisk them away (though they may not complain), it’s more about “finding themselves”. Also giving them a foundation for a good professional career even if they don’t know what it is yet – indeed it buys them 3 or 4 years to sort this out. As far as marriage or serious relationships seem to figure into the thinking at all, my impression is that fingers are firmly crossed that becoming a strong, successful, independent woman is the best launching point for finding a “quality” man. Quite a shift from the old tradition of passing from your parents’ house to your husband’s house.

    Not sure in the man-finding respect whether it’s an improved strategy since these aren’t necessarily traits that men are seeking, and indeed given a greater number of women than men graduates, it risks putting you in a position where you’re “overqualified” and fishing in too small and competitive a pool. It also give you a stronger fall-back position (you’ve already established a life and shown to yourself you don’t “need” a man) and hence in economic terms a higher reservation level for the “quality” of man you’re prepared to accept – i.e. disincentives you from broadening your search criteria or “settling” for someone.

  28. MBE

    I question whether the overwhelming majority of university degrees give women the foundation for a good professional career. An irrelevant non-STEM qualification and large tuition fee debt are more likely outcomes.

  29. @JL

    I do recall a ridiculous stat that women graduates of arts degrees in particular are expected on average to repay £0 of their (income-contingent repayment) student loans England because they don’t, on average, earn above the repayment threshold before their loans are written off. (May be on full-time equivalent salary that’s above threshold but working part-time for child-care or whatever other reason, for example.) At least in the UK, the income-contingent structure of student loans means that having a large student debt is basically irrelevant to the personal finances of anyone on a permanently low income.

    STEM vs non-STEM is a bit of a blunt distinction. Graduate pay for law and economics (non-STEM, you might quibble about econ which usually has a high mathematical content) beats graduate pay for chemistry or veterinary sciences (STEM). And purely thinking of the marginal benefit of going to university versus not, there are lots of women-dominated sectors where the “professional” roles are now graduate-only (e.g. teaching, nursing) and the graduate premium is high compared to what a non-graduate can do within the sector (teaching assistant, healthcare assistant).

    I’m sure male-female differences in subject choices at uni play an important role in the the graduate pay differential, but for fresh graduates that effect is pretty small (about £1600), which suggests the size of the effect must be pretty small too. The graduate gender pay gap really opens up in child-bearing and child-rearing years (£8400 gap a decade after graduation), which is more consistent with Timmy’s hypothesis that the gap is driven by the way women tend to shape their careers around parenting practices in a way that men don’t. Some stats nicked from https://debut.careers/insight/a-study-into-the-uks-graduate-gender-pay-gap/

  30. MR EKS – yeah OK fair enough.
    it makes a change that there’s something that’s a problem but that isn’t really political. Even the G , which shoehorned Claudia in with the infertile (naturally accompanied by more dosh to NHS hints) didn’t bother recommending a national dating service.

  31. Childbearing for women born in different years, England and Wales: 2019
    https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/conceptionandfertilityrates/bulletins/childbearingforwomenbornindifferentyearsenglandandwales/2019

    We continue to see a delay in childbearing, with nearly half of women born in 1989 remaining childless by their 30th birthday compared to 1 in 5 in their grandmother’s generation. The fertility patterns of women born more recently indicate this trend is likely to continue, with women born in 1995 showing lower levels of fertility in their 20s compared with previous cohorts.”

  32. pay for law and economics […] beats graduate pay for chemistry or veterinary sciences
    I’ve seen the stat about vets before, and I struggle to believe it. In my time at university, the better students went for vet sci rather than medicine because the pay was higher, and (looking at vets bills) it would still seem pretty lucrative. No doubt starting pay is low, but then it usually is for law, too (can easily be negative if you’re doing pupillage).

  33. Raising kids is best done young, as are many other things.

    Raising kids is, for most of us, far away our greatest endeavour.

    I really do wonder that we should have kids when young, and do other stuff later.

    I can go raving when young and raise kids when older, or raise kids when young and go raving when older. Both are best done young. Which is more important? Simple question!

  34. @Chris Miller

    Perhaps the star is an artefact of subject definitions? Look at the Royal Vet College:

    https://www.rvc.ac.uk/study/undergraduate

    The proper degree to become a vet, and the equivalent of studying “Medicine”, is a five year degree in “Veterinary Medicine”.

    But they also offer BSc degrees in “veterinary nursing” (needless to say the pay in this is rather lower than being an actual vet) and “bioveterinary science” (trains you for lab work etc but in practice from what I’ve heard, the people taking it often didn’t meet A-level requirement for vet medicine and so they’re taking it in the hopes of getting one of the highly competitive graduate entry vet or even human medicine degrees – and only a lucky few will succeed in their gamble).

    If “Medicine” stats also included nursing, midwifery and biomedical science degrees, that would rather depress their pay figures too. I wonder if “veterinary science” has been used as an umbrella term?

  35. johnnybonk, accurate, but borders on false dichotomy: not having kids is another choice.

    I know a few women who had kids late. Not the best for the women, but best for the kids.

  36. MBE, thank you, some interesting stuff there.

    johnnybonk said:
    “Raising kids is best done young”

    Is that true? Swings & roundabouts I’d have thought.

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