Eggs that is. Perhaps you have heard about the new perk you get as a woman working at Apple or Facebook. No more do you need to worry about pesky things like biology or nature, these have been concurred. Having children while also working or building your career is no longer something you have to think about balancing because these enlightened companies will pay for you to freeze your eggs so that you can choose a more convenient time of life for reproduction. If you retire at 72 after spending fifty years working 60+ hour weeks that should give you plenty of time to have a couple of kids who will be just old enough to take care of you as you die. Perfect!
But seriously folks – this is the solution to the challenges faced by woman (and men) who are trying to raise a family and build a career. Why not the other way around and let nature take its course; you know have kids in your twenties and then start your career in your late thirties or early forties? Oh that’s right, because we don’t like to hire older workers in technology, we don’t think they have anything to contribute because they’re old. Too old to be valuable as workers but not too old to go have kids – wait what?
There is a lot I could say here. We could talk more about biology and about the hubris of man and science. There was an apropos quote in something I read by Rabbi David Segal today: “Technology is supposed to be our tool, not our ruler.” We could talk about that, about how instead of using this technology to help people who have to protect their future we are redefining our priorities and family structure because of it. We could talk about the simple arrogance of suggesting that parenting and successfully working are mutually exclusive. But instead of all of this, and it is rich, we could talk a long time about all of these things instead I want to talk about the children, because the children don’t seem to have anyone speaking for them.
Today you feel young and healthy and vibrant because you are, maybe. But think about your child when they are newly graduated from college and you are in your mid-sixties or mid-seventies. You are not done parenting when they are “grown-up.” And they are not ready to have to juggle starting their life while helping an aging parent. And what about the generations after them? Will you be able to play with your grandchild in the park, will you help your child with babysitting so they can get out for a night, or take a nap, or focus on their career? There is no perfect age to be a parent, but there are certainly lessons we can take from nature, and nature is pretty much screaming as loud as she can that babies are a thing for your twenties. Yes we have outsmarted nature, bully for us. Maybe Google will find a way to make us vibrant and young until we are 95, I know they are busy working on it. But are we really sure that is the only way. Could we maybe try restructuring work expectation to respect family life, to respect life outside the office whatever your choice about parenting instead? You know, offer things like flexible work schedules, part-time jobs, split shifts. Imagine the creativity people with interests and pursuits outside of the office could bring to their work. Imagine the energy and enthusiasm they might have if they have something other than the big boss man to be working for. That seems like it would be a hell of a lot better for everyone involved.
I had my daughter when I was 23, I was a college graduate, I was married and it was the summer before my third year of law school. When I graduated I had a part-time job working in a law firm, something that nearly everyone I spoke to told me was an impossibility. You could not be a lawyer part-time. Apparently they were wrong. I was 26 when my son was born. Having two young children was harder for sure, also my husband had a long commute so I stopped working. That would derail my career forever according to the experts. You can check me out on linkedin, but apparently they were wrong again. This is all anecdotal of course, and what worked for me won’t work for everyone. But if we as employers as willing to respect something other than total dedication 24 hours a day, if we can truly value employees as human beings with rich, varied and complex lives, then well we wouldn’t have to make such a cold, mean choice. And really, ask yourself for a moment, who wins with these new rules for living. Because I’m not too sure we should be playing this game!