The Parenthood Dilemma: Decisions in our age of uncertainty (signed edition)


Gina Rushton
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Should we become parents?

This question forces us to reckon with what we love and fear most in ourselves, in our relationships, and in the world.

When Gina Rushton considered this decision, the choice was less straightforward than she had assumed. Her search for an answer only uncovered more complexity. How do race, gender and class affect our experiences of pregnancy, birth, and parenthood? How do we address the paradox of creating new life on a planet facing catastrophic climate change? How do we navigate uncompromising workplace cultures and the pitfalls of excessive emotional labour? How does our own childhood impact how we choose to parent, if we do so at all?

Drawing on a depth of knowledge gained through her extraordinary work as an award-winning journalist, as well as her personal experiences, Rushton wrote the book she and others needed to transform the discourse around the parenthood dilemma.


‘Gina Rushton brings her forensic journalistic eye to the question of whether we choose to be a mother or not. This is an honest, compelling, well-researched book that makes a valuable contribution to the contemporary discussion about reproductive choices and rights in a nuanced and thoughtful way.’
Dr Pragya Agarwal, author of (M)otherhood and Hysterical

‘A fiercely intelligent meditation on the decision to have a child, and an interrogation of all that modern motherhood entails.’
— Leah Hazard, author of Womb: The Inside Story of Where We All Began and Hard Pushed: A Midwife’s Story

‘A vigorous interrogation of one of the most significant decisions of our lives. Exceptionally clever, unfearing, and tender. An important addition to a growing body of contemporary literature that examines the intersection between our personal lives and global justice.’
— Alice Kinsella, author of Milk: On Motherhood and Madness

‘A smart and insightful exploration of parenthood – both personal and political – that’s sure to move, stir and inspire.’
— Chloë Ashby, author of Second Self and Wet Paint

‘The Parenthood Dilemma changed the way I view my life, myself, and the way I relate to the world. This is a vital, necessary read not just for those considering parenthood but for anyone who wants to live a more conscious, compassionate life and to more deeply understand the relation between individual and community, human and climate, and between our present lives and the past and future.’
— Emma Bolden, author of The Tiger and the Cage: A Memoir of a Body in Crisis

‘A passionate and punchy exploration of modern parenthood, mixing memoir with journalism, the personal and the political. A propulsive and powerful read.’
— Sam Mills, author of The Fragments of my Father  and Chauvo-Feminism

Rushton’s work is generous, thoughtful, and honest, taking care neither to romanticise nor to disparage the choice to become a parent.’
— Jenny Hamilton, Booklist (starred review)

‘Gina Rushton rips back the sentimental gauze of motherhood to confront a question as urgent as it is unmentionable: Should I – should anyone – bring a child into a world on fire? For parents and non-parents alike, this book is a call to arms to build a fairer, freer, more sustainable, and more truly feminist future.’
— Joanna Scutts, author of Hotbed: Bohemian Greenwich Village and the Secret Club that Sparked Modern Feminism

‘As a woman who struggled with whether or not to have a child, I appreciated Gina Rushton’s The Parenthood Dilemma immensely. I loved the beautifully written introspection and the meticulous reporting around considerations like climate change, fertility, genes, and reproductive rights — even as Rushton comes to understand that ‘no one is going to write the ending for me.’ I hate the term ‘must-read,’ but damn it, everyone considering having kids in this chaotic era should read this book.’
— Amber Sparks, author of And I Do Not Forgive You

‘Gina Rushton reports unflinchingly from the disjunction between received wisdoms about motherhood and received realities that continue to constrict the choices of women of her generation. A significant and vital book; a must-read.’
— Sarah Krasnostein, author of The Believer

‘Gina Rushton searingly describes the complex internal conflict so many young women feel: do I want kids? And what becomes of me if I do, or don’t? I’ve not read a book that so perfectly captures how I feel as a woman in her late twenties.’
— Zara McDonald, host of Shameless podcast and bestselling author of The Space Between

‘Grounded in Rushton’s years of frontline reporting on reproductive access, this book reflects on both the politics and philosophies underpinning parenthood. It challenged some of my deeply ingrained presumptions about the career-family binary, and Rushton is unafraid to sit with ambivalence. Contraception, legacy, loss, climate change… it’s all here. I am so glad this book exists and I am glad I read it.’
— Bri Lee, author of Eggshell Skull

‘I can’t remember the last book that made me think so much – about all sorts of things I didn’t expect. Gina Rushton is what every writer should be – both wise and curious – and when I had finished her fascinating book I saw the world in new ways.’
— Sean Kelly, author of The Game: A Portrait of Scott Morrison

The Most Important Job in the World keenly captures the rollercoaster of anxiety and hope that embodies living at this moment in history. Gina Rushton has written a book that is globally impactful and deeply personal at once, further solidifying her status as one of this country’s most exciting writers. This is a generation-defining text that everyone (not only those considering parenthood) must read immediately.’
— Gen Fricker, comedian

‘Gina Rushton interrogates the most personal, political and primal anxieties of our generation, and delivers a clarity so sharp, it borders on pain. But the pain is transformative when shared and given shape, and I read The Parenthood Dilemma feeling nothing short of seen, consoled and grateful.’
— Benjamin Law, author of The Family Law

‘A mesmerising investigation into the beauty and trauma of motherhood.’
— Samantha Maiden, political editor at

Published: 7 September 2023
ISBN: 978-1911648536
Front cover photo: © Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin
Cover design: © Rodrigo Corral and Luke Bird
Author photo: © Sly Morikawa
Dimensions: Demy format paperback with flaps
Length: 272 pages

Publicist: Claire Maxwell at Read Media
Agent: Kate Johnson at Wolf Literary Services
Foreign rights: The Marsh Agency

About the author

Gina Rushton is an editor, reporter and author living and working on Gadigal land.

She is currently an editor at independent news and analysis website Crikey. She has worked as a journalist for a decade holding reporting or editing roles at Nine, Australian Associated Press, AAP FactCheck, The Australian and BuzzFeed News.

She has also been published in the Guardian, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, The Monthly, The West Australian, Business Insider Australia, O&G Magazine and The Saturday Paper.

The Parenthood Dilemma

The question arrived as a sudden and unbearable cramp.

In January 2019, I found myself curled up in my boyfriend’s bathroom, clawing at the tiles. I wanted to take a taxi to the hospital but the heavy pain in my abdomen had fastened me to the floor, so he called an ambulance. An internal ultrasound revealed that I was bleeding out of my uterus and into my pelvic cavity. I needed emergency surgery. I was handed a piece of paper to sign, giving the surgeon permission to remove an ovary and to show I was aware that they might potentially puncture other organs on the way in. The doctor told me that my left ovary was ‘dead’ after twisting and cutting off its own blood supply. I would go into surgery immediately because if the dead tissue was left inside me, it could cause blood poisoning. This operation would affect my fertility, but we could discuss that once the ovary was out.

You don’t have to write about reproductive health for a living, as I have, to know that halving the number of sites from which an egg can be produced might affect your ability to conceive.

The doctor left, drawing the curtain behind her. I turned away from my boyfriend, wanting to privately assess the feeling rising inside me. I was humiliated by the tears spilling onto the white hospital gown, betraying a secret vacillation, a pathetic flinching in the face of an operation that shouldn’t faze a woman who had decided a decade earlier that she did not want to be a mother.

‘I don’t want kids, you know I don’t want kids,’ I told him. I did not know why I was so upset, I explained. ‘It’s probably just the morphine,’ I offered.

I called my mum just before the operation and repeated, ‘I don’t want kids, you know I don’t want kids.’ ‘I know,’ she said, an unfamiliar softness in her voice that I thought about afterwards.

In my mission to reject the most rudimentary of patriarchal mythologies – that if you have the physical potential for moth- erhood, it should, as Adrienne Rich scoffs in Of Woman Born, be your ‘single destiny and justification in life’ – I had internalized an unfortunate tendency of the kind of feminism I was raised on. I became a woman with a preference, in this case not to be a parent, which was meant to be purely and unequivocally empowering simply because it was mine. In fact, I felt small and disoriented. In the end, a surgeon found that a large cyst had burst on my ovary, but that the ovary was alive. They did however find endometriosis, a condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside it. It can, and probably will, have an impact on my fertility. Just as I thought I might need longer to choose, I am accepting that I might have even less time than the average thirty-year-old woman. I am reckoning with the cost of ambiva- lence, the calculations involved when your wish for something, anything – a life centred on work, the possibility of a family, an abstraction of community – comes only in flashes and there is no hunger that lasts long enough to try satiating it.

I don’t have loud enough answers for the questions I have barely whispered. My long-standing internal retort has been dismissive, uncoupled from any strong desire and defensively vague – even if I was mother material, I would not volunteer for a position so chronically devalued; and besides, the planet is dying of heat- stroke. This sweeping verdict that the world is no place for another child and that I am not supposed to be a parent at least needs an appendix if it is to be my final adjudication. The diagnosis has turned a sand timer inside me. I am at the page to decide whether I want to have children. I am here to investigate and interview. I am here to read, to reflect and to write. My life is organized by deadlines, but only my body knows the true date of this one, so I want to make my decision before it arrives.

Gina Rushton for The i, 9 September 2023: I’m 31 and undecided about kids: why my generation is paralysed by the parenthood question

Eloise Hendy for Stylist Magazine, 7 September 2023: Are you being priced out of motherhood?

Amil Niazi for The Cut, 31 August 2023: Having a kid at the end of the world

Natalie Salvo for The AU Review, 25 August 2022:  The Most Important Job In The World shows that parenting really can be a giant motherload!

Harper’s Bazaar Australia – syndicated to Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, 20 July 2022: When is the right time to freeze your eggs?

RNZ, 4 May 2022:The question around having children: a nine month long study!

Kelly Dennett for Stuff NZ, 8 May 2022: The case for not having kids: Why women are putting the conversation on ice

Sharon Green for She Defined, 29 April 2022:  Interview: Gina Rushton on writing The Most Important Job in the World

Hilary Harper on ABC, 18th April 2022: Nature and grief, rethinking motherhood on Life Matters

Gina Rushton for Kill Your Darlings, 14 April 2022: Show Your Working: Gina Rushton

Donna Lu for The Guardian, 9 April 2022: As a science journalist I’m reconsidering having kids. I’m not the only one

ABC, 8 April 2022: Panel on The Drum with Ellen Fanning

Alex Bruce-Smith for Elle, 8 April 2022: The Millennial Anxiety Of Having Kids In A Climate Crisi

Booktopia, 7 April 2022: Ten Terrifying Questions

Donna Lu for The Guardian, 1 April 2022:The best Australian books out in April

Gina Rushton for Body + Soul, 30 March 2022Why the question ‘do you want kids’ tears women open like nothing else

Gina Rushton for Junkee, 29 March 2022: Extract: Why Would Anyone Want To Have Kids When It Feels Like The World Is Ending? 

Jackie Tang for Readings (ANZ), 28 March 2022: Review

Gina Rushton for Sydney Morning Herald, 27 March 2022: What comes after guilt when family planning in a climate crisis? Anger.

Rebecca Whitehead for Books + Publishing, 22 February 2022: Review

Melanie Kembrey for Sydney Morning Herald, 31 December 2021: The most anticipated books of 2022

Melody Tan for Mums at the Table: Review: The easiest—and hardest—decision 

ANZ edition

US edition

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