Apple and Facebook announced that the companies will pay for female employees to freeze their eggs. It’s a great company policy.
For one thing, it’s acknowledgment that the gap between women and men in the workplace is that women’s careers are controlled by their biological clock and men’s are not. Another thing this new policy does is it gives women more reproductive choices. Similar to the pill, really.
So it should be no surprise that like the pill, egg freezing faces widespread wariness. As if perfectly timed for the news, Jonathan Eig just published a book titled, The Birth of the Pill. When the pill emerged, it spawned a whole industry of people saying that women should not have reproductive choices because women would make bad choices. (Sluts! Hussies! Adultery!) Today, people are worried women will wait too long or women have bad priorities. (And of course there’s great commentary from The Onion as well.)
I don’t see how anyone can complain about women getting more reproductive choices and companies paying for it. Paying for egg freezing seems very similar to me to paying for kids to come eat dinner at the office. Both programs strive to keep people at work, putting career before family. There have been programs in place for a long time to keep men from going home to kids. So why is it surprising that now there are programs tailored to keep women from going home to kids?
Look, if you really want to spend time with your kids then you can just decline to take advantage of the programs. And if you’re so upset that parents in Silicon Valley are never home, well, at least you can console yourself with the fact that slews of those same parents are homeschooling their kids and most of you are not, so different kids get different benefits from their surroundings.
So this all begs the question: Who should take advantage of the new policy of corporate-sponsored egg freezing?
Do you ever wish on a star? I do. I think about what is the most important thing to me. I never cheat—I don’t wish for ten wishes. And I don’t use conjunctions to string wishes together. I don’t wish for superpowers or anything I think would be unachievable, pie-in-the-sky.
If you try this, you will end up figuring out, each night, what is most important in your life. I discovered that I want to see my kids grow up and find their own paths. I want to see how they turn out. More than anything.
This should not surprise me because when I was at the World Trade Center, and it fell, and I couldn’t see and couldn’t breathe, time slowed down. To the point of almost stopping. What I now know to be only about one minute feels, in my memory, like five or ten minutes. I stood still and thought: This is it it. Now I will die. And I was had a sort of peaceful feeling. I thought: I have heard asphyxiation is very painful. I hope this is not painful. Then I thought: I was so looking forward to watching my life unfold. I’m so disappointed to not see my brothers grow into adults. I’m so disappointed to not watch my marriage unfold into a family.
That’s all: disappointment about not getting to watch family grow and make choices.
I had a big career. I never felt sad that I would not do any more of my big job.
We don’t know the meaning of life, but we know that relationships matter more than anything, and watching them unfold is the most enjoyable part of life: Watching people make decisions and be themselves and connect themselves to us. This is all what life is about.
Here are bad reasons to freeze your eggs:
1. You want more time to find a career
Look, if you don’t have a career by age 30 you probably don’t really want to have one. People who love working and are fulfilled by working find something that suits them by the time they are 30 because they work on finding it all through their 20s. People who travel, do art projects, go to mental wards, move in with questionable significant others—these are people who are fulfilled by other things besides work. They should just admit it and not keep asking for more time to be something they are not. They are only putting their real lives on hold to live out the life they wish they needed.
2. You want to get more done in your current career
There is no time when you can have a baby and it won’t ruin your work life. And there is no time when women who have stellar careers are excited about putting the career in the tanker to have a baby. It’s discouraging, of course, to have to slow down a steep upward slope because of a biological clock. But the timing only gets worse as you get further and further into your career. If you are not willing to interrupt your career before you’re 35, why would you interrupt your career after 35?
3. You might want babies in the future
We don’t get a lot of guarantees in life. We don’t get promises about having enough money, or marrying someone honest, but we do get to make choices. So we need to make them. The world divides between people who like to make decisions and people who don’t like to make decisions (Find out which type you are here).
The people who don’t like commitment are the ones most likely to put off having a baby. But ironically, those are the same types of people who don’t generally need to protect their career carefully. Careers of fluid thinkers who don’t like closure are not generally huge or linear, which means that taking time off for kids will not derail the career. And this means that there is no reason to put off having kids. It’s just a ploy to put off making the decision, but making decisions is what defines our lives.
4. You don’t have a partner
Women do not have partners by age 30 because they don’t make finding a partner a priority. It’s not a mystery how people find partners: they look. Consistently. With focus. It’s difficult to meet your match in adult life. No one gets a good career without focus, and drive, and making decisions based on incomplete information. And the same is true for a spouse: you can’t get a spouse unless you use focus and drive and make decisions on incomplete information.
I read advice from marriage counselor Kelly Flanagan that really crystalized for me why we have life partners.
To be alive is to be lonely. It’s the human condition. Marriage doesn’t change the human condition. It can’t make us completely unlonely. And when it doesn’t, we blame our partner for doing something wrong, or we go searching for companionship elsewhere. Marriage is intended to be a place where two humans share the experience of loneliness and, in the sharing, create moments in which the loneliness dissipates. For a little while.
Most people are partnered-up by their 30s which makes plain the loneliness people in their 30s feel without a partner. So avoid that—focus on finding a partner, and focus before age 30 instead of after, and you’ll open more opportunities for yourself.
So who should freeze their eggs?
Probably no one. It just delays the inevitable. You will disrupt your career, you will hate the transition to parenthood, you will feel out of control, and you will have the brunt of household care. You will never have enough money for your kids because no one does. And you will never have enough time for them, either. Freezing eggs doesn’t make any of that better.
But having a baby by the time you’re 35 means you’ll get to see the child in adult life. And I can tell you with assurance that for me, that’s a huge part of why being alive feels so exciting and full of promise. I want to see how my kids’ lives unfold.
Freezing eggs does not change one thing in your life. It just delays it.
The whole truth is that while I don’t see a huge benefit to freezing eggs, I also don’t see a huge benefit to people with kids eating free dinners at their workplace. Our first job is family and our second job is work, but kids can’t speak up like your workplace can. So you have to be a balanced voice for both.