To spawn or not to spawn

June 17th, 2007

ozzy-newborn.jpgI’m guessing many of you saw this MSNBC article on how women and men who delay breeding (a) because they want to focus on career, etc. first, and (b) because they see fertility technologies as a sort of impregnation fallback, may find themselves getting bitten in the womb when they decide they’re ready for parenthood.

Now before you get your panties in a twist, let me say that the focus of the article was not on pitting mothers against non-moms, or employed moms against stay-at-home moms (thank god). Nor was it on commanding all able-bodied women to squeeze out a litter as soon as humanly possible. The focus of the article was on how many would-be parents who put off breeding till their late thirties and beyond find that, even if they can afford the costly fertilization hacks, the odds are often stacked against them.

As someone in her late thirties, I’ve given the baby thing a lot of thought lately. I have friends my age who are trying to conceive, and it has not been anything close to a cakewalk for them. I have a guy in my life that I feel deeply committed to, and I feel like we need to get square on where we stand on the conception thing, given that the window of biological opportunity is rapidly slamming shut. And in case you’re wondering, my mom-o-meter is currently on pause, which is pretty much where it’s been for as long as I can remember.

Given the above, I initially came away from the MSNBC article thinking, “Hmmm… so… if by the time I’m 40 I’ll only have a 5 percent chance of getting knocked up, I wonder if I can stop using birth control…” To which my far more practical, mathematical boyfriend replied, “That’s still a 1 in 20 chance of getting pregnant.”

After I stopped gazing at my bumpless navel (and purchased another case of condoms), I started to think how sad it was that career and motherhood have become so either-or for so many women in this society. How many women would have a kid sooner if more companies would make it easier for them to do so without career or financial penalty? And by “easier,” I of course mean offering flex and part-time schedules, as well as the same wages and advancement opportunities as their non-mom counterparts. I’ll try to dig up some stats on the number of women who say they postponed motherhood because they didn’t want to sacrifice career. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think on all this.

Entry Filed under: Balance,Working moms

14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Liene  |  June 17th, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    I have been thinking a lot about this recently. In fact, this is one of the reasons I launched out with my own company – so that when I am ready to start a family (whenever that is, my mom-o-meter is also on pause) I will have the flexibility and resources to devote the kind of time to them that I want to.

  • 2. stella  |  June 18th, 2007 at 10:07 am

    my husband and i have had this conversation many times. i am of the belief that because so many of our generation pursued our careers instead of getting married, settling down and starting a family…by the time we do get to that place…we are so used to double income lifestyles, that having children presents this huge dilemma.

    i think a lot of women feel they have no choice other than to go back to work because they can’t phathom cutting back on their expenses, as a family.

    i want to work, but don’t want to HAVE to work full time for us to pay our bills…and so my husand and I have had to make the choice (pre having babies) that we never live beyond a certain income, attainable by one person. that way, any additional money we can make from part time opportunities would be savings.

    sounds great in theory. much harder in practice. but living with LESS, makes it much easier to feel like you can really enjoy and be available for parenting.

    ive wanted to blog about this, but worry id get those working moms riled up. i just think if you took an honest look at how people spend their money, you would see the raising a family shouldn’t be the challenge it seems for our generation.

    of course i speak with no experience. ha! i can only hope we can continue to be as disciplined with our money…

  • 3. stella  |  June 18th, 2007 at 10:14 am

    oh and…

    i think if this whole tele-working thing would catch on, as i think it should…it would make a HUGE difference…in helping us all blend work and family.

    there is NO REASON why we shouldn’t all be teleworking. we have the technology, and TONS of studies have proven it to increase productivity. its a win win. AND could greatly impact the environment…with less having to commute. hello!

  • 4. Anne  |  June 18th, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    I do think more women would have children sooner if the corporate world would play along, but the big companies like to take the energy from the twenty-somethings that nature possibly intended for them to have to raise children. Either evolution of the human conception and birth process has to catch up to our culture or our culture has to adapt to letting nature take its course on these matters – the latter option would probably take a few less millennia.

  • 5. jobmom/crazedparent  |  June 19th, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    hi michelle, i posted my thoughts on this at jobmom:

    great topic.

  • 6. Michelle Goodman  |  June 19th, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    charlene and company, thanks for weighing in on this. great comments! i obviously can’t speak from the mom side of thing, so it’s great to hear all your thoughts. feel free to keep ‘em coming, people…

    also, i agree people should have the option to telecommute if our jobs are conducive to it. call me an idealist…! as for the low environmental impact of flex work, GREAT point, stella. do you know that i’ve had the same car since 1989? it only has 150K miles on it because i’ve commuted in it about three of the past 18 years. (!)

  • 7. caroline  |  June 23rd, 2007 at 10:38 am

    I predict this to be THE women’s issue in the next decade. We’re the first generation to be raised in a mainstream acceptance of women “having it all”, and I really think it has backfired. Women are fighting amongst each other, stay-at-home moms judging working moms, working moms judging stay-at-home moms…we’re creating a needless war that will continue to keep us down. Flex hours, stay-at-home moms helping working moms without judgment, working moms helping stay-at-home moms with resources they have in the workplace..the options are endless, but women (and mainstream media) have made it totally black and white for us. Women are the only ones who’ll be able to change it. Until that happens, we’ll be forced to make hard choices where someone has to “suffer” (ie. waiting to have kids, not having kids at all, feeling guilty about not working hard enough or leaving early to tend to children, losing essential income by staying at home, etc). It’s incredibly frustrating.

  • 8. Melissa  |  July 2nd, 2007 at 11:16 am

    I am a working mom of a one-year old daughter. I’m 36 now, and I would like to have another child, so I’m sort of in the same boat (my mom-o-meter is paused for the moment, but likely to be reinstated in a year or so).

    I like working, but do find that it’s difficult. I was directed to this website because I’d like to start a career as a freelance writer – I think ‘owning’ my working hours would help tremendously.

    One other thing in my experience of having kids later in life (it wasn’t reall put off deliberately – my husband and I didn’t get married until we were 31): Beyond the fertility issues is all the genetic ‘stuff’ – how you get to hear how much more likely genetic problems occur with older moms. I never worried about it that much – thinking, “There are people WAY older than me having kids. People do it all the time now!” But then when YOU are the one sitting there in the hospital gown at the doctor’s office discussing it, you feel very vulnerable.

    Anyway, I too wish that ‘corporate America’ would get a clue and make it easier for people to have kids when they want to – without feeling like there’s always something else to do or achieve first.

  • 9. Crafty Green Poet  |  July 6th, 2007 at 3:15 am

    I’ve never wanted children and even at 40 don’t expect I ever will. I htink that more women who are undecided about having children would have them earlier if their work place made it easier but other considerations are that a lot of people meet their lifetime partners later in life now than they used to do and that more people seem to have less structured or secure carreers than they used to. Personally I think if you want children you should aim for number 1 by 30 and number 2 by 35 but there’s so much going against that these days.

  • 10. Cynthia  |  July 11th, 2007 at 11:06 am

    I am 39, I feel so lucky that after going down the fertility road, I have a two year old, and a 9 month old. That being said, I completely walked away from a career in finance to raise my babies. It has been extremely hard to go from a 6 figure salary to no income. I hate feeling like I have to ask my husband whenever I need some cash. I have been financially independant for the last 20 years. What I need now is something I can do for me. Some kind of work from home situation so I am earning again. It isn’t about needing the income as much as feeling like I have monetary worth. I have lost single friends who have treated me like I am sitting at home watching the view and napping while they are out working. Let me say, full time mom to two babies is harder than trading stocks ever was. I feel like I am rambling…any thoughts???

  • 11. Michelle Goodman  |  July 11th, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    Hey Cynthia, can you parlay your experience/knowledge in the financial sector into a part-time freelance or consulting career? If you were a financial planner, marketing whiz, or executive assistant in your former 9-5 life, perhaps you can take on a couple of freelance clients, just to get a little pocket money and to boost your esteem. Start by asking the people you used to work with if they need to outsource any work. Then tell everyone you know that you’re available to do whatever it is you do best. Etc.

  • 12. Moose  |  July 16th, 2007 at 7:03 am

    We’re planning to have our first baby in the next year (I’m 29). I was the associate editor of a small regional magazine for five years and just took the freelance plunge. If my boyfriend wasn’t older and so keen on having kids NOW, I would wait until I had a better hold on my career. I’m somewhat terrified of spending the next six months building up a decent freelance roster and then having to drop half or all of them when a baby makes its squalling appearance. I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this question, you just make it work. With a crowbar and duct tape, if necessary.

  • 13. Child-free by choice  |  July 16th, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    You stated that companies could make things easier by “offering flex and part-time schedules, as well as the same wages and advancement opportunities as their non-mom counterparts.” It would help if working-mothers would contribute work-wise as much as the non-mom counterparts. I have personal experience of at least 10 such w-m’s who slacked off once they returned from maternity leave. All to often I personally and so many other of my co-workers both male and female have had to put in extra time and effort to cover for them. When asked to contribute more to the team they used the baby as an excuse. When confronted about their lack of performance they start yelling discrimination.

    I’m sure there are a lot of truly professional working-mothers out there but I have yet to actually meet one. Better still I would actually like to work, really work, with one. In my 30 years of being employed, I never have.

    Why does it have to be “build a career, then start a family”? Why not the other way around? The argument has been that companies will favor the younger employee. But isn’t that just another opportunity to change the attitudes about age? Then both sexes whether with or without kids would benefit.

  • 14. The Anti 9-to-5 Guide &ra&hellip  |  September 24th, 2007 at 5:46 am

    [...] Q: I read that you’ve given the baby thing a lot of thought lately. How would motherhood restrict your finances? Your career? [...]

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Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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