Recent scaremongering news reports claim women are putting off having kids until they are old (the horror!) and this delay is making it more difficult for them to conceive. This makes them very bad and selfish, or so news reports claim. (Thanks to Gendergeek for the links)
I have not really experienced the direct effect such reports have on women. Until yesterday that is, when during role play in my counselling class my ‘client’ spoke about her ongoing decision making process regarding starting a family, juggling her particularly stressful, competitive and male dominated career and her progressing age. Recent news items and events in her life had brought all her concerns to the front of her mind.
Her particular worry was based on the ‘if you are too old you won’t be able to conceive and you will have terrible trouble and complications’ message in the recent news. She has a career planned out, she knows she had the smarts and ability to be successful, but her occupation and particular work place require total dedication to career, and have a less than favourable maternity leave set up.
The feminist in me fought against the (trainee) counsellor in me during our talk. Counsellors should not advise or pass judgement, nor should they steer the conversation to their own ends – but I wanted to tell her it was a crock. Instead I tried to help her think about the future, what she wants, how she could achieve it and not loose out. I encouraged her to look at the facts behind the scaremongering.
I was thinking about the strange double standard in our society regarding women and childrearing on the way home after my class. On the one hand working women are under pressure to put their career on hold (or abandon it altogether) to have babies, quick!, before it’s to late.
On the other, women having babies ‘too early’ are equally pressured, they have made mistakes that will ruin their lives, they are unfit, they are irresponsible!
Now or later, it would seem we cannot win.