Friday, January 18, 2008

New thoughts on delayed motherhood

Allison Pearson wrote an article on the Daily Mail (UK) titled "I've come to my senses over delayed motherhood." It has some great perspective on this topic and really resonates with me, echoing my concern about "who is going to talk to our daughters about delaying motherhood?"

In her article she states:
The other day I was sitting with my friend Nicky watching our ten-year-old girls play together when my daughter announced: "Mum, I'm not going to have babies till I'm old. Like 23 or something." Nicky and I laughed. And somewhere in the back of my mind was the speech I knew I should be making to my daughter.

The one about how important it is that a girl has a good education, then gets a job that will fulfill her potential and give her financial independence. Once she's established, well, maybe then she can start thinking about children.

It's a creed I have lived my life by, but now the time had come to pass it on to my own child I just couldn't. Because I don't quite believe it any more.

She goes on to say:
Our jobs ate us up, but we were so hungry to do well that we didn't care if we were stressed and miserable. Then, when we hit our mid-30s, we dialled up our babies like a takeaway. And, yes, they came and were lovely beyond imagining, but it turned out we were the lucky ones. So many friends and colleagues tried to do the same thing and their bodies didn't deliver. The best-educated generation of women in history had forgotten to read the small print about human fertility. They waited until the time was right, only to find that time had run out.

Allison makes a great point here:
If I could have one wish for my daughter it would be that she should feel she has permission to jump off the merry-go-round of work when her body asks her to. And that she should be confident there will be a space for her when and if it's time to get back on again.

I actually believe that time is here. Why don't women believe this for themselves? This issue of success at work seems to be at the crux of women's fears - but is that really it? We women have become so rabid about making it in the working world, I wonder if it is really about success at work, or is it that we are trying so hard to compete with men on their definitions of success (hunter) that we have lost our own definition (nurturer) and perspective on life?

Or is this a societal change - that after hundreds of thousands of years, women can no longer rely on a man to care for them and their family? There is no hunter/gatherer environment anymore. We no longer need a large family to work the land for our survival. Economics and the standard of living have changed the game so much that one person's income can no longer support a family of 3+. The traditional family unit has decayed to the point that it is easy to argue that there is no traditional family unit anymore. We may not be "politically correct" if we do not broaden the definition to include double-income-no-kids (DINKS), single-income-no-kids (SINKS), single mother head of household, gay marriages, kids with two gay parents, etc. And, alas, it seems there is no going back either. Society has changed irreparably, and delayed motherhood is just another indicator of how whacked we have become.

Finally, Allison puts it all into perspective:
Fear there is no going back keeps so many women from making babies. But without the love of children there is no going forward.

No comments: