The Daily Stupid

I don’t know what is worse–the fact that The Daily Beast has published a press release for this fertility doctor as a news story, or the fact that this story recycles the completely unbelieveable trope that women in their 30s and 40s are truly surprised when they learn they might not be able to have children: 

Some bosses offer dating tips. Diane Sawyer counsels her colleagues on freezing their eggs.

The anchor of ABC’s World News has long been a sounding board for her famously hard-working staff on a host of personal issues, from dating to the more complex realities of a demanding career. A recurring theme with women: finding time away from the office to meet a partner and have kids before they hit 40. It doesn’t always happen, as Sawyer, who first married at age 42, well knows. When it doesn’t, Sawyer sends her workers to New York University’s Fertility Clinic.

.       .       .       .       .       .      

Three quarters come in because they aren’t ready to have children yet. Some are sent by their parents: I know you want to work, but I want grandkids someday. Many are furious their doctors didn’t tell them about egg freezing sooner. “I want to send Diane a basket of flowers for what she’s doing,” says one childless 40-something in the media.

The idea that one could be a woman in her 40s in the media and not be aware of fertility issues is just completely laughable.  This is the same news media that for at least thirty years has been bullying women to get pregnant before they’re 25 or else!!!  That “childless 40-something in the media” probably spent her college internships back in the 1980s writing scripts that scolded women who didn’t get pregnant by 25, then worked as a producer for TV segments in the 1990s discussing the heartbreak of infertility and the joy of international adoption/IVF babies/donor eggs/babies via surrogacy, and then was promoted to create shows in the 2000s recycling these scripts and story lines on daytime TV, the nightly news, and evening news magazines.

Never mind that women in their 30s or 40s who don’t have children might not have them because they don’t want them.  I wonder how many of Diane Sawyer’s employees submit to this expensive procedure because they’re afraid to tell their bosses or co-workers, “no, thank you, I don’t want children.”  I wonder how many women in their 50s and 60s feel pressure to cast their decisions not to have children as some kind of bad luck or physiological failure, because of the opprobrium they might face if they say, “I’m really not into children, so I didn’t have them?”

But, really:  the notion that these stories offer some kind of secret wisdom that women have never heard of before is just too stupid to believe.

60 thoughts on “The Daily Stupid

  1. I think happiness, or rather, contentment, comes from not desiring something other than what you have, or at least not letting your actions be dominated by that desire. I believe (by which I mean I have faith) that this sort of equanimity is something a person can cultivate. This doesn’t preclude striving for things, it simply recommends not hanging everything on the outcome of that striving or on the attributes of the striving itself.

    My personal experience is that happiness and/or contentment (not really sure there is a discernable difference) hinges on enjoying and being satisfied with the process of striving itself, and not hinging on outcomes. Under this theory, people who have children because they want to experience and enjoy the process of raising are more likely to have no regrets than people who have children because they want someone to love them/social approbation/someone to take care of them in old age/someone to take over the family business/etc.

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  2. I entirely agree that the societal/cultural/familial pressures placed on women who aren’t interested in having kids is great and often deeply painful. At the same time I’d like to raise a hand for men who aren’t interested in having kids, and say that despite certain cultural cliches about the “playboy” or some such, life can be very rough going for a man who doesn’t want kids. Anecdotally, but without divulging too much private information, I can safely say I’ve been dumped at least twice solely because I didn’t want kids. You could easily come back at me and ask ‘why didn’t I disclose this fact at the outset, thereby avoiding some very deep heartbreak’, and my answer is simple: I was young – though in the second instance, not that young, 32ish. Bygones. Now I’m older and wiser and if I meet a woman with whom there’s spark or whatever we’re calling it these days, I will try and bend the conversation around to this issue to get a sense of where she “is” on the matter. Let’s just say I’m single, very single, and have been for about 5 years now, and frankly I’ve lost most if not all hope.

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  3. The baby fetishization is obscene and extends far beyond the commercial and media realm. Just the other day, a guy I went to college with exclaimed, on facebook, about how nothing compares to singing with your baby (or some such nonsense — the point is, he glorified a personal moment and transformed it into a claim that no one could be as satisfied, happy, or enthralled with their life until they had a similar experience with their child. Yuck). As a single woman who is quite ambivalent about kids and thinks babies are annoying (once they can talk, I’m far more interested), I’m really tired of people telling me that one day I WILL want kids, as though I’m just in some adult equivalent of the terrible twos that I will outgrow. And Paul, I hear ya — it’s tough to be a woman who would like a partner but has no particular desire or need for kids. It’s not something most men want to hear. And they certainly don’t want to hear that I’ll entertain the idea provided said man agrees to take full responsibility for child-rearing in the early years (see: babies are not my thing).

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  4. happiness and/or contentment

    What I mean is that it is possible to be content without being happy about whatever is going on in the moment. I, for example, am quite unhappy about a sequence of events unfolding around me at work right now, but I know I am fine and handing things as best I can. I am content. Attaching too much to either happy or unhappy can lead to distress.

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  5. I do love babies but I have never wanted to own one and I am quite happy borrowing htem and returning them at the end of the day. A peculiar historical turn my life took was that my lezzie ways was a clear out from having children: then along came the lesbian baby boom and people started insisting (I was now in my late 30’s) that I must want to bear a child as if this had been my lifelong desire. It was really annoying, particularly since I knew all these straight women who were having horrible procedures and risking cancer and whatnot to get pregnant.

    The thing I have never understood is the business of having the baby come out of your very own body. I mean, I know that it is cheaper that way and there is no government regulation, but why wouldn’t a woman who had a change of heart at a late age not adopt? And why not a slightly older child?

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  6. This has been a very interesting thread to read! I was also irritated by the article – but it was a fuzzy, vague, I don’t know why I don’t like this kind of way. Thanks to the thread, I have a better idea of why I didn’t like it. My first reaction was “pretty classist, racist sort of thing!”

    That said, while I don’t think that there is the “damn! I forgot to have kids!” sort of idiocy around, I do know many women in academia who wish to be mothers, and who worry so – when, oh when, is the right time? Now, before the job? In grad school? After tenure, when it’s harder, expensive, etc etc?

    And regret? I don’t know a mother who doesn’t have some, and who won’t talk about it, at least with their best girlfriends. I cried when I found out I was pregnant – 1 year into writing the diss, with a deadline to finish the darned thing of 18 months. My life was definitely OVER. (Ok, it didn’t end up that way – but you know what I mean.) And this year, at 41, after months of trying, I cried again when I found out I was pregnant. Was this really what we wanted – we were so *old*, with one already with special needs. I cried all night, regretting the decision to have another. Then the decision was taken from me 9 weeks later. And I cried again tears of regret, this time for a child not known, and for some small time, unwanted.

    Do I miss being childless? Yes, in the same ways I miss being single. I’d rather have my partner and child, but I do miss the single days. And I _love_ my childless friends – most are most eager to borrow my child for a day of fun, leaving me a child-free day.

    What I hate about these types of articles is the lumping of women into their reproductive states, and of the lumping of all women onto the lives of some women. What I love about these types of threads is the delightful reminding that we are all our own people, and we can differ, and be different, in such radical and agreeable ways.

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  7. Awesome! But, depending on geographic proximity, it might have to be a Skype date. Hmm … where do you live? And yes, I’m quite sure H’Ann will be thrilled to add a new and long desired section to her CV.

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  8. Pingback: Sexy Blog Post Title | A Post-Academic in NYC

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