After reading “Do Gen X Women Choose Work Over Kids?,” I had to chuckle. It seems the pundits are missing the mark by a wide margin about women’s maternal decision-making process. I don’t agree that Gen X women (roughly age 33-46) are choosing not to have children; they are instead choosing when to have children. While I admit that my evidence is anecdotal, it certainly seems to make sense to me and many of my friends.
In today’s world, where birth control, education, and advanced fertility procedures with high success rates are common knowledge and universally accessible, why would a woman begin her family before she’s had a chance to build a secure future for her potential family? There’s no rush.
If you look at the basic timeline, it all makes sense. High school graduation at 18, graduate school completion by 23 or so, internship and first job till 25, job of choice by 26, and ten years of enjoying the perks of success (read: paychecks that cover more than your basic bills!), and you’ve got a woman who is approximately 35. Medical science says that exponential increases in birth defects due to a woman’s age do not begin till 42, while fertility peaks around 35, leaving a nice 5-7 year window for women to start their families. This in turn makes the statistics that the article quotes (53% of Gen X women are childless) true, because half of that small cohort hasn’t reached their optimum (as determine by them) childbearing age yet.
In addition, many Gen X women watched their mothers struggle, divided by opposing desires to work for financial gain and security, yet yearning for the choice to raise their own children. Given a different scenario and armed with the knowledge imparted by their mothers, Gen X women are doing both – waiting till they have earned enough career status and financial stability to afford themselves the luxury of choice, then in some cases, exiting the workforce to raise their children during the formative years (0-5), and re-entering the workforce at will. This is made easier by companies that focus on aiding employees reach their own personal nirvana in the work-life balance arena (see www.Mom-entum.com).
This Generation is also faced by a very different reality than the Boomers, who commonly expected to work 20 or 30 years and retire comfortably on their defined retirement plan after earning the gold watch. Gen X has lived through the disappearance of pensions and company retirements and are faced with the knowledge that they must work till their 401Ks can support them – for many, this means 40 plus years in the workforce. There is no fast-moving ladder to the top- when no one retires, no one advances, so the option to take a time-out to raise children is less harmful than it once.
All in all, I think the writer’s perspective that a woman must choose one or the other, kids or career, is far-reaching at best, although only time will tell – because Gen X still has many child-bearing years left!