In the Scramble to Have a Baby, Hands Off My Eggs!

Woman at doctorWhen my husband and I were deciding when to start our family, our decision had as much to do with our ages at the time as it did with how old we would be when the kids flew the coop and went to college.

You see, for all the teary-eyed anticipation we had for the pitter-patter of little feet, we remained wide-eyed for what life would be like post kids, i.e. retirement. My husband and I like each other. We have a great time together and are just as compatible as travel partners as we are life partners. We wanted to make sure we had plenty of time in good health and youth to travel the world after our house was paid off and careers had amassed the expected dividends.

I was 30 when I had my first daughter. I had plenty of time left on my biological clock, but having a baby stopped the clock on my career. Despite my best efforts to demonstrate to my employer that I would produce the same amount and quality of work as I did pre-baby, I was penalized for having a child. While on maternity leave, I was awarded a National Edward R. Murrow Award and regional Emmy Award for pieces I’d produced, but when I returned to work I was told they had a problem with my writing. They moved me to weekends and had me writing brainless 20-second news pieces that a college intern could turn out.

If I sound bitter – I still am, when I let myself dwell on it. (By the way, at the time I was the eighth woman my company had pushed out post-baby.) So when I heard of Apple and Facebook making the “generous” offer to cover at least part of the cost for their female employees to freeze their eggs, I sat gaping at my computer. On the surface, it sounds like a nice offer – a token effort to level the playing field for men and women. But I believe it’s nothing more than a Band-Aid. Increasingly, society’s answer to the glass ceiling women face is to encourage them to postpone becoming a mother.

And it’s working. The average age for women to have their first child is 25. It was 21 in 1970. Some women are passing on children all together. The U.S. birth rate has been declining since 2007.

Supplementing the cost of freezing a woman’s eggs is the easy way out. What we should be challenging ourselves to do is to create an environment where women can be successful as mothers and workers. That involves job flexibility and greater access to childcare in terms of affordability and proximity.

That being said, I respect that for some women, postponing motherhood is the best option, and for others choosing to not have a baby at all is the best choice. I’m not one of those who believes true happiness can only come from the womb. Sometimes I look at my friends who don’t have children with envy. Then I look at my daughters, and I hope and pray that the balance of work and life becomes easier for them than it is for me. I don’t want them to have to choose between a high profile career and motherhood. And for the record, leaving my “dream job” was the BEST thing I ever did.




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