Two days ago, I called my friend to cut a deal. I needed to make a partnership fast, and we have been doing business together for years. I knew she could push something through her company that would make me look good.

We ended up spending an hour on the phone, and she mentioned she was taking a four-week leave. I knew it was for fertility treatments. She couldn’t believe I knew. She had kept it a secret from everyone. She panicked that if I knew her whole office would know.

Here’s how I knew: Because women with high-powered jobs don’t take four weeks leave. You don’t get a high-powered career by going on leave. But at some point, even in a high-powered career, fertility issues start trumping career issues: When it’s four weeks off a big job, it’s fertility.

I have a lot of friends who went through fertility treatment. So I gave my friend the name of another friend who currently sports bruises all over her body from injections, and then I said, “Hey, I know you’re crying, but push my deal through before you go on leave.”

Let me tell you about my friend who did not wait to have kids—the friend who is genius girl, and great at planning, and a rock star at work, and is doing a startup while she has a young child. She is one step away from being hospitalized for exhaustion. Really. Her thyroid is breaking down from her relying too heavily on adrenaline.

Among my friends who are women, the majority have had fertility problems.

Every friend has a different story, but there is one theme that has dominated every friend’s trials and tribulations: A lack of control. We can control so much of our lives today. And women who are in high-powered careers are usually the best at controlling their lives.

It’s a shock to find out that fertility is so hard to control because it’s so important. So it’s no surprise that there’s an industry developing that helps women control their fertility.

Please, please do not read the rest of this post thinking that holding off getting pregnant til your mid thirties is a good idea. Statistically it is a very bad idea if it’s important to you to carry your own child. There is no science magic that makes a mid-life pregnancy a low-risk endeavor, but here are three things you can do in your twenties and early thirties to decrease the risk of a high-risk pregnancy.

1. Get a husband. I know, this is not popular advice, but it’s practical advice. A husband is like a career. If you are not looking for one, you’re not likely to find one. If it’s not a high priority goal, it’s probably not a goal you will meet. So if you want to make sure you’re making babies with your own healthy eggs, think of your twenties as the time to find a mate.

2. Freeze your eggs. If you don’t want to exert control over your life by finding a husband, how about using control over your life to save some good eggs? The Wall Street Journal reports that even though it’s not actually proven technology, women are signing up in droves. The treatment is expensive—up to $14,000—but often that’s peanuts to women who will spend their most fertile years climbing corporate ladders.

3. Test your eggs for premature aging. Yep. That’s right. Eggs age differently in different women. And the aging process could get faster or slower relative to the general population. This means that while most women need to start having babies before age 35 to manage risk well, some women need to start earlier.

If you want to know if your eggs are aging fast, go to Repromedix to find out if you can be part of the company’s limited rollout of a new test for eggs. The results combine the magic formula of your age, your eggs, and the amount you have of two specific hormones in order to come up with your age in fertility years.

When I was 30 I did not have a boyfriend. I hired a dating service for 10K, (which at the time was the best way to deal with my ticking clock) and the guys who were coming up were great investors for my company and lousy husband prospects. (Except for the Calvin Klein model. He was not a good husband or a good investor. He was totally ridiculous.) At that point, I was making a ton of money, and I could have afforded a lot of this stuff. If I had known about it, I would have done it.

If you have the money, and you don’t have ethical problems with it, maybe you should do it. You never know where you will fall in the fertility lottery: Hedge your bets the best you can.

99 replies
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  1. kristi
    kristi says:

    “what a crock of crap. go talk to women that grew up with their children in their early twenties, put their lives on hold for their kids..or gosh teen mothers perhaps..or how about women that rushed into a marriage just to have children and found out too late that it wasn't all it was cracked up to be cuz..that's right..they RUSHED.”

    Teen pregnancy? Not relevant to this conversation.

    There is not a mother alive who didn’t put her life on hold to have a child, biological or otherwise. It’s a PRE-REQUISITE to becoming a MOTHER.

    You say you could not “freakin imagine” having a kid in your 20s, huh? No surprise. Don’t have one, OK?
    And when you grow up, and you choose a mate who is in your same age group, since you wouldn’t want to burden a 20-something woman with a kid, you will need that ridiculous salary to pay for all the fertility treatments-slash-adoption procedures. Hope you enjoy small rooms and little plastic cups.

  2. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:


    I cannot help but contribute another link on the science bit of fertility treatment and this one relates to the impact of weight on women’s ability to conceive. The statistics on weight in the US are fairly well-known so I am not saying anything new except there are issues that need airing for a fair and balanced view on the science of fertility treatment at a late age:

    PS: The more people call you ‘offensive’ and other names, the more I think that this touched a raw nerve! The biology says what you are saying – have kids early; but the science that you are suggesting people consider is not accurate, foolproof nor universally afforable.

    This is definitely my last comment on this post :-)

  3. robin
    robin says:

    If it is any comfort to anyone. I did marry at 26. Had my children at age 31, 34 and 40 with no “help”. I did work the whole time. Not a “mega career” but I can still have one is I want to. I have been happily married for 22 years. I would never have wanted to “wait” to get married. Sharing the journey is fun! It all depends on you and your mate and what kind of attitude and expectations you have. Together you can create the life you want.

  4. Shannon
    Shannon says:

    This article touched a nerve because it highly simplifies what is a very complex issue for women and then offers some very pat and, I think, potentially harmful advice.

    Yes, Penelope is quoting statistics and trying to inform women of reality, but it is important to understand that a statistical probability does not mean that “most women” will have trouble conceiving after age 35. It just means that there is an increased likelihood that goes up as you get older. Sure, it should factor into your decision when to have kids, but I don’t think it should be the sole reasoning behind your decision.

    Since Penelope is so fond of quoting statistical studies and drawing conclusions from them, I’d like to see a companion article about single mothers, who are statistically more likely to have financial and career problems than any other group. Compare that with the statistical probability of a marriage ending in divorce corresponding to the age of the woman when she married.

    The point is, you have to make the decisiion that’s right for you and your circumstances. Don’t rush into having kids out of fear of a ticking biological clock. Especially do not enter into a bad marriage just to have children. And do not look to children to provide happiness. The only person who is responsible for your happiness is you.

    Those who want the cold facts should consider this one: No one *needs* to have kids. But children do need stability, financial security and loving, committed parent(s) in order to grow up into well-adjusted, independent adults.

  5. funkright
    funkright says:

    “No one *needs* to have kids…?” well, that’s being a little simplistic and rather fatalistic.. someone better have them.. survival of the species type of thing.. The construct you mention is rather idealistic as well “children do need stability, financial security and loving, committed parent(s) in order to grow up into well-adjusted, independent adults…” many well-adjusted adults missed ‘many’ of those items… you doubt the resiliency of man (man meaning humankind).

  6. Madeleine
    Madeleine says:

    It’s hard to believe that this article excluded mention of ADOPTION! It’s a great way to make a family: requires (almost) no time restrictions, you don’t have to be married, you don’t have to be straight or use a donor, you don’t need a lot of money depending on where you adopt, and a very large tax credit covers much of the expenses.

    Please don’t take this stupid advice to marry someone quick. Adopt a kid. I did, and I couldn’t have made kids as wonderful as mine.

  7. Erika
    Erika says:

    How disheartened I was to read this article, first at and then on your blog. At least in your article, you do not tout your income and hint that women of wealth should spend it on freezing their eggs. And what happens to the women who DON’T have $10k to spend on finding a man or freezing for that special day? Are they up a creek? You, in my opinion, are out of touch with the real women of today, and represent gold diggers who want a child as a status symbol. If I had followed any of your advice, I would have had a child who by now would be the product of a failed marriage with a father who didn’t want him/her. Thank goodness I have better marbles than you – I may be 36 which puts me in the (gasp!) higher risk pregnancy category, but guess what? I am a woman who can face that challenge if it comes, and I am with a man whom I love, and who is there to face this next chapter with me.

  8. Erica
    Erica says:

    I feel like I’ve stepped back to 1960, and I wasn’t even born yet then. A friend sent me this Globe article, and I must say I was shocked. I’m 26, career-oriented, planning a wedding, and surrounded by friends 26 through 40 who are all at different stages of their lives. I personally don’t plan to have children until my 30s, and my friends range from those who have had children, those who are still uncertain when they’ll be ready, those who have tried and been unsuccessful (even the really young ones), and those who haven’t found someone with whom they want to share their life.

    This article was a slap in the face for many who are trying to create the best possible environment to raise their children.

    Why is waiting only about a career? Why do you have to have children at all? Why is it all risks and what women can do? And most importantly … why is it about “mating” and finding a “partner” rather than finding someone you would want to start a family with and who would be a good father?

    For those women who have waited and have struggled – I think this article (actually I know this article) would be highly offensive. It’s like the ultimate blame game and fear tactic – instilling self doubt and fear among all those who have not yet started, and creating a sense of self-blame for all those who waited.

    Life is a miracle. You can be young, happily married and have done everything to mitigate those risk and still have issues. You can be 16 and a drug addict and pop out three kids for welfare. You can be 22 and told you’ll never be able to have a baby and then pop out two perfectly healthy girls (after being told that they were most likely autistic based on medical testing). You can be 30 and already have gone through three miscarriages, be told you’ll never carry to term, and then pop out three healthy babies by the time you’re 35. You can be 43 and have a surprise pregnancy when you think you are going through menopause … all of these stories have affected someone in my life.

    Maybe I’m too much of an optimist and a strong believer in God and faith … but even the rough moments, even the things that may not be what you asked for, even the things that seem like the greatest tragedy or mistake … all happen for a reason and can’t really be controlled by any of us. Every woman makes choices, and babies are a blessing. It’s simply not right to make all those women who didn’t find love until later in life, or those who didn’t know if they’d offer the best home earlier in life, or those who weren’t as lucky in the fertility “betting” as others, feel like it’s their fault and could have been prevented. Science is great – medical facts and statistics are wonderful and save many lives … but it’s not flawless, and some things happen that can’t be explained.

    I’m a career woman. I’m happily in love. I’d like children one day. But, I don’t appreciate a non-medical preach fest of what today’s woman should do when it comes to “mating.”

  9. ESGolus
    ESGolus says:

    Your article in the Sunday Boston Globe is absurd. Not only is it written like a high school English paper, it contains no references to studies which would back up the assertions regarding reductions in egg viability over time. The tone of the article is rather shrill…like the author is insecure about her own decisions and trying to make everyone else go along to make herself feel better. Can’t believe the Globe published this but then again they are going through more staff cuts.

  10. Laura
    Laura says:

    I read this article as an attempt to categorize and outline the pregnancy issue from an analytical standpoint for those who may not have an action plan for life in mind. I doubt this covers many women, particularly those of us around the 30-mark, so Penelope must be speaking to a particular subset: catch ’em while they’re young.

    While it’s not cool (nor always welcome advice) to advocate husband hunting or cold, unfeeling, medical procedures, these are actionable items, a way for women who want babies and careers to get what they want out of life. I agree with those who don’t find the article overly realistic (husband? check!) But then, it wasn’t an attempt at a “how to be the happiest person” article, but a “how to make babies” article.

    That said, among those of us who “want children,” this is old news. We know the stats. We’re aware of the hazards of romance, the procedures available, the costs of adoption. We’re questioned by parents about who we’re dating. We’re questioned at parties by older women about whether we have kids (and if not, what are we waiting for? It’s the other stuff that can wait.) In this sense, the article was another jab in our weekly barrage of questions.

    The world of higher education and work that allows us to use our brains makes it seductively alluring to wait… still, if we want kids to amuse us and to nurture and teach about the world, we know there are consequences for waiting. The younger set may not be thinking so analytically. And good for them! I, for one, find thinking in these terms rather exhausting.

  11. Christine
    Christine says:

    A shout out to Madame Monet! In this day and age, it’s unconscionable that you would print an article about work and family that doesn’t challenge the way we have as a society organized our economy. Requiring extreme hours to advance in a career is not family-friendly, particularly if you’re the parent (read: mother) who has most of the responsibility. Let’s advocate for changes in the labor market at least as strongly as anyone would encourage women to put motherhood before their jobs.

    In terms of the frequent posts here about facing the statistical reality of “late” childbearing, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine estimates that 4/5 of those between 35 & 39 are fertile and over 2/3 of those between 40 & 44. (Source: Stephanie Coontz’s book “Marriage, A History” is a fascinating description of (among other things) how age at first marriage and childbearing have gone up and down and back again over the centuries without serious medical complications for women or babies.

    Finally, I followed your link to the Repromedix website. Is it a coincidence that their fertility test just came on the market in January and you failed to mention that? Your piece seems to have been written primarily as an advertising tool.

  12. Colette
    Colette says:

    I realized as a naive 20-something living in New York that Prince Charming was not going to ride up on his horse anytime soon. (Weren’t we all groomed to believe that. Reality hits hard after college.) So I got a job and dove into my “career” in order pay my 1,100 dollar monthly rent.

    But I was not without dates, and happily scheduled them in between gym sessions. In fact, I soon learned that many of these so-called “available” men were no where near ready to settle down. They were still pondering whether to take a year off in Brazil after getting their MBA.

    So stop blaming women for putting all their eggs in the career basket. The men we met in our 20s and early 30s were not offering marriage…or ready for the responsibilities that come with it.

    Women should be thankful that they can climb a corporate ladder. If it didn’t exist, I would still be living in a roach-infested New York apartment… But I own my own now. And, my husband, whom I met at the ripe ol’ age of 37, lives there with me.

  13. em3
    em3 says:

    Well, we can say that this touches a big nerve for us women. I say let it out, lets get this out there on the cover of Time, Newsweek and the national evening news. All sides, all perspectives. I’m a professional, married late, had a baby quickly thereafter, and am grateful for all the ups and downs in life. But I am exhuasted and I don’t think you can have it all at the same time. Something gives, somewhere and what we need is to paint a realistic picture for women and men, break down the barriers yet once again for how to manage everything in life. Some weeks are better than others and that’s the truth. After being in the corporate world for a long time, I don’t see huge advances being made for women or men in bringing balance to lives that include the personal side, whether you decide to have children or not. This is what needs to change.

  14. MJ
    MJ says:

    I can’t say I agree with you unless I believe all of the FUD that is out there on this subject, which I do not. I have plenty of relatives and friends in their 30’s and 40’s that have had children within the last 5 years (two within the last month!), ALL without problems.

    Every single thing we do carries risk. Every choice we make carries consequences. The great thing now is that women have the choice to have career or families, neither or both.

    Every woman’s biology is unique – Making gross generalizations and recommendations about fertility is irresponsible and, coming from a career advise columnist, laughable.

    I would no sooner take your advise on fertility (the sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!) than I would take career advise from someone who can’t keep a job!!!

  15. Priscilla
    Priscilla says:

    This article was insulting and read like and op/ed piece. I resent that allowed it to be in the jobs section.
    In many cases, getting married before you know yourself can cause a whole host of problems. In my experience, people in their 20’s know themselves less than those in their 30’s. Making life decisions (such as marriage) based on a different goal (having children), is a mistake. However, if people actually took your advice, imagine the number of children that will be born into bad marriages that could end in divorce, which is terrible for children.
    All in all, I understand that the point of the article seems to be that you are simply advising people to look for a mate in their 20’s, for biological reasons. However, why the need to point that out? What woman isn’t aware of the biological consequences of waiting? Therefore, I feel your piece was written to cause controversy. That is terrible. Unless of course you feel that your typical reader is a woman who somehow is successful in her career but completely oblivious to obvious facts about biology, and therefore you are trying to assist that small minority.
    Lastly, ignorance was further demonstrated in saying that “you have your whole life to get a career.” Putting your career off also has some very real implications that can cause obstacles and limitations. I think it’s irresponsible to negate that piece so that you can make your point.
    Again, this should have been an op/ed article.

  16. Chris
    Chris says:

    You also seem to simply asssume that children are what every woman and man want. Ironically, as you calculate the various costs of waiting etc., the one you don’t calculate is the cost of simply not having kids. Ah, but that’s not necessarily a cost, or at least not a calculable one. AS a singhle man who doesn’t ever want kids, I can tell you the cost: chronic singledom.

  17. jk
    jk says:

    I understand why penelope says you should focus on finding a mate in your 20s IF you want children. However, I know many women who married in their late 20s due to biological clock pressures. One is divorced; the other seems to have little respect or love for her husband although she adores her children. So her advice may be ideal but please put love/compatibility first.

  18. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I’m reading that a lot of people freaked out and didn’t read this very closely.

    Penelope is not assuming everyone wants kids ata ll–where is that coming from? Nor is she advocating having kids or not having kids or any one life style or fertility plan over another. Nor is there room here to list out every freaking permutation of this issue.

    She’s laying it out the way it IS and some options for if you want to hedge your bets. Does this piss some people off? Sure. Do some disagree that life is this way? Sure.

    For every one who said “But _I_ got pregnant just fine,” or “all my friends did,” there are six other women who couldn’t get pregnant after 35 who wanted to. Have some perspective and understanding of the stats. The stats, they are real. It is just harder. Period. And riskier. Period. You got lucky. Be grateful.

    While P does suggest getting a husband, she doesn’t say “marry the first guy who’ll say yes.” She’s assuming that you all have sense to marry someone you love and respect.

    Some people wait around for love to find them. You don’t have to. That’s her point. Make it a goal. It can be a goal. You think it is horrible for it to be a goal? Then don’t put it on your list.

    Me? I don’t want kids, will never have kids, can’t have them anyway, too sick to adopt. My illness has set me back in my career and my life. But Penelope makes a lot of sense, even if you think she’s crap, she’ still not wrong.

  19. kb
    kb says:

    When I was in my mid-twenties and had just recently broken off my first engagement, I recall reading a spate of articles that gleefully promised women’s fertility declined drastically after the age of twenty-five and that women who were postponing marriage for the sake of their careers were possibly dooming themselves to a life of barren loneliness.

    Not long after I married a wonderful man two months before turning thirty, I began to see articles on declining fertility after the age of (you guessed it) thirty. Still we decided to postpone having children until we had time to enjoy our marriage.

    And now? I am thirty-six. I conceived seven months after turning thirty-five and gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby boy. Maybe someday we will be blessed with a second child, maybe not. Maybe we will adopt, maybe not. It doesn’t matter. We are happy. And we are in a loving marriage and a comfortable, though far from luxurious, financial position. None of this would have been possible for me any earlier in my life than it happened.

    So what’s the point here? That women’s fertility declines after a certain age? Well, duh. I am so tired of ridiculous fear-mongering articles like this that are designed to make women second-guess and feel guilt over every decision they make. I have friends in their twenties with fertility problems, I have an aunt who conceived a healthy boy at the age of 43–fertility is such an individual issue that to paint it as a problem after the age of 35 is a terrible disservice.

    Had I read this article in my tender years and been stupid enough to follow its misguided advice, I cannot imagine how hellish my life would be right now.

  20. Janie
    Janie says:

    Penelope –

    Don’t stray from the career advice. Any time you give personal advice about anything beyond careers, it’s a disaster. Isn’t your marriage failing as you dole out partnership advice? Stick to tips on updating your resume.

  21. Nancy
    Nancy says:


    No one is disputing the fact that 1) finding a husband is difficult and time consuming and 2) fertility declines sharply after 35.

    What people are angry about pertaining to your article, is it is just horrible career advice, which is what you are purporting to give. A career for women is the same as it is for men. It starts at 18. You are talking about getting a “job”, not a “career” when you suggest we derail the process. And your distortion of the psychological research in the Globe article is amazing. I am a psychologist, and I have no idea what research you are referring to when you say having a partner makes you happier than having a career, and you didn’t cite any.

    It is NOT likely that a woman can take off 5-8 years and then climb right back on the corporate ladder. Not feasible. So basically, your job and economic advice is to put yourself at the mercy of a man.

    You seem to blame women of my mother’s generation for this advice, to “focus on a career”. I heard, “Always be able to take care of yourself.” And a damn good thing too, because my marriage in my twenties resulted in divorce, mostly because I was pursuing a pesky thing called higher education while Mr. Man decided not to. According to you I should have been happier with him just because I had gotten married at the proscribed time.

    Your column is on the career page. Stick to career advice that doesn’t mean I’ll be living in poverty at 65.

  22. Amy
    Amy says:

    So, your idea of job advice is to tell women wanting families to leave off a career, because they’ll be happier with a family? Seriously?

  23. SA
    SA says:

    People, if you don’t like the advice, don’t take it – you don’t have to like everything anyone says. If you dont want to have kids ever, that is just a-ok.
    Speaking for myself, if I had to do it all over again, I would have had the kid early and then focussed on career. We never wanted to have kids, but at 33 when the clock was ticking loudly, we figured we would regret it and had one. No luck with #2 – 2 miscarriages in a row
    (I’m now 37).
    So, if family is in the cards for you, you have to face the facts.
    Yes we all know people that had babies at 40. There are many, many more that have problems.

  24. Laura
    Laura says:

    What are you suggesting, marring the first dude who’ll have you so you can pop out babies at an optimal time? A woman should foucs on finding a mate to partner with and share a life together – not one who wants to procreate ASAP.

    I have a rewarding career, a loving husband and a future together to look forward to. I know I can’t have it all and have to make trade-offs every day. You know what? I am happy. Are you?

    Stick to the career advise.

  25. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    >People, if you don't like the advice, don't take it – you don't have to like everything anyone says.

  26. angela
    angela says:

    so basically, i should throw every semblance of caution to the wind and assume that once i’ve popped out some babies, my life will be great?

    it would seem that better advice would be to get your financial life in order, not to mention your personal life, before bringing other things into the world that are completely dependent on you. which seems to be entirely the opposite of what you are saying.

    but hey, you are the professional advice giver, i’m just the person who has to live with my decisions.

  27. Denis
    Denis says:

    Some of the typical sarcastic questions in the comments above were:
    “Should I have married one of my earlier boyfriends just because my ovaries have an expiration date?” and “What are you suggesting, marring the first dude who'll have you so you can pop out babies at an optimal time?”

    Here is how I interpret Penelope’s advice. Many women in their 20s are not really serious about finding the right guy to marry. Often times, they find someone who is good enough for a short term relationship. STR doesn’t require much effort. The guy is funny, fun to be around and good for some fun, what else does a twenty-something and career-oriented girl need? The signs that he is not a good marriage material are usually right there from the very beginning. However, she ignores them either because she didn’t put an effort into figuring out what she needs in a long-term partner or she doesn’t care about marriage at all (for the time being).

    Then, of course, when the girl is 30+, she starts thinking more seriously about finding the right guy and what is important for her in a long term relationship. Now she is ready and usually finds such a guy. She assumes she just didn’t meet guys like that in her 20s and asks the questions like the ones above. The reality is, she could find those guys just as easily when she was in her 20s, she just didn’t want to put some effort and think about what she really needs in marriage. She could dump the wrong ones much sooner if she were conscious of the non-negotiable qualities she is looking for in a man.

    What Penelope is telling to these twentysomethings is that if they think that eventually having kids is important to them, they have to grow up and take responsibility for their romantic choices and reach some maturity sooner than they naturally would without her advice.
    That’s about it. She is right that if you are seriously looking for a husband (and not another fun guy to spend you weekends with), you are much more likely to find one.

  28. Carol
    Carol says:

    A few years ago, I may have been offended from Penelope’s post. I wasn’t lucky enough to get married until I was 34 but lucky enough I didn’t marry any of my boyfriends. When my husband and I tried to get preganant, we couldn’t. We did all sorts of fertility tests and I did try some fertility drugs but decided to adopt. The week I started a less-stressful job, I got pregnant. Remember the PhD in fertility issues? We have a beautiful and strong-willed daughter but I was unable to get preganant again. It pretty much sucks to feel the pull of wanting to get pregnant and not being able to and all of those emotions and feels of inadequacy that come with infertility. So whatever you think about getting married to ther right person, it’s always a risk. But waiting too long may be a bigger risk. And yes, we were going to adopt when I got pregnant. So thanks for sharing this important information with all of us, even if we don’t want to hear it.

  29. Orrick Nepomuceno
    Orrick Nepomuceno says:

    What about adoption?

    My wife and I both made a conscious decision in our early 20’s that our careers were important. We got into jobs that required a ton of hours and then both went on to grad school. By the time we were 35 we wanted to start a family. Most of our peers had started 10 years earlier, but I know that if we did not start our careers when we did we would not be able to provide as well for our kids.

    Here we are both 39 with the arrival of our third child and life could not be better. Fertility issues came up with my wife, but we immediately went to adoption and it was probably the best thing we did, not only for our marriage but our lives.

  30. Steve
    Steve says:

    I think its important to figure out what you really want. Each person has to decide this for themselves. Once you decide what you really want, the rest of the decisions become easier. Probably most of us can have ANYTHING we want (within reason) but none of us can have EVERYTHING we want. So you make choices.

    I can’t really think of any endeavor where one can reach the top without great personal sacrafice. You just aren’t going to get to the top working just 40 hours a week. You can probably forget the big promotion if you’re constantly taking care of stuff at home. All the big players in anything put in more than 40 hours. Sports players, actors, business people, MD’s, attorneys, politicians…they all put in more than 40.

    If you’re a woman whose decided not to have children, great. Own it. Go out there and get what you want. There is no shortage of people in the world. If you want to have kids, if you’re going to be the primary care taker, your career is probably going to take a hit due to the time off, the phone calls, the worry, leaving early to pick up kids at daycare. Just reassure yourself that what you’re doing is truly the most important thing. Don’t beat yourself up comparing yourself to other people. Run your own race.

    Before you bash me for being chavaunist, the rules also apply to men. We can work 40 and go home, but unless we belong to a Union, it won’t support a family.

  31. Anne
    Anne says:

    “Get a husband”–last time I checked, one wasn’t required to make a baby, just the combination of egg and sperm. A husband does not insure that their will be a parent for your children, especially if you just grab someone for the sake of breeding. Not to mention that the younger you marry, the more likely the marriage is to end in divorce. And I’m a lesbian, so that’s not my life.

    “Freeze your eggs”–why? Because it rarely works, but adopting is so not fashionable?

    “Test your eggs for premature aging”–I love how these fear-mongering articles never address the fact that a man’s sperm quality goes down dramatically with age, it’s all about how the woman needs to fear being old and used up.

  32. Sanne
    Sanne says:

    I’m in my mid-twenties and have decided to stay childless by choice (childfree), and your article just made me even more sure of my decision. The idea of having to degrade myself to a panicked uterus on legs on a desperate husband-hunt before my eggs hit their best-before date, is not my idea of living life with dignity. I’d then rather forego on kids all togheter, so I can take my sweet time finding my soulmate, rather than just dating everything with a penis before ‘the clock runs out’.

  33. Dana
    Dana says:

    And I’ll tell you the same thing women in other countries that push having babies are no doubt saying to their governments: Make it worth our freakin’ while. Sign pay equity into law. Don’t penalize us for staying home with our kids. Quit selling us short. Why should we have tons and tons of babies if we’re just going to find ourselves poorer than men our age when we hit retirement?

    Besides, have you looked at the population stats lately?

    Besides, I don’t buy this aging-egg hypothesis. I suspect it’s like a lot of other things we “know” about the human body, only to find out otherwise later: we made some not-so-educated guesses and now they’re gospel. It’s like the thing with Down’s syndrome. This is nearly universally blamed on older mothers. Here’s a bee for your bonnet: The majority of cases of Down’s are caused by trisomy-21, which means that in the process of meiosis (the formation of germ cells, or sperm and egg cells), something split the wrong way. BUT WAIT. Science tells us a woman is born (well, as a girl) with all the eggs she’ll ever have her entire life, right?

    Well, if that’s true then there is NO process of meiosis involved in grown women. We already have our eggs. So how the hell are we responsible for trisomy-21?

    I know we all like to talk about how men are fertile all their lives. Well, here’s another bee for your bonnet. Researchers are finding more and more connections between the age of MEN and the incidence of birth defects. Because, unlike with women, men are CONSTANTLY in a state of meiosis, CONSTANTLY making new sperm cells. As they get older and have put themselves through all manner of abuses (frat-boy drinking/pot-smoking? so on and so forth?), they damage their DNA.

    And are women more likely to have younger husbands or older ones, who therefore have more damaged DNA? Even in sperm? Hel-LO?

    Either (a) women have a set number of eggs for our whole lives and never make any more, thereby we are not to blame for Down’s, or (b) scientists have LIED to us about whether we make more eggs, and we don’t really have to worry about aging eggs. Either way.

    And the bottom line is that women have to take care of ourselves financially because God only knows the government isn’t doing it and God sure as hell knows men aren’t doing it and God will forgive me for invoking Him in a political argument, because He sees. You got any better ideas than establishing a career in our twenties, I’d LOVE to hear them. Men leave, men get disabled, men die. We are not delicate little hothouse flowers–we have got to be prepared for those eventualities. Shoot, *I* have had to face those eventualities TWICE. Had no career. Put the family first. Am in poverty now. If any of you ladies out there don’t want your career and high pay, I’ll take it!

  34. Dale
    Dale says:

    There is no easy answer for this one. I just wish that I knew in my youth what I know now, and had the maturity to act on it. I guess that’s where good mentors/parents/role models and effective education for young people come in. College is probably the best place to become aware of this stuff I think.
    Any suggestions on that?

  35. finance girl
    finance girl says:

    100% agree Miss P. Unfortunately, as you know, from personal experience.

    Career opportunities will always (likely) be there.

    The ability to have children will not.

    Any woman who thinks, even remotely, that she wants kids, should make that a #1 priority over focusing on career, because guess what?

    Fertility is at it’s peak in a woman’s early 20s, and starts decreasing significantly in late 20s, with huge cliffs at 35 and 40.

    Highly anti popular to say, but absolutely true.

  36. JEN
    JEN says:

    Penelopoe – I would love to hear your thoughts on starting some kind of campaign with AMA publications or something on this issue. What infuriates me more than anything is that until I was married my OB/GYN did not say anything about my fertility….well, actually, he said nothing after either. It’s not until I actually asked him jokingly that I needed to worry about the clock ticking at the age of 31 that he said, “Well, you know fertility starts to decline at 28.” I almost fell to the floor. I really didn’t know. I went through basic fertility treatments, mostly education and a few rounds of Clomid. Despite all of this, I got pregnant on my own both times on vacation. I am eeking out my second child before my 35th birthday and feel blessed but extremely resentful. I was married early and neither my husband nor I knew any of this. We are both in high profile careers (law) where having children before the age of 32 makes you practically a teen mother. If you aren’t around people who tell you these things and it’s socially taboo, you just assume. Doctors (I assume) think that we are all feminazis who are going to attack them if they speak candidly with us. During all of this, I learned about my cycle. I never knew about my cycle. The panacea of birth control pills had given me ultimate freedom to be ignorant of my biological clock since the age of 18. Or did it? I would have rather known what the symptoms of ovulation are and all about my cycle. My children will likely think I am nuts, but I am going to tell them both (even my son) about the need for them to take control over their lives and understand that there are some things that you have to be deliberate about. I think it is shameful that my doctor saw me for 4 years of my married life without telling me that my fertility was declining after the age of 28. He knew my mother had went through menopause early – still, nothing! One hour with my reproductive endicronologist, and I went home and poured a stiff drink. 31 wasn’t old, but with my history, it wasn’t great. Two years of Clomid, charting and several miscarriages later, I was still “unexplained infertility” but finally pregnant. No one can ever undo the damage that feeling impaired in this way can do to someone. I would have much rather gotten pregnant in my 20’s and complained about it being inconvenient.

    Alot of people say that you would have to be under a rock not to know about infertility, but I think that women who are well-educated are really sheltered from this information, ironically. There is some establishment message from the feminists that went before us that you have to postpone kids to succeed. It is such a lie.

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