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Opinion: 'Egg freeze' offer is putting a metaphorical gun to young women’s heads

Freeze in haste, repent at leisure?

Carol Redmond

FACEBOOK AND APPLE in the US have offered the equivalent of €15,000 to their female staff to freeze their eggs for use at a later date to create a level playing field in career advancement between them and their male colleagues…

I had to give the headline a second glance. I actually checked the date, is it 1 April? No, it’s still October and nearly Halloween. Scary.

A few things have been shaking my faith in all things feminist in recent times but I have to say this one is a shocker. An article in the news this week is effectively saying that these companies are stating that women who work, while also having babies, is not cool – and definitely not good for their careers.

Women, to compete with their male colleagues, have to put motherhood on hold. Women are discouraged from using their eggs at their optimum time if they want to keep their jobs and compete with the boys.

Men, on the other hand I am sure, are not affected if they happen to have a wife at home who is not partaking in this wonderful offer and can be thirty-something-year-old daddies without, presumably, affecting their performance in work.

How about the better idea of tossing a few bob towards childcare and paid support so their female workforce can actually come into work and do their jobs while competing with their male colleagues? Is this playing field altogether too bumpy?

Being an older mother is fine – but it’s harder physically 

What of the physical, not to mention mental, considerations for these women who have parenthood-postponed work-lives? Their frozen eggs may be twenty-something years old but the body and mind they are re-implanted into may be forty-something-plus.

Great. Something to look forward to when you are heading into a possible peri-menopause… a baby. And, as the clock is ticking fast, maybe two or three in quick succession to get them in before your 50th birthday celebrations. After a full-time career, after giving your all, your best years, to Apple and Facebook, you get to go home to have your postponed families.

I am not for one moment saying women should all have their babies on Mother Nature’s clock, but come on, we are physically designed to have them from an early start date. We know more now about fertility than we ever did and there is no disputing the fact that our fertility decreases with every passing year as we age. Our eggs are aging from the day we are born with our full complement in our ovaries.

So, freezing them is quite a good idea in itself. I am all for fertility intervention for women who find it difficult to conceive – and isn’t it wonderful that we have the choice of not becoming a mum until we decide when. We also have adoption and other methods of bringing motherhood to as many deserving women as possible. Well done feminism and general human development.

But there is no disputing the fact that while the frozen eggs may be young and more viable than an egg fertilised at 35 to 40-plus year old women who naturally become pregnant at these ages, the bodies they are going back into have not stayed static. They have aged and the older women will find it less easy, physically and mentally, to be a mum to these babies. I know some women don’t get the opportunity to procreate early or that they delay childbirth – however they are making informed decisions about the risks and their capabilities, finances and support. (And, of course surrogacy can be an option but that is a whole different article.)

What is this saying to young women? 

My problem with this offer is more to do with what it is saying socially to our young women. I thought feminism was about choice after all, but no, it seems that these go-ahead, cutting-edge companies are basically saying – in neon – if you want to have a career and a baby simultaneously, you need not apply to us.

It is putting a metaphorical gun to young women’s heads. Compete as a non-baby producing drone or leave. Compete on a level with the boys. Become one of the boys.

I also think it is a manipulative move as a 20-something, bright-eyed career woman will only see the money and potential clear run on the career ‘level playing field’, encouraging her to take this kind offer without really giving the whole idea of delayed parenthood a second thought as it’s not a priority on her agenda at that point in her life.

Freeze in haste, repent at leisure?

A couple meet up, cohabit or get married and have a family, usually in that order – not set in stone but usually, even in these days of diversity. They work and have families at the same time.

What happened to the fight for choice for women to be capable of working outside the home AND having a family, or to not work and be a full-time mum? Or to not have babies at all or to choose to end a pregnancy? Are all these rights, fought for and hard won, now defunct?

And what if a woman decides to go ahead and have her babies the orthodox way in the meantime? Will she lose her job? Will she have to give the money back? Will she be denied maternity leave?

I really think the corporate world should stick to health insurance and pension plans as perks for their staff rather than handing out financial incentives for baby-delaying.

Carol Redmond is a qualified Life Coach and holds a certificate in psychology from NUI Maynooth. She lives in Delgany, County Wicklow. Read her other columns for TheJournal.ie here

Facebook and Apple pay for female workers to freeze their eggs

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Carol Redmond

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