“When are you going to have kids? Don’t you want kids? You aren’t getting any younger. You can’t have children in med school/residency/fellowship. You can’t go into “____Fill in the blank___ field” if you want to have kids. You’ll never see your kids. Are your kids going to be raised by the nanny?”
As a woman - how many of you have heard any of the above?
Seriously, though - have you? How often have you been judged or discriminated against by even talking about this subject?
I read the blog post by @shanny_do about purposefully delaying childbearing. But what struck me, is the discrimination. The outright stigma of even *talking* about when to have kids or having kids: in school or training or after. And I feel it. In med school we would wonder when would be the best time? When would we inconvenience our peers and colleagues the least? When was late enough but not too late? And who could we ask these questions too? There was nobody talking about this. To talk about childbearing felt “weak” - like your priorities were wrong or you were being selfish, that medicine needed to be your everything.
We are actually TOLD: Do not talk about your family in your interviews - why? Because you will be judged. This discrimination is transparent and outright ridiculous. Ignore your own fertility, ignore the fact that you want children, act like this isn’t important.
This culture is enough.
As a woman, I am over it.
I want women to feel empowered to start having children when they are ready. Maybe that means purposefully waiting, maybe it means freezing your eggs, maybe it means single parenting, maybe it means starting early, maybe it means adopting - here is the thing: it should be your choice.
But it only changes with us. We have to change the conversation. We have to admit that this is ridiculous. We have to openly talk about family planning and life goals. We have to stop judging other women if their goals are different. And women who are further along: we have to support each other. We do not need to make the women below us go through something just because we did.
We have to admit that the culture is deeper than just medicine. If you are pursuing higher education, climbing the corporate ladder, or chasing an entrepreneurial dream you are told that having a family will slow you down, hold you back, put you behind. And so you wait, you feel judged or guilty for even thinking about the “right” time, let alone talking about it.
But the REAL problem - is that the culture continues.
We act like having kids doesn’t impact our work, we act like working doesn’t impact being the mom we want to be. We have trouble advocating for ourselves because we were never taught how. The subject of family balance is taboo from preconception until working motherhood. Society has told us that in order to live up to our professional potential this is what we do. So we don’t talk about when to have kids, how to have kids, how to balance working mom life, and instead we struggle alone.
Listen: I believe my children benefit from having a mother chase her dreams. I don’t think they are harmed by this at all. But what about me? I struggle to “balance.” There are times I can’t give enough of myself to either endeavor. And because this subject is stigmatizing, I have trouble asking for help and I’m hard on myself. I want to do it all, have it all. I even have an (amazing) tribe of people who support, love, and help me, but the struggle is real.
And we don’t give ourselves the tools. We buy into the culture instead of changing it. We all try to go at it alone, to prove we are strong enough to make it work. And we lose ourselves in the process. How do we find time to be ourselves? To not lose “us” in the working mom struggle? To make time for our own interests and self-care without feeling selfish?
It is important to realize that you can’t do it all while you are drowning; that admitting your own needs is a victory and not a failure. We need to be honest with ourselves and each other promoting acceptance, honesty, and forgiveness. We can only change the culture if we start with ourselves.
Follow Dr. Crawford’s conversation at #AsAWoman.