Soapbox: what do guys think about Kate Garraway’s controversial Get Britain Fertile campaign?

Yes, we’ve got more time to play with but to say that many men saunter off into the sunset with their 21-year-old secretary is out-dated and offensive

The response to Kate Garraway’s controversial don’t-leave-it-too-late fertility campaign on our sister site Kentishtowner provoked much debate. But along with other comment in the press this week, it came from a woman. We asked child-free Gareth May, co-founder of “couples’ manual” the His ‘n’ Hers Handbook, for his perspective

gareth may crop 2This week saw the launch of Get Britain Fertile. Fronted by a “pregnant and seventy” Kate Garraway, the campaign, launched by a manufacturer of pregnancy tests, is aimed at encouraging couples to take stock of their biological clocks. Although – supposedly – aimed at both men and women, the online backlash has been monopolised by the latter. So what about the men?

When it comes to matters of parenthood, all too often in the media, men are either pushed to the margins or dragged – and sometimes kicked – right into the middle of the fray without so much as a whimper in reply. As a 31-year-old man who knows more young dads than I do single men who have broken off a relationship due to not wanting a child I do feel qualified to offer my opinion, especially when that single man is me.

The reality is, most men only become aware of a woman’s biological clock when the woman they are with is made aware of hers. This is how I learned about the urgency of having children with a partner. I certainly didn’t learn about it from a Get Britain Fertile campaign. Although it must be said that once heard the tick-tocking of the biological clock can be a deafening sound. But do men in their 30s hear that sound as loud as their female peers?

Looking at a quick cross-section of my mates, whereas I can think of several female friends who feel the urgency to have children – or the onset of that urgency, at least – in all honesty, I can’t think of one male friend. But, at the same time, this is not to suggest that these men don’t desire or feel the responsibility of having children or, as some have suggested, when the moment arises will run from the room screaming. Far from it. In fact, talking with my mates – female and male and most of them in couples – “kids” are something that will come along eventually. It may not be on many of my male mates’ radars but it’s also not on many of my female mates’ either. A view backed up by the NHS website which suggests, using research from last year, that most couples need not rush at all seeing as a whooping 95 per cent of them will conceive within two years of trying for a baby. Perhaps this is why Britain isn’t that fussed about getting fertile because it doesn’t bloody need to.

But let’s debunk one thing – this “selfish” men claim. For many men, the reason for not having a child at a certain point in their life is just as valid and pertinent as the reason for having the child. In fact, wanting to concentrate on other parts of your life before bringing a child into the world (whether that be an artistic, poorly paid career, as it was for me, or saving for a big wedding first, as it is for a close friend) is not a gender issue. Most modern men pride themselves on doing the right thing. And sometimes, having kids just isn’t the right thing to do. Yes, we’ve got more time to play with than women to make this call but to say, as some have, that many men saunter off into the sunset with their 21-year-old secretary is out-dated and quite frankly pretty offensive. The majority of men don’t pick and drop women at optimum times of fertility. They choose to be with the woman they love and should circumstances conspire against them, most men I know would deal with that issue, openly and honestly, and a joint decision would be made. If a couple doesn’t have a child, the couple doesn’t have the child. Not just the woman.

Furthermore, the idea that some men are too “immature”, “untruthful” or simply “unwilling” (made by Barbara Ellen earlier this week in the Observer) to have children is something which can easily be levelled at women too. Sometimes we forget that the choice to, or not to, have children is taken away from men as well – by an abortion for example.

The simple truth is, choosing to have a child with a partner is something only those in the relationship can decide and, likewise, deciding not to have a child together and going your separate ways, is something both parties have to live with, with all the “what ifs” playing out over and over again. But amongst all this rhetoric, it wouldn’t hurt to remember that for those unlucky few who may never conceive, or suffer a break-up because of matters of fertility, with an issue as deeply personal and upsetting as this, no one, woman or man, comes out unscathed.

What do the women say? Find out here

Words: Gareth May, who is the co-editor and co-founder of His ‘n’ Hers Handbook, an online manual for the modern couple aimed at celebrating relationships rather than picking them apart. He is also the author of 150 Things Every Man Should Know (Square Peg), which he developed after setting up an online guide to growing up for young men while in his early 20s. Now 31, he lives in Lewisham. @garethmay

The Soapbox is a new regular section on Below the River and Kentishtowner. Each week we’ll pose a topical question, and open it up to you lot to have your say. Want to suggest a topic?

1 thought on “Soapbox: what do guys think about Kate Garraway’s controversial Get Britain Fertile campaign?”

  1. Really good piece there Gareth. Perceptive and full of humanity. Would be nice if we could see more writing like this in the mainstream media. You are so right, this painting of all men as selfish and immature is not helping anyone. This, and the unrelenting, exhausting negativity of even the broadsheets towards women and their bodies.

    Please keep writing

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