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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Quit work have babies

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.


Elizabeth said...

Hi, I got here through 360 degrees.

As a person who is nearing 30, I can tell you, there is no win. If I drop my career now, I will make it more difficult for women to climb the ladder in the future. If I don't, biology gets me. If I hadn't got this far, I would not be able to re-enter the workforce or do much at all.

Did you see Maureen Dowd's article about this in the New York Times?

Andrea said...

Scaremongering is exactly what it is. Forty years ago, it was common for women to have babies in their thirties and up to their forties. It's bullshit.

The only way to get round the 'irresponsibility' of having kids too young, and the 'irresponsibility' of ignoring the 'urgency to conceive' is to marry a much older man extremely young, and start popping them out asap. Which of couse suits the patriarchy down to the ground.

TP said...

Hi Elizabeth, thanks for visiting and thanks for the comment.

I have tried to find Maureen Dowd's article on the NYT website, but I think I need to pay to read it!

Your situation sounds so similar to the one of the 'client' I was speaking to last night. If she takes a break now she's going to loose so much ground in her career and probably miss out on a promotion she deserves.

The fact that if you don't get in to the work force in the first place you're stuck is something I've been thinking about too; especially in terms of marriage and if the partnership breaks down. Without any prior work experience, is the woman going to be left at the bottom of the wage scale or unable to find a job to support a family under sudden and increasing financial strain?

It's such a minefield.