Tag Archives: biological clock

Fertility – a source of unhappiness?

There is nothing that makes me and my childless friends more unhappy than reading yet another article about how our fertility is going down the toilet. Newspapers and magazines are full of these at the moment – descriptions of miserable women in their thirties and forties self-injecting with fertility treatments, undergoing the lonely process of IVF-for-one, or freezing their eggs at great cost.

I hoped to start this post by saying that the science isn’t so black and white. But my medic friend pointed me to the evidence which is clear – women in “advanced age” (late thirties and forties) have a poor success rate of giving birth, even when assisted with fertility treatments, and these treatments are costly.  So, if I accept this scientific fact, and agree that doctors have the responsibility to properly counsel women of this, why do I have such a problem with these articles?

My first problem with these articles is the fact that we KNOW all this already. Like many of my friends, I am in my early thirties and haven’t had kids yet. It’s not through want of trying – I haven’t been marching up any career ladders or rejecting possible suitors for having a hairy back or not speaking French fluently. I’ve been living my life and doing what I can to meet the right person. And it’s not like I can drown out the tic-toc of my own biological clock – I know I need to settle down soon.  

But what exactly am I supposed to do about it? I’m not about to rush out and get knocked up by the first man who seems willing – I’m from a generation born of divorced parents and its important to me that I settle with the right person. I can’t afford to freeze my eggs and I won’t force reluctant fathers to commit by taking matters into my own hands. So these articles aren’t doing more than worrying me –  no realistic solutions are given.

My second problem with these articles is that the subtext seems to be that women like me are selfish. We’ve picked careers over families; fun over nappies. Why did we waste all that money going to university when we should have settled down with childhood sweethearts? Again, I don’t accept this version of events. There are few ambitious women I know who didn’t also want kids along the way. And I know plenty of women who successfully have careers and kids and a social life – however hard it sometimes is. This subtext goes against equality – it says men have the choice of picking a younger woman when they get older, but we women don’t and should have prioritised family over all else.

I don’t begrudge my friends who settled early – they are happy and have a wonderful and rewarding family life that I really want one day. Had I met the right person earlier, I might be the same. The fact is that I’m happier and more confident than I was in my twenties (in fact I read yesterday that women are at their most attractive at 31!) and I hope someday I’ll have children with someone who loves me. Yes, it may be harder – and I have plenty of friends who’ve gone through the trauma of IVF who can attest to this – but I still believe that I’m capable of having a loving, stable family into my late thirties and forties if that’s where life takes me.

So, journalists please stop writing these articles or at least write them with a little more sensitivity. We know the risks of conceiving at an older age and it scares the crap out of us. But this sort of panic isn’t helping and we’ll find the right person eventually. And when we do, we’re going to be bloody good parents, and that’s a fact.

The Free Decade

There we were last weekend, a gaggle of thirty-something girls – some married, pregnant; others single, dating, backpacking round the world snogging boys in their early twenties. All young, gorgeous and fabulous.

It seemed to me that there are no longer any rules that dictate what we do with our lives, when we settle down. Our parents typically got married in their twenties; thirties spent with small children. But for many of us, our care-free twenties and early thirties (or more) are a free decade, a bonus that our parents never enjoyed. We live hedonistically, selfishly – party hard, earn and spend money, travel the world, work abroad, try various relationships. We settle down early or late, we divorce, we change careers, we move countries before or after kids. The only rule is that there are no rules.

Our parents rarely had this opportunity, which is why they often don’t get why a spending a year on a Thai beach is a good idea, or why it’s OK to spunk our salaries on holidays / champagne / ipads if we want to, rather than settling down. So we should enjoy this new freedom and whatever you do, don’t panic about where you are right now – there’s no timetable you need to stick to.

Make the most of your “free decade”

There is no convention that dictates what you should be doing when. Your parents are unlikely to have spent their twenties and thirties as you have or without settling down, but you have the chance to be young and carefree for longer if you want to – enjoy it!  

If you’re single and panicking

You are ten times more confident than you were in your twenties and know yourself a lot better. You’re interesting – from years of parties, relationships, travels and careers. Don’t worry that some of your friends are married, some with kids – you’ve time to do all that stuff if you want to, and when you’re ready. Remember it’s not about what happens now, it’s about longevity – don’t panic or rush*.

Why not use this time to take advantage of the things you won’t get to do so easily when you settle down – learn a new language, take a sabbatical, date inappropriate people, change jobs, move abroad.

If you’re married and/or with kids and feeling frustrated

You recall the time you danced in the mud at Glastonbury til 5am but now you’re in a new phase. If you have kids, you have the youth and energy to deal with the little tykes. Don’t be jealous of your mate who’s posting photos on Facebook of backpacking round Argentina. You’re having fun in a different way, and later on when the little ones have skipped the nest, you can enjoy getting your free time back.

Remember you ain’t old yet, no matter how you sometimes feel. You could probably do with a me-time shopping trip once in a while to buy yourself something trendy (ladies – earrings, bags and shoes count and you still look GREAT in skinny jeans). The occasional night out with the girls/boys will do you a world of good. And, although it takes a huge amount of organisation, you could still do the things you always wanted to do (travelling in Asia, camping in the Highlands) with your kids in tow.

If you’re planning to change careers, backpack round South East Asia, move to Abu Dhabi, etc, and are panicking

Remember you’re likely to be working until you’re 65 (sorry) so you have twenty, thirty years of work in you from now on.  That’s plenty of time to change careers once, twice, three times; jack in your City job and open a bookshop in the Cotswolds; become wildly successful at something; live in several different continents.  There’s no timetable you have to follow – make your own.

Always remember

  • Don’t panic or regret what you’ve done with your “free decade” – it was yours to do with what you liked. 
  • Don’t compare what you did or where you’re at with your friends, you’re your own person and they have problems too.
  • Where you are now is EXACTLY where you are supposed to be.  Relax.

* and for anyone who refers to the dreaded term “biological clock” I have this to say – my granny had kids in her mid-forties and that was back last century or something and she did quite alright…:)