The trouble with choice 

I’ve been ruminating on a post about choice for a while now, but haven’t quite been able to get to the nub of what I wanted to say on the matter. I’m not sure that I have, yet, but I’m going to start writing anyway. Maybe you can chip in in the comments if you have any ideas.

I feel like choice is a word I’m hearing a lot lately, in a lot of different contexts. It’s a key part of today’s rhetoric , particularly when we talk about women, and often when we talk about feminism.


‘ A huge part of being a feminist is giving other women the freedom to make choices you might not necessarily make yourself.’ – Lena Dunham.

On the face of it, there’s little to argue with here. Judging other women is toxic : we are constantly being encouraged to do it by the media who seem to want us to be constantly fighting one another. To this, I say, no. I will not judge my fellow women and I will not feel guilty about my own choices, whether you agree with them or not. But hang on, many of the things which are lauded as my ‘choice’ have not actually been a choice at all, more acceptances, or compromises. It’s not just about choice, it’s about circumstance, the situation you find yourself in, often through no choice of your own.

The trouble with valorising choice above all,  is that some people don’t have one.

How many of the things you are judged for as a woman are done out of choice or out of necessity ? Why are you single ? Why did you take your husband’s name? Why are you having children? Why are you not having children? How did you have your baby? Whether you breastfed or not? How soon did you go back to work ? In all of these things the mantra is to respect the choice of others , but I think equally if not more important is to be cognisant of the fact that for many, choice is a luxury.

Consider the always contentious issue of childcare. There will always be those who are keen to court controversy by claiming the negative impact of Creche’s on children, and decrying the selfish women who go back to work full time. How often , though, are families making a decision on their childcare options based purely on their preferred choice? I would wager that more often than not it’s a compromise, at best, and many times a grudging acceptance,  if not outright resentment.

“You know how sometimes you tell yourself that you have a choice, but really you don’t have a choice? Just because there are alternatives doesn’t mean they apply to you.”
Rick Yancey, The 5th Wave

Privileged are the people who make free choices.

I googled the quote ‘We are the sum of our choices’ variations of which are attributed to a number of people. It might be true to an extent – everyday we are making decisions that lead us from one place to another. But this line of thought puts all the onus on the individual. What about those people who through no choice of their own are in a situation which denies them choice? This can be as broad as a refugee abandoned in Calais, or as narrow as you having to return to work because you can’t afford not to.

Choose your choice, yes, but remember how lucky you are that you can.




15 thoughts on “The trouble with choice 

  1. Yes, yes, yes. This is exactly how I feel about choice. I seem to hear this word all the time as a way for people to justify what they do, for example formula feeding, working or staying at home, but these “choices” are not made in a vacuum. How many people who “choose” to be SAHMs, for example, made a completely free choice that was not constrained financially or otherwise? Same with working. Very few of our choices can really be described as free.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely this, I’ve often written about choice including (where there is one) as a disclaimer but a lot of things in life as you’ve so eloquently and powerfully put, as always is there isn’t always one. Thank you x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Many moons ago, I wrote a post on the luxury of choice. It is a luxury and more often than not, not everyone has ones. I talk to the kids about options – when choosing schools I want options, I may choose the same one as before but it’s about setting myself up to be able to choose. It is one of the least thought about and most underrated things in life #Stayclassymama


  4. I enjoyed this and I think you’re right – choice is mainly about compromise rather than absolute choice – I’m staying at home with my toddler at the moment which is less a choice and more of an acknowledgment that I couldn’t work effectively on the amount of sleep I get and someone has to do it!

    I had a really good discussion once (in a seminar on teaching philosophy to children) about choice and free will. I argued that free will is pretty much a falicy – we are so dependent on our life experiences and random things that have happened to us that we can’t really say we have total free choice in any situation


    Liked by 1 person

  5. YES! This is often something I mull over. I talk about when I was a career woman, working full-time, working my way towards promotion after promotion. I say that this was my choice to make but that isn’t entirely true. I had to work full-time because my job paid the mortgage and childcare and besides my company wouldn’t let me go part-time. When I talk about walking away from it all it is only because we made a decision to change our lives and we made a choice to take a chance in Jersey. It was Mr C and his new job that meant I could now make the decision to not work. I feel very lucky that I had that choice in the end. It seems money buys us our freedom to choose 😦 #KCACOLS

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  6. Ahh choice you are right that it is such a buzz word! It also seems to be brought up around mothers and parents. It’s always the females that seem to choose. Or is it sacrifice!? For the sake of our littles? I can see why you started this post wondering where it was going!! Tanks #forghrloveofblog


  7. I think choice is a luxury. My job is very stressful and involves a lot of travelling and being away from the kids but it has meant that we have been financially able to buy our dream home and both have cars and take the kids on holiday. I would love to give it all up and be a SAHM but realistically we wouldn’t have the life we have now or the opportunities we have thanks to my wage #KCACOLS


  8. it is much more complex than simply choosing to do a or b. I work because it provides money which means opportunities for me and my family. usually the choices we make depend on other factors #KCACOLS


  9. This is such a thought provoking post. I’ve never thought about the fact that a choice is not necessarily a free choice. Thanks for linking up with #KCACOLS and hope to see you again soon x


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