HELEN MOORHOUSE VOICEOVER ARTIST / AUTHOR
I'm all for history. I'm all for making the most of opportunity. I'm all for exercising choice but it's impossible not to be unsettled when hearing someone make the following statement: 'I have been educated out of the natural reproductive function'. Come on Dr Lucy Worsley, give us a break!
Dr Lucy is a leading historian, chief curator for the Historic Royal Palaces in the UK, has a degree and a PhD. She is pretty, slim and is knee deep in booksmarts but no matter how I admire her achievements and want to give her the benefit of the doubt, her statements in an interview last week, in or out of context, just leave me cold.
The good Doctor is childless by choice. Good for her. When she says “I just had other priorities with what I wanted to do with my time”, then that's absolutely fine. Contrary to common belief those of us who have reproduced – or intend to – don't frown disapprovingly on our sisters who have decided otherwise. I'm not going wag a finger and tell them they're doomed to a life of miserable solitude in their old age or that they'll always feel unfulfilled, apparently. I won't warn them that their cats won't make them bedtime cocoa – my children probably won't either - quite frankly they'll probably just give me headaches bickering over who's going to get the silver teapot.
However, to hint that you've had just too much schooling to waste it on bearing offspring is just not on. Worsley adds that not having children by choice is a “...counter-cultural thing to do. And I quite enjoy being part of a beleaguered minority” - does that mean that she gets a kick out of being castigated by all us 'breeders' and our parental-based judgement? Oh come on, Doc! You say 'counter-cultural' like it's the suffragette movement, or punk but all it is, is your business and I have no problem with you minding it, but please don't inflict intellectual snobbery on us or play on some perceived victim status. Don't be that girl.
Don't feed the ignorant perception out there that parents, especially working ones, are snot-covered, puree-caked, frazzled, judgmental, demented, disorganised, screechy, forgetful, exhausted and a danger to ourselves and society. That by exercising our right to reproduce we have dropped our educations into a teeming nappy bin and put our brains in the freezer. I wonder if super-achieving mums like Michelle Obama, Miriam O'Callaghan, Mary Robinson, Aung San Suu Kyi and Worsley's fellow TV historian Mary Beard would agree?
The truth is that regardless of background, having children is an uncredited fourth-level education. There is no-one more organised, sharp, and well-prepared than someone who spends their days staying one step ahead of children who are literally wily, manipulative, self-centred and downright clever.
The degree modules include: Negotiation (with the Acutely Unreasonable), Blue-sky thinking, Improvisation (suggested reading includes 'Dealing with the Woodsman' by Snow White), Acting, the Art of Storytelling, Nutrition and Digestion, Technical Studies (including buggies, cots, tiny pig figures, one-piece sleepsuits), Athletics (leave Bolt spinning in your tailwind at the distant cry of 'potty!'), Comedy, Diagnostics, Medicine (Calpol or A&E?), Con Artistry, Advanced Interpretation and Development of Psychic Skills, Choices, Morals, and Life-Affecting Decision Making. Don't tell me that you don't need some sort of brains to raise children.
To state the obvious, as if having children wasn't challenge enough, many of us do a day job, try to improve our lot and pursue interests either for future benefit or just to keep sane – we're just people with small and large children who are handing in theses, studying until the small hours, running marathons, singing in choirs, contributing to book clubs, getting fit, acquiring new skills, writing creatively. We're all just doing our best and making the most of our chosen paths – just like Lucy Worsley.
“I get to spend my time doing things I enjoy”, says Worsley. Again, good for her. But just because I've embraced the 'natural reproductive function' doesn't mean that I don't.
I chose to have children. I enjoy making them laugh helplessly, enjoy seeing their delight at new achievement, I enjoy a Johnson's-scented cuddle. I will never punch the air as hard as I did when I finally managed to potty train a disinterested three-year-old. I also enjoy books, TV, movies, good food, solitude and a full, hot cup of coffee. And when my children have grown then maybe I'll enjoy getting my own history PhD or maybe I'll just chill out – those choices are still open to me. And if having children isn't your choice – if devoting it to further education is - then that's absolutely fantastic. Just don't get all superior because your intellectual purity remains unsullied by so much as a possety shoulderblade. I thank my lucky stars every day for my children and my choices and if yours is not to have them, then thank yours too - not everyone is fortunate enough to have those choices in the first place.