The message that women’s fertility halves when they turn 35 is still widely circulated, but for women in the music industry - it rings even louder.
In the first lines of her song ‘Fear Of Missing Out’, Australian musician Ainslie Wills articulates the fear that follows some women in their thirties.
“I'll have a drink for you,
You're gonna be a mother soon,
I'm so happy for you,
I just thought I might be next in line.”
“Of course as you get older you start thinking everyone my age is having their second kid, they’re married, they have their life sorted out,” 36-year-old Wills told The Feed.
“You start thinking, ‘I should be in that category too’”.
For decades women have been told that once they hit the age of 35 any chance of them conceiving naturally dramatically decreases.
Wills says, for women trying to grab a foothold in the restrictive and relatively small Australian music industry this ‘ticking clock’ message is amplified.
“A lot of people think that motherhood and the music industry don’t go together, you have to choose one,” she says.
“I’ve gotten to the point where my music is a sustainable business but it’s incredibly hard work, balancing that with becoming a mother seems almost inconceivable.”
“Would I follow suit,
Try to be a mother soon,
I'm under pressure from the ticking clock.”
“Sometimes I cringe at that line because it’s such a cliche thing to say but it’s such a universally felt experience,” says Wills.
It’s confronting to think that it’s a real thing, your biological clock is ticking and there in an end point. It’s something that men don’t need to think about.
Wills has been making music for over a decade, releasing an EP and two full length albums, but motherhood has been in her eyesight for much longer than that.
“From an early age I always knew that having kids would be part of my story, before I even started music,” she says.
However, the emotional and physical toll that comes with making a name in music meant that any dreams of children were forced to take a backseat.
“I’ve kind of had to drop the expectation, in a sense that to plan is to create pressure.”
An investigation by The Feed revealed that three of Australia’s most prominent IVF companies are pushing the message that the fertility is cut in half by the time they turn 36.
However, the “over-35” rule has significantly challenged in recent years, with recent studies showing that 82 per cent women over 35 conceived naturally. That's slightly less than the 86 per cent of women from 27 to 34 years old.
Yet, the stigma still remains.
“Everybody's missing out,
So why do I feel like I'm missing out?”
Wills confesses that often musicians who attempt to juggle motherhood with a career in the industry are penalised for it.
“A lot of people think that motherhood and the music industry don’t go together, you have to choose one. It’s that catch-22 that you don’t want to be defined as a singer-songwriter/mother,” Wills says.
“But there are female musicians doing that and having both but it needs to be seen more and it needs to be talked about more.”
Discussion is the key to change, according to Wills, and anything that her music can do to encourage those conversations she’s proud of.
“People often see music as a hedonistic thing where in fact, there’s a part in me that has a calling to do so. Hopefully the songs have an impact and when they do that impact is immeasurable.”