It’s true, times have changed. However when we are talking about equality in terms of gender and in particular, women’s fertility, there is an abyss of inequality.
The world has made tremendous strides over the last century in terms of women’s and girl’s access to education, personal safety, economic gain and meaningful work. The expected life path for women and girls has expanded dramatically, reducing the gender gap in terms of education and finances. However in doing so have we have modelled our life expectations too closely on the trajectory of men’s, instead of advocating for the very real and necessary considerations of women’s bodies and women’s nature?
When a woman enters her late twenties / early thirties she begins to face a constant inquiry regarding her family and plans for her children. Men may also field some queries around their plans on “settling down” but with far less emphasis than is placed on their career.
Men don’t have conversations around freezing their sperm as a means to extend their fertility. They don’t face a fertility clock that not only ticks loudly within but is constantly reinforced by our friends, family and wider society.
If a woman in her thirties applies for a job, there is the “risk” that at some point in the near or far future she will take time out for maternity leave. If a man in his thirties applies for a job, he presents a much lower risk with dramatically less impact.
If a woman has a child and returns to work she will need to answer time and again, how does she balance the demands of her family with the demands of her job. How does she manage work / life balance? Men rarely, if ever, are asked how they achieve this balance.
The gender inequality regarding fertility is not talked about enough, for good reason. The misogynist would advocate for returning to the 1950s in terms of gendered roles. However now that women know what it is to have financial independence, access to education and the freedom to pursue their own valuable careers, this is as unlikely as it to find a partner who is willing to be the sole financial provider for the household forever more.
Having this conversation, however, is important.
Without it, the constant reminding of the realities of our natural fertility weighs heavily upon the shoulders of independent young women. Women who have been raised to believe they can be, do and have everything they put their mind and heart into. Women who are living their lives accordingly and do not wish to compromise their values and beliefs due to fear.
We cannot escape our biology, and whilst more women are having children later in life (over the age of 35) there is much suffering in silence that accompanies this. People do not openly share the difficulty of conception, of pregnancy, of childbirth and beyond. Every day, people are going through quiet heart ache and heart break in the area of fertility and infertility. It is not until you are walking this path yourself that the full truth of this is revealed.
Until that day, my message to young women who feel that having a family is important to them is to explore their options today. Explore what is important to you, what is essential, what is nice to have and what you can get started in creating today. Just as your amazing career, or a fabulous adventure begins with a decision, research and exploration, so too does your future family.
Holding out for someone else to arrive into your life before you start to create the circumstances for your family is an old fashioned notion that also belongs in the 1950s. Determine what it is that you want, what can you create yourself and start today.