At first glance the decision by Apple and Facebook to offer women egg-freezing as a perk, may seem enlightened. “How modern and very hip,” you can almost hear some people saying. But let’s see how modern it really is.
What they’re offering women is the chance to delay pregnancy so that they can reach their career goals while still having the option to procreate later on. There seems to be a subtext here: having babies is not a great career move. It’s saying that being a mum is secondary to being a career woman and that if you create a family at the wrong time your career will suffer. It doesn’t look so great when you see it from that angle. In fact it looks like a threat doesn’t it? “Freeze your eggs or you’ll damage your career.” That doesn’t sound like a perk at all.
We live in a society where children are seen as an inconvenience. “I can’t, I’ve got the kids.” “God, the babysitter’s sick. It’s going to be a nightmare.” Instead of being seen as a burden, kids should be seen as what they are: an opportunity to learn about ourselves, to live through the innocent eyes of others, to know what it’s like to care for someone so much that you would throw yourself under a bus for them.
And what happens when you do have kids and want to go on working? You still face the problem that to be seen to be productive in many of today’s businesses, you need to be seen at the office early – and stay late. Will egg-freezing fix that? I’m not sure it can. I think paying for egg freezing or infertility treatments or, yes, adoption costs is enlightened but what would really help working mothers would be flexible work policies that were not seen – as many seem to be today – as a lesser form of work. Or how about at work childcare? Because the fact is that for professional women’s lives to improve, it’s these parameters that need to change, not the decision to have babies at a certain time.
And let’s remember this. Some women, yes in fact quite a lot of women, want to be mothers. They don’t want to give it all up for a career and freeze what may be the opportunity of a lifetime.