Maxine Peake is a great actress. She’s about to play Hamlet in the Manchester Royal Exchange production of Shakespeare’s tragedy which opens this week. There are not many women who would, could or should take that part on.
However, in the last month she’s also become tabloid fodder regarding her views on motherhood and childlessness. I’m surprised that there wasn’t a journalist that thought of leading with the headline: ‘Get Thee To A Nunnery’. But, of course, any mention of what she actually does so beautifully for a living is inconsequential when there’s a juicy private life and a controversial comment to dissect.
First up there was widespread coverage of an interview she did for Red Magazine in which she said that she is shocked by the fact that the media are obsessed with whether she is going to become a mother or not. For the first time she revealed that she and her husband did, in fact, want children and had been through IVF and several miscarriages. The tabloids pounced on this and, initially, sympathy for her story was strong.
But this week the dogs turned when she was quoted in another interview for The Times as saying ‘having children was very selfish’. The day the story broke I was contacted by BBC radio to make a comment. Sadly I couldn’t do it because I was in a meeting but I desperately want to defend her.
Selfish – if that’s what she actually did say – is undoubtedly an unfortunate choice of words. I know that my mother is the most selfless person you’ll ever meet and negated her own life to bring up her children. There are many other mothers who have done the same.
But where I do agree with Maxine is that parenthood is a choice that most people make for their own personal fulfilment. There’s nothing wrong with that but let’s be honest with ourselves and recognise that the world doesn’t actually need any more people. No one needs to start having sex to save the human race. Surely it would be a good thing if more people chose not to have children and save the world’s resources or support a child that has already been born that desperately needs care.
It saddens me how the media react when someone is brave enough to speak out on such an important subject of our times. Maxine, don’t let it do what Hamlet’s ghost did to him and drive you mad. To be or not to be (a parent) is a really important question.