Fame and fortune are enjoyable, but delaying childbearing can be forever, as Gabrielle Union reminds us.
The common ideology in the United States is that there are no tradeoffs between children and career. Weirdly, our culture will emphasize such tradeoffs for men, but the laws of opportunity and risk somehow don’t apply to women.
Recently Redbook put out their “ageless” issue—which is rather ironic since they interviewed the 43-year-old Gabrielle Union who spoke openly about the price of aging.
Redbook posted some excerpts from their interview with her, including one about her attempts to conceive with her husband.
On IVF and the pressures of trying for a family later in life… “So far, it has not happened for us. A lot of my friends deal with this. There’s a certain amount of shame that is placed on women who have perhaps chosen a career over starting a family younger. The penance for being a career woman is barrenness. You feel like you’re wearing a scarlet letter.”
I don’t think there should be any shaming about it. I feel sorry for Union and hope she and her husband are able to conceive. I have to wonder though if maybe she is interpreting regret as shame. It may be that now, later in life, she wants a baby much worse than she did when she was younger. So now she is angry at her past self for the priorities she had and the choices she made.
If so, I hope she thinks her way out of it. She and her husband have only been married since 2014. There is no point regretting not meeting him and falling in love with him earlier.
But it would probably be good for people to realize that you have to make trade-offs in life. Worse, you have to take risks that mean you might give up a lot and get nothing back. Union has relative success that she has gained in life. As she describes it, being an actress was something that she fell into rather than something to which she was always aspiring. But for many, breaking into Hollywood is a lifelong ambition that they never realize. So one can “delay childbearing,” end up not having children, and yet not have the career you wanted. Every career track involves risk of failure.
What makes all this important is that women and men both often make the decision to “delay a family” on the assumption that there is nothing lost by waiting. Feminism promotes that idea for ideological reasons. But biology tells a different story.
While I’m glad Union was honest with readers about the illusion of being able to defy age, I wasn’t so impressed with her thoughts on how having children affects one’s career.
“The reality is that women are discriminated against in the workplace for being mothers. As much as there are strides being made – you get pregnant, your career takes a hit. You can’t have a bad day. Don’t you dare cry at work. Don’t raise your voice. Especially if you’re a black woman in corporate America—now you’re ‘the angry black woman.'”
I have white children who I encourage to never raise their voice at work for the sake of job security and advancement prospects. Perhaps whites are getting away with things I don’t know about but not yelling sounds like good conduct for everyone at the job.
But are women “discriminated against” when they have children in the midst of their career or are they discriminating against their career and putting it second in their lives? There are lots of ways people can overreact to a woman getting pregnant, but they aren’t reacting to nothing. Priorities shift. Productivity changes. These things really happen. Insisting it is nothing more than ill will against women is a convenient fiction that feeds a story of grievance, but it isn’t realistic. When men and women are making choices about family, children, and career, they are not helped to be rational when they are fed such justifications for resentment.
People are biologically finite and are on a one-way journey through time. Men and women face different risks and costs due to differences in biology as well as cultural assumptions that may or may not be justified. Facing up to the facts would do a great deal to help people make realistic decisions about life.