On the fundamental inequality of the sexes

by WCE

I’ve never found a Fertility and Sterility medical journal article that seemed appropriate for The Totebag, but this article on the tradeoffs of healthy pregnancy/babies as a function of maternal age and career choices seems ripe for a Totebaggy discussion. I am somewhat vocal on the blog about my view that male/female career/social equality is difficult or impossible, and this article is a good summary of the statistical reasons.

Do you think people (men and women) should think about these facts when planning their lives? Do you think both sexes will?

If the link doesn’t work and you care, the article may be available from your library login.

Reproduction at an advanced maternal age and maternal health by Mark Sauer 

For those not interested in/unable to access the whole article, the summary paragraph is this.

It is difficult to publically challenge convention, and it seems that these days it is politically correct to portray women enjoying the best of both worlds when it comes to family and work. However, if this is achieved by delaying pregnancy then the risk of complicated pregnancy, infertility, and childlessness must also be understood and accepted. The goal should be to promote earlier efforts at procreation, while condemning myths suggesting “you can have it all” by delaying reproduction until a time that it is convenient. Starting a family is never convenient and it never has been. A social re-engineering back to a more conventional time may be difficult, if not impossible to do, but a failure to do so will result in increasing numbers of women left childless and without adequate medical interventions to reconcile their needs. To succeed in this endeavor doctors will need to enlist the support of partners in all aspects of life: educators, employers, lawyers, theologians, and legislators. Finally, accurately portraying the difficulties faced by both older patients attempting pregnancy and those who are experiencing it is long overdue. Realistic characterization should not scare patients away from trying to have children but rather serve as a warning of the perils of postponement and be sobering reminders that all stages of life are fleeting and pregnancy is still best accomplished while young.

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245 thoughts on “On the fundamental inequality of the sexes

  1. my view that male/female career/social equality is difficult or impossible

    What do you do about the fact that there are people on this blog who have made it work?

    And I know this isn’t your error, but it’s “publicly”, not “publically”.

  2. Pregnancy might be best accomplished while young, but parenthood is not for many. And while these things are important at the population level, they are much less so at the individual level.

    WRT whether people should think about the trade offs and equality. Of course. The most important part imo is finding a suitable partner who shares your beliefs around childbearing/rearing and the trade offs.

  3. Adding to RMS’s queries, what is there about something being difficult that would conflict with enjoyment?

  4. I had just turned 36 when I gave birth to my twins. I recall being a bit surprised at the “advanced maternal age” label when I first went to my IVF doctors at age 35.

  5. One other general comment – I was never intentionally “trying to have it all”. Life happened. I didn’t meet DH until I was 31. We married when I was 33. We tried for over a year to have kids. It didn’t happen.

    Should I have tried to meet someone to marry sooner? I did; it didn’t happen.

  6. I heard some stat a while ago that the number of babies born to women over 40 has actually declined (because of large families decades ago, many women were having their last one or two babies after 40 but had started in their 20s). My parents’s families are both rather large and there are huge age gaps between oldest and youngest.

    So I only know a few women who really waited until their late 30s/40 to start having babies. Two women attorneys that my husband works for and they both just had the one kid. Both women weren’t sure they even wanted kids for a long time so they seemed fine with just having one. My sister is having her first at 37 later this year but she didn’t get married until she was 35 so they knew they’d try as soon as possible. Down here it seems women start having kids in their late 20s but there are some big families so the last kid may be late 30s/sometimes early 40s. I’ve seen stay at home moms and women who have careers have larger families and it all seems to work.

    So if you want a big family, start earlier, if you’re fine with one or two then I think it’s usually ok to wait as it seems like the real risks associated with late pregnancy start after 40 and the 35 “advanced maternal age” marker doesn’t really seem to jive with the statistics that I’ve read.

  7. I know it’s confirmation bias and anecdata and so on. But one friend had a baby at 41 (she was single but wanted a baby), another friend had her first accidentally at 45, and a third had twins at 47. (Yes, it’s insane to have twins at 47). And my ob-gyn told me to stay on b.c. because lots of 40-something women come in pregnant and say, “but I thought I was infertile by now!” I wonder how many women admit to having abortions in their 40s because they quit using b.c. You never see that article in the popular press.

  8. Should I have tried to meet someone to marry sooner? I did; it didn’t happen.

    Yeah, me too. I certainly had my eye out for likely suspects. Didn’t get married til I was 32 but it wasn’t because I was whistling Dixie. I just couldn’t envision tolerating any of the guys I met til I met DH.

  9. RMS – Around age 41 I remember asking my doctor why I needed to be on birth control. I have a proven history of infertility and was now really at an “advanced maternal age”. She told me the exact same thing. Some many women in their 40s get a surprise baby because they stopped using birth control thinking they were too old to need it. Even those with fertility issues.

  10. I was 37 when I gave birth, and the main reason that it happened so late was that I got married late.I posted before that I was engaged when I was 30, but we didn’t get married.

    My opinion is that you can plan, and plan, and plan, and then life happens. I never intended to wait to get married until I was mid 30s. I did date, and I just didn’t meet the “one”. I wasn’t picky, but I was careful because I grew up in a home with a nasty divorce, and I lived through lots of bad post divorce relationships. My carefulness came from my experience with my parents because I was trying to avoid that path. I knew that waiting to start a family wasn’t ideal, but that is how it worked out for me.

    I have other friends that picked child friendly careers, got married young, AND were infertile. They struggled for years to pregnant, and one ended up delivering a month after me even though she got married at much younger age.

    I definitely think there are certain professions that are easier/harder to juggle a family with work.
    My only concern about choosing a career path based on expectations of a future family are that you can’t fully control the life happens stuff. You should be able to anticipate, adapt, and minimize the risks, but choosing only certain careers seems to go a bit too far.

  11. Atlanta – my MFM agrees with you. He said the statistics for women 35-39 are very different from those 40+ and basically told me not to worry much about being AMA since I was still in my 30s. It is kind of weird that they lump all of the ages together after 34.

  12. My neighbor was telling me last year that she had three different friends who already had three children where the youngest was just off to kindergarten (so they were footloose and fancy free) and they all had a surprise 4th pregnancy at around 40. I think I would cry (as would my youngest as she told me the other day that she is the baby of the family and there would be no more babies).

  13. RMS, equality would require that women pursue prestigious careers (FBI agent, CEO) at the same rates and at the same intensity as men and that they also have partners who support that. I suspect the fraction of women who want career-over-caregiving is somewhere between 20 and 40% of potential people-with-prestigious-careers, not 50%. The fact that some women balance work and family beautifully doesn’t negate the statistical point he’s making. I know women in the balance camp, women in the “I never wanted kids camp” and, it’s appearing, women in the “I wish I had tried to have kids sooner” camp.

    And in light of my ongoing emphasis on the rural/urban divide, here’s a map of IVF rates by state.
    http://www.fertilitynation.com/united-states-of-ivf-state-ivf-rates-rankings-map-infographic/#.WA9ub2QrIx8

    I agree that individual pregnancy issues associated with age (high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, C-section) aren’t probably of huge concern. My main concern is the population rates of disability that are associated with older mothers (and frankly, the costs of caring for those people if termination weren’t the most common result of genetic abnormality), the efficacy of fetal screening (including false positives and false negatives, which have declined with fetal DNA screening) and the moral dilemmas associated with fetal screening.

  14. Kate – the likelihood of getting pregnant around age 34 drops markedly and then further drops the older a person is. Try picturing a plateau or slight declining slope, a sudden increase in steepness (age 34/35) and then a steep drop off.

  15. I was AMA too. My doctor and I talked about the fact that since a female has all her eggs at five months gestation, there is no getting around that the older you are there is a chance for issues with both the egg and/or the mother’s health. However, he was quick to point out that his patients in their 30’s were better equipped emotionally and financially to be parents then his younger patients. His care plan just included extra monitoring (NST’s from 30 weeks and more ultrasounds) though nowadays this holds true for most of his patients because younger mothers want the same level of care regardless of risk factors. Everyone wants the perfect pregnancy and delivery and if that does not happen the doctor will be held accountable even if s/he is not at fault.

    I have a friend who has four children. Two were born when she was 20 and then 21, the third at 30 and the last at 38. She has mentioned that with her first two she left the hospital in her skinny jeans and her stomach muscles and energy levels were back to pre-pregnancy at about 6 weeks. With her third, she left in sweats and she felt “normal” at about 3 to 4 months. With the final child, she stated that it took closer to a year and though she lost all the weight, she still feels her stomach has never fully recovered.

    I think both sexes should think about if they want a family and plan accordingly as their are many factors to consider.

  16. I was advanced maternal age with my youngest (35) and I remember having to go to this specialist for the 12 week U/S. Everything tested fine but the specialist had wanted me to come back at 19 weeks and my dr. said “cancel that appt., that dr. is just trying to pad his pockets”. I read somewhere that the 35 cut off is based on some small study of french women (like 12 women) from 100 years ago or something ridiculous like that. Even after 40 the majority of pregnancies are normal.

    A woman’s fertility is not some permanent state – some women struggle at some times and not others. You don’t necessarily have fertility problems and always have them. Your hormones could balance at some point and you get a surprise. My friend who had to do IVF for her first pregnancy, then had four unsuccessful IVF treatments, changed her diet a bit and did acupuncture and she got pregnant naturally with her 2nd.

  17. To attain personal autonomy, young women are urged to achieve their educational goals and establish a career path before marriage and family.

    That really doesn’t seem to be the problem in my experience. By far the biggest issue seems to be waiting too long to settle on a mate. Some women feel they have all the time in the world but the reality is the window starts closing by their late 20s.

  18. Kerri – sorry. I was speaking more to fetal/maternal issues, not fertility. What he told me is that there is kind of a steady increasing chance of risks but no real reason to make the cut-off 35 v 32 v 37.

  19. I wonder what the stats were for declining fertility by age 50 years ago. Women seem to have more fertility problems now at younger ages so I don’t think you can plan a career around a family, but they also have more medical options if nature doesn’t take its course.

  20. “I suspect the fraction of women who want career-over-caregiving is somewhere between 20 and 40% of potential people-with-prestigious-careers, not 50%.”

    Based on what? Since women historically have not had an equal shot at careers, how do you know what the balance point may be? Let’s give everyone equal access and equal support and then see what the percentages are.

    And at what point in time are you measuring? Can’t you have a prestigious career later in life when the kids are grown? Do you compare those women with 20 somethings?

    (I also wouldn’t characterize myself as wanting “career over caregiving” and don’t necessary view my career as prestigious, although others might.)

  21. I took advanced maternal age very seriously. My mother had two C sections and overall not pleasant post partum experiences.
    For me, meeting DH, getting married all proceeded before thirty so I could have waited a bit more but there was no perfect time at my job to take off, so I decided to have kids, putting the job second.
    I sometimes wish I had one more kid, given that both my pregnancies were uneventful but two it remains.

  22. The age varies a lot for marriage by region and state.

    As of 2014:
    The oldest-marrying states are New York (28.8 for women, 30.3 for men), Massachusetts (28.8, 30.1), Rhode Island (28.5, 30.2), Connecticut (28.2, 30.0) and New Jersey (28.1, 30.1). But D.C. politicos seem to have the hardest time settling down, with the median age of first marriage at 29.8 for women and 30.6 for men.

    As for the youngest-marrying states, Utah takes first place with the median age of 23.5 for women and 25.6 for men. Others include Idaho (24.0 for women, 25.8 for men), Wyoming (24.5, 26.8), Arkansas (24.8, 26.3) and Oklahoma (24.8, 26.3).

    I was 30 and unmarried when I worked out of west coast Florida office for a large bank. I was one of the few women that had never been married even though there plenty of other single women hat were already divorced. I would travel back to NYC frequently, and my unmarried status at 30 was very common in professional circles.

  23. The fact that some women balance work and family beautifully doesn’t negate the statistical point he’s making.

    And the statistical point he’s making doesn’t negate the fact that people have free will and varying levels of interest in making that balance work. And as Kerri said, let’s try changing up the social conditions of parenthood and work and see what happens.

  24. The problem with this is that while being younger is better for getting pregnant, it isn’t better for being a good stable parent with the financial means to support children. That is also a simple fact of life. With today’s millenials living at home and driving Uber cars, I don’t see that changing. And it is a worse problem for millenials without college degrees.

  25. I was the kid of too-young, financially unstable parents, so I know that is not an optimal path.

  26. Kerri, “Based on what? Since women historically have not had an equal shot at careers, how do you know what the balance point may be? Let’s give everyone equal access and equal support and then see what the percentages are.”

    I guess I think of prestigious career as “well within top 1%”, because the statistics on inequality usually look at the fraction of women who are CEO’s, etc. I think 95-98% of careers are pretty doable, and a shared parenting culture would help a lot. Mr WCE’s manager (prestigious PhD in electrical engineering) is a manager I suspect in part because she doesn’t want to travel as much as her all-male group has to since she has a toddler. It also sounds like despite her position, her spouse is reluctant to share infant care tasks, which I think is a more common situation for female than male professionals. A fellow mom at small group was a fighter pilot and then retired after 20 years in the military and is now a SAHM- I think that’s a good balance possibility for the right person.0

    I think everyone should have equal opportunity but I know far too many men who were uninterested in family in their 20’s/30’s (and then settled down to have a family at 40+) to think that an equal number of women will ever have that option. Maybe it’s the people I know.

  27. Louise – imo, c-sections vary wildly. Mine were terrible, ok, awesome (in that order wrt to increasing age). I suspect there is a tipping point soon thereafter where they would have become terrible for me again (and my dr said no more!). But, a scheduled, planned c-section is one of God’s greatest gifts!

  28. “it isn’t better for being a good stable parent with the financial means to support children”

    This generalization is unfair. Same goes for the doctor who presumed to know the relative financial strength and maturity of his younger patients.

  29. Housing costs are generally lower in the early marriage states. That may be a factor facilitating early marriage.

    I was hoping at least part of the discussion would include why this is considered a female problem. Why do so many men I know think this is “not their problem and I’ll just marry someone 7-10 years younger?”

  30. I got married at 24, went to graduate school, and started trying to conceive at 27
    A decade goes by and years of infertility treatment later, still no baby.
    Husband dies.
    Many years later I meet and marry my current husband, with no plan to have children.
    At 44, a surprise (very happy surprise) baby.
    Life happens and it doesn’t always go according to plan. I know very few women who intentionally waited until AMA to have children. Sometimes it just works out that way.

    And I am a far more patient and involved parent in my mid forties than I would have been in my late twenties (although it is harder to keep up with a toddler at this age).

  31. I had a scheduled Csection with #2 (breech baby) after a natural birth, no meds, with the first. The Csection was NOT a greatest gift. Neither was the natural birth either. The difference was that with the natural birth, the pain came first, and then once the baby came, I was fine and able to enjoy him right away. With the Csection, the pain was after and left me unable to do much of anything for 2 days. Bleh to all of it.

  32. WCE, why do you continue to insist, as in your 10:29 post, that the division of labor you and your husband have chosen is the only one feasible or right? Given the constraints that arrangements puts on you, there are of course many careers which are difficult for you. But those limitations are not a given, no matter how much you protest that they are “natural”.

  33. Kate – I was very afraid of a C section. This was based on my mother’s experience. First off, she was the only woman to have a C section among all the women in my family. And both her experiences were terrible with two different doctors. The second time around she went with a well reputed doctor but that didn’t help.

  34. “it isn’t better for being a good stable parent with the financial means to support children”

    I’m not sure this matters all that much either. I think Totebaggers think it does, and it certainly makes things easier, but I think having two involved parents matters the most. My mom was 24 when she had me and she and my dad were probably middle to lower middle class. We all grew up fine (and their fortunes improved with time). We all had to have jobs in high school but it was fun (and this just may be a function of where and when I grew up but all teenagers had jobs so it wasn’t like we stood out).

  35. Milo, generalization yes. But I bet the statistics bear me out, just as the statistics also show that you are better off having kids in your 20’s. If you compare based on salary, liklihood of holding a job, liklihood of being married or in a stable relationship, the over 34 crowd I am sure will win hands down over the 20-somethings. And yet, 34 is when the big dropoff in fertility starts.

  36. UL, I read a few years ago that studies were underway to determine if a woman’s eggs are “preserved” when she’s on the pill, so that the chance of pregnancy/healthy offspring does not drop until several years later than would otherwise be the case. I don’t know what the outcome was.
    My experience does not align with your friend’s. At 36, I was not quite in as good of shape as at 18, but very nearly, and I quickly returned to my pre-pregnancy clothing. It is the years of parenting that have put weight on me.

  37. WCE, why do you continue to insist, as in your 10:29 post, that the division of labor you and your husband have chosen is the only one feasible or right?

    I have NEVER insisted that our division of labor is the only feasible or right one. I have said that I think there are natural factors (breastfeeding, limitations during at least some high risk pregnancies) affecting the choice and that’s why it won’t be 50%, my statistical definition of equality.

    Please listen more carefully.

  38. WCE, both Rocky and Kerri made that argument before you posted
    “I was hoping at least part of the discussion would include why this is considered a female problem. Why do so many men I know think this is “not their problem and I’ll just marry someone 7-10 years younger?””

  39. Louise – I think it is very normal to be afraid of a c-section. It is pretty major surgery usually performed on you while awake (which is weird!).

    MM – anecdotally, all of my friends who have had multiple sections have reported that their first one was the toughest. Not sure why.

  40. “Please listen more carefully.”

    You could read your own posts more carefully. Your entire argument is based on the notion that those are the roles, period.

  41. Why do so many men I know think this is “not their problem and I’ll just marry someone 7-10 years younger?”

    Because it’s not their problem as they can marry someone 10 years younger.

  42. “If you compare based on salary, liklihood of holding a job, liklihood of being married or in a stable relationship, the over 34 crowd I am sure will win hands down over the 20-somethings.”

    I guess it depends if you’re just looking at the population as a whole, or individually. Individually, people can be married with stable jobs in their 20s. And at this point, it’s become hopelessly quaint to expect parents to be married.

    Saac – I haven’t seen WCE say that their particular division of labor is the only correct or natural one.

  43. Why do so many men I know think this is “not their problem and I’ll just marry someone 7-10 years younger?”

    Kate beat me to it…because they can.

    Many women I’ve know wanted to marry someone older than they were by a wider spread than DW & I (2.67 years). A (stereo)typical refrain from women in their mid 20s is often there are plenty of guys (close to) their age who are fun for dating, but as for marriage material, they’re looking for someone more settled down (i.e. older)

  44. “My only concern about choosing a career path based on expectations of a future family are that you can’t fully control the life happens stuff. You should be able to anticipate, adapt, and minimize the risks, but choosing only certain careers seems to go a bit too far.”

    I completely agree. And that goes for men AND women. There are men out there who take career paths that ultimately aren’t compatible with the lifestyle and family situation that they find they want 15 years post-college either.

    Now, I don’t run in Goldman Sachs/McKinsey circles, obviously, but my experience is that when people wait to have kids, it’s because they didn’t find the right spouse until they were older. And they were trying. Hard. NOT because they are too busy “climbing the ladder” to date or married for a long time & putting off kids in order to have more career success. Do we really want to encourage people to marry the first semi-acceptable warm body & have kids before the dreaded AMA sets in? I don’t think so. FWIW, I have examples of that too, and it’s not a pretty situation.

    I also hate this idea of people being career focused vs. care-giving focused. The truth is, the vast majority of parents (both genders) are somewhere in between. That is the whole point of the genesis of this blog – how do different families make it work in different ways. Make more jobs more compatible with having lives outside of work for men AND women, and give women equal access to go for them if they want. I do think I’ve seen that changing over the course of my career, and it is a good thing.

  45. Milo, sure, and individually, women can have babies in their 40’s. I know of several, including one mom at our daycare who was 43 when the suprise pregnancy happened.

    The article we are discussing is based on a statistical view, one which is actually correct (it is easier to get pregnant when you are in your late teens through your 20’s). I am just looking at ability to parent in a similar way.

  46. Milo’s yacht discussion made me think of Mr WCE’s friend who is a research oncologist with a SAHD who spends many weekends sailing. I could imagine Milo enjoying that division of labor.

  47. “MM – anecdotally, all of my friends who have had multiple sections have reported that their first one was the toughest. Not sure why.”

    Were the first ones scheduled? I had a c-section after many many hours of labor & attempted delivery. It was brutal. I would imagine that if I had a second, walking into the hospital at my scheduled time for surgery after a good night’s sleep at home would have been significantly easier in every possible way. That has been the reported experience from my friends.

    I know that I personally think that having a baby at 31 was ideal for me. Old enough to be a bit more stable and settled, but young enough that I won’t have a kid in college when I’m in my 60’s. But that’s also just how things worked out. I married at 30, and I didn’t have fertility issues even though they run in my family.

  48. “Milo, sure, and individually, women can have babies in their 40’s. I know of several, including one mom at our daycare who was 43 when the suprise pregnancy happened.”

    Yes, but the difference is that a 25-year-old will know if she’s married and financially stable, at which point the statistics about Millenials living with their parents becomes irrelevant. But she won’t know what her fertility and likelihood of complications will be in 15 years.

    It just seemed weird that the doctor would say “you may be old, but at least you’re not poor and immature like my younger patients.” That, combined with the generalization that people in their 20s are not as fit to be parents, was a little grating.

  49. “I had a c-section after many many hours of labor & attempted delivery.”

    Same. The second one was scheduled, but harder to recover from. It’s harder to rest when you have a toddler at home, and it’s harder to recover from a second surgery to the same area.

  50. Milo, I think it’s good that many women delay pregnancy until they find an appropriate partner. When I was hanging out in the lab for my gestational diabetes screening, I was the same age as at least one mother of my fellow moms-to-be.

  51. Do we really want to encourage people to marry the first semi-acceptable warm body

    Eh, they need to be realistic about their current and future marital prospects.

  52. Actually MIlo, an OB has quite a bit of information to hazard a good guess on his patient’s financial stability. S/He knows where you live and if you are single, married, living together, your occupation/employer, your partner’s occupation/employer or if neither of you are employed, your insurance (none, medicaid, employee based), your level of education and then he has all the emotional information too. Most pregnant women are seen on a monthly then to weekly basis by the end. The OB is asking at every visit how you’re doing and what stresses are in your life. S/He knows if you need services and extra support and helps you acquire them. I’m sure there is a margin of error, however, I don’t think he is making a guess in the dark but is making a very educated one.

  53. Milo, the person who wrote the article wants a social re-engineering so that women will have babies younger. Doing that without taking into account the very real issues – in general, younger people will be less likely to be married and to have a steady job – seems like a bad idea. There has been a fair amount of hand wringing lately about the fact that children don’t do as well when they have parents who are not stable financially or in a committed relationship. Calling for a major effort to encourage women to have babies young seems like it will increase the number of children in unstable situations.

  54. WCE – I’m pondering your SAHD and sailing proposition. To be honest, I think I would need something that clearly indicates that I contributed to the financial comfort. A 20-year Navy pension like your fighter pilot friend has would suffice.

    But I’m not quite so modern and egalitarian that I could live without having contributed financially in a significant way. I guess I’m old fashioned, too.

  55. My one and only Csection was scheduled. Breech baby. It was so miserable. During the operation, I felt like I was in some kind of nightmare. I was terrified. After, I just remember being so hungry I thought I would pass out, and I wasn’t allowed to eat until the next morning. The pain started that evening (Csection was 8am) and was so bad the second day that I had to ask the people watching our toddler not to bring him for a visit. The hospital was one where the dads room in, and boy was I glad he was rooming in. I couldn’t do much of anything.

  56. “Calling for a major effort to encourage women to have babies young seems like it will increase the number of children in unstable situations.”

    I’m not saying there’s any realistic possibility to the argument, but I imagine it would be targeted toward a specific group.

  57. Ivy – certainly those who had emergency sections followed by scheduled ones report an easier time with the second. But even those who had scheduled ones the first time around (and even stranger those who try for a vbac and fail and end up with a second c-section) have all pretty much said that the second was easier. I think experience and expectations might play a part.

  58. WCE wanted us to talk about gender, so I will. I think women do take into account family relationships more, so they probably do think more about the negative side of not having children. Men are not conditioned to think in those terms, even though I know some older men who never had kids who do regret it. The result is that men will bounce around, not really thinking about settling down and having kids, until a much later age then women, and if kids don’t work out, they tend to not dwell on it. At least until they get older themselves and their peers start dying off.

    This week, there was a death in DH’s extended family. The wife of one of his cousins died very suddenly. They are in their 50’s. The husband always wanted children, but for whatever reason, they never did. They also got very reclusive in the last decade or so. I always wondered what was happening. Anyway, I feel really bad for the husband. He isn’t really prime marriageable material for a number of reasons, so I doubt he will go out and find a hot young thing.

  59. And back to the gender thing. Because men don’t really think very hard about having kids, at least until it is too late, women now are just giving up and having kids anyway. I suspect that is one of the drivers in the big increase in children born to single mothers. If we start really pushing for women to have babies younger, we will just see more of this, because men are not going to suddenly start becoming more mature in their 20’s

  60. Milo, here is the quote from the summary
    “A social re-engineering back to a more conventional time may be difficult, if not impossible to do, but a failure to do so will result in increasing numbers of women left childless and without adequate medical interventions to reconcile their needs. To succeed in this endeavor doctors will need to enlist the support of partners in all aspects of life: educators, employers, lawyers, theologians, and legislators. ”

    He isn’t targeting any specific group of women.

  61. The specialist who wrote this is focusing on women having babies over 40 and discusses how 35-39 is pretty OK. Part of the reason I thought it was appropriate for this blog is that the people he is discussing might be Totebaggers, though after today’s discussion, I think maybe not, for the same reason that Totebaggers are financially prudent- they think ahead.

    My specialist said his general advice (which is probably what all fertility specialists give) is that if you know you want kids, you should be seeking a life partner by 30 and trying/having your first baby by 35. Specialists disproportionately see the women who, at 40, say, “Someone should have told me,” so there’s a lot of selection bias in their worldview.

  62. I got married at 26. Had DS1 at 27, DD at 29, DS2 at 31 and DS3 this March at 34. Post baby body recovery has been much more difficult after baby #4. It may be a function of age, but as much as anything, I think my poor abdominal muscles have just surrendered after being stretched out so much. I work full time and DH stays home with the kids. If given a blank slate, this is NOT how either one of us would have designed out lives – but that’s how things worked out and am thankful he was willing to quit his (lower paying) job when it became clear that our child care situation was no longer working for the family. He does a good job with the kids, but definitely has less inclination to do the childcare duties than I do.

  63. My first, unplanned c-section was much easier than the second, which was scheduled. I had put it down to being younger, but as Houston mentioned, having a toddler to care for added to the difficulty. I found the recovery from the second to be much more difficult. For the first, the nurses would come in every few hours and make me roll over in to my side. I was up shuffling around in my room by day two. For the second, in a different hospital, I was not forced to move around at all, but did try to get up a little myself in my room. It just seemed to be more painful and more slow than I remembered the first.

    I have friends that had their first child at 18. I used to refer to her to other people as the best mother. She was so determined to not live down to stereotypes that she was the first tiger Mom I met. I have a cousin who had a surprise pregnancy at 47. She is also a very good mother, although a bit worn down. Parenting is an are where there are so many definitions of “good” and so much variability among kids and environments that stereotypes or generalizations don’t apply.

    Although I’ve always worked, I have talked to both my son and daughter about considering the whole life they want, not just career aspects, when planning. I agree with WCE that reality does lineup with women taking a stronger role in the caregiving. I completely support non-traditional roles if that’s what a family chooses. I think my kids should give at least some thought to the lives they’d like to craft for themselves fairly early on. I know my husband and I did not. We just sort of drifted into what we have.

  64. Regardless of the specifics of individual cases, it remains true that pregnancy and childbirth are easier for women under 35 and much harder for women over 40. It is also true that women will not usually know their own fertility potential when they are applying to college and considering careers. So it certainly would make sense for women to at least think about the trade offs they are willing to make before they start in on long professional training paths. IME, too many young women have their heads in the sand and assume that technology will save them. I get that many Totebaggy women don’t find a suitable partner at age 25, but my sense is that young women and their parents simply don’t attach the same priority to finding a spouse as they do to finding the right college and career. Even though the spouse choice is more important.
    Not criticizing anyone’s life choices here. But if the marriage market described by Jane Austen was an extreme, perhaps we have swung too far in the other direction.

  65. We started out at 50/50 but ended up drifting to our current situation. I realized a bit late that to climb the career ladder I had to be willing to work long hours and travel. We were willing to outsource child care and did but we were bumping up against the limit that we were comfortable with. In the meanwhile DH’s career took off and so the question of his being the stay at home parent didn’t arise. For me, I thought of quitting when the kids were small but each year I have managed to plod along and get promoted within the scope of what I can manage. I don’t know whether I will want to ramp up later or whether I will be just too worn out.

  66. As sort of a poll question (which reminds me, I never checked back for more results to my other survey), at what age did your mindset about dating become “I’m potentially looking for someone to marry”?

    I’m assuming that it wasn’t in high school, and it was probably sometime before 35. But when? College? Later?

  67. Good topic today.

    I married young (in college), divorced (after 10 years, but still no kids), and then found my current partner and father of our two DDs. For both, I was AMA and the second, just after turning 39 was harder than the first at 36. And, my body has never really been the same after the second pregnancy and c-section.

    I think there are various social/financial expectations pulling at women.
    1. The need to be able to sustain yourself and your family if your spouse dies or leaves without (due to circumstance or choice) providing support to the children. This translates to obtaining an education and some career stability before having children.
    2. The need to be a good parent – the time (room mom, extra curricular activities, the helicoptering), the cost (extra curricular and enrichment activities, college) – gives younger people pause espeically if they are currently underemployed and carrying student loan debt.
    3. If you do it right, you can “have it all”. All being a demanding job (in terms of time and travel) , still volunteer at your child’s school every week, take him/her to every select/club sports practice and game/tournament, do all your own home-cooked meals and send only the most healthy (bento box) lunches with your kids, entertain regularly, and spend time either volunteering or honing your hobby.
    4. The “take care of yourself” push to ensure you are building in enough self-care/pampering time into the routine because you are failing if you aren’t working out/dieting to maintain your body, don’t have the updated look – wardrobe, hair, make-up, and aren’t spending time with your friends and aren’t going to the spa.

    IF you listen to these expectations, I don’t think you can have all of every one of them. I think you can pick or choose, or you can have some of all of them.

  68. Milo – answer to your question. At age 19 when arranged marriage proposals started coming in. My cultural context is also different and quite the opposite of Totebaggers. I wanted to get the whole marriage bit over with so a decent, responsible guy with a good job was good enough for me. I got along very well with the families I met – so I assumed their sons would be OK too.

  69. Let’s all remember that fertility issues aren’t unique to women. Lots of men have fertility issues as well.

    Isn’t the point of the article to say, hey 20 somethings (men and women), please be aware of these issues and risks with fertility that occur with having children in your late 30s and 40s. Here is information you may not be aware of that could change your future plans.

    Maybe more women would freeze their eggs younger, maybe couples would consider adoption or fostering, maybe people would simply think about these issues in the first place. I know I didn’t really think about this stuff at all in my 20s.

  70. Milo, your question assumes a switch from “not ready to marry” to “ready”. I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t open to the possibility of marriage. It just depends on the guy.

  71. @Milo

    I thought that I would marry my college boyfriend, but that didn’t work out. I dated a lot through my early & mid-twenties, definitely looking for something serious, but not really finding it. Was I “ready” to get married? I don’t know because I never met someone where there was mutual interested in getting more serious. I dated a few different guys for about 4-6 months, but it never worked out – sometime I ended it, sometimes he did. I also was not going to settle for the first warm body who would just do either.

    I met DH when I was in my late 20’s and married at 30. I have no idea what would have happened if I had married my college boyfriend after all, or if I hadn’t met DH and ended up single into my 30’s.

    @Austin

    Agree with you – you can’t have all the things on that list, but I think a lot of people can have some of them.

  72. Milo, on your 11:23 post, look at the last sentence of the first paragraph and the first question in the second paragraph of WCE’s post. “It is my opinion that X” and “based on the fact of X”. That is what her entire argument is based on: the assumption that her opinion is fact. Absent her assumptions about men and women and their roles in the family and therefore in society, why would this even be a question? It wouldn’t be.

  73. Well, I wasn’t ready to marry in high school, and I assumed that even a serious boyfriend would get lost in the college shuffle. But starting in college, yeah, I was paying attention. I think I had really wrong priorities; I didn’t pay enough attention to whether they were likely to be able to support themselves. And the main guy I dated in college was so ambitious that he would never, ever have moved or made even the slightest accommodation for any of my career aspirations, which was a big reason why we broke up.

  74. To Milo’s question- it kind of went:

    Date guy. Blah. It slowly dies out.
    Date another guy. It slowly dies out.
    Date guy seriously. He wants to get married. It makes you kind of nauseated to think about. Ends in spectacular fashion when you tell him this after he had gone ring shopping.
    Revert back to above.
    Meet future husband. Really good guy. You are not stupid. Marry him.

    I don’t think there was a time that I was ready v not. Just when I met the right person.

  75. saac – I interpreted the “fact” to mean the facts about fertility decline and increases in complications based on maternal age, not WCE’s personal preferences about gender roles in marriage and childrearing.

  76. Many women I’ve know wanted to marry someone older than they were by a wider spread than DW & I (2.67 years). A (stereo)typical refrain from women in their mid 20s is often there are plenty of guys (close to) their age who are fun for dating, but as for marriage material, they’re looking for someone more settled down (i.e. older)

    This goes back to the traditional male/female roles and desires. Men want a woman who can bear children. Women want a protector/provider.

  77. I certainly wasn’t looking to get married in high school, but even back then I had a rule that I wouldn’t date someone that had obvious disqualifications for marriage. I figured it wasn’t a good idea to even start down the road to falling in love if there were serious road blocks at the end of the line. I can think of one boy in high school (a pot smoking, academically uninclined-but flirty and fun boy from art class), and one in college (he was a good friend and we had serious chemistry – but he was an atheist) that had the rule applied to them.

  78. TLC, I similarly had a good atheist friend in college with whom I had awesome chemistry. I thought that was just me.

  79. It’s interesting to hear about women’s experiences with c-sections. I’ve always assumed that for a healthy woman / healthy child, having major surgery (no way to do this one laparoscopically!) would be much more difficult than giving birth vaginally. The closest thing to a comparison I have is laproscopic surgery on my ovaries, which entailed three incisions in my abdomen (one of them through my belly button). The first time I had it done, in my early 30s, I woke up from the anesthesia, tried to sit up, and was stunned that I could not, unless I used my hands to push myself up. I was in a country with good health care, so I stayed in the hospital for a week. Even after coming home, I was very tender and had to be careful about movements for another week or two. The second time I had it done, 15 years later, I was in the US, so it was outpatient surgery. I was literally in bed and on hydrocodone for at least a week after the Dec 4 surgery, and remember being pleased that I was well enough norm to need to pre-board when we flew home for Christmas. Giving birth vaginally with very little pain medication was much, much easier for me than those surgeries, which are less invasive than a C-section. But if your anatomy is such that childbirth could be dangerous for you, it’s obviously a different calculation.

  80. Milo – definitely in college (although I am VERY GLAD I didn’t marry my college boyfriend – he was tone deaf!). Maybe my siblings and I are unusual – the other 2 both met their spouses in college and I met DH in law school but when I was 22, so still pretty young. I had my kids earlier than siblings (I was 29, sibling was 32, remaining sibling is now 32 and no kids yet.)

    Most of my friends who had/are having kids late (1) didn’t meet their spouses until late, and/or (2) either they or their spouse had fertility issues.

  81. Austin, interesting that you put all the things in #4 together. I don’t consider taking care of me in a way that lets me be healthy and feel good to be at all the same thing as taking care of my appearance.

  82. S&M – I have had 3 c-sections and 2 laparoscopic surgeries in the same general vicinity. My toughest c-section (under general/true emergency) was harder than the laparoscopic surgeries. But those 2 surgeries were harder than my easier 2 c-sections. I think lap surgeries can still be hard, especially because they knock you out and shoot all of that CO2 in there.

    Anyway – everyone’s experience is different and I am glad that I am done!

  83. I have a link to my old high school boyfriend on FB. It was a very serious relationship, and it was clear he wanted it to continue post HS. But I wanted to go off to college, and he wanted to bike across the country with me and be hippies. It is interesting to see how he turned out. He is still a happy hippie, living about an hour outside of Vancouver (he was a Canadian citizen even when I knew him). He is married, and his grandkids are just a tad younger than my kids, so he must have had his kids really young. I think that is what he wanted. He married another artist, a lady who looks rather like me. I don’t think they have a lot of money or security but they seem totally happy. I am really glad for him. It makes me happy to see his posts. But I am so, so, so glad I did not take that bike trip with him.

  84. Kate, huh, i always thought the point of lap. methods was for it to be easier recovery than opening the abdominal cavity up. I’m somebody who enjoyed pregnancy and childbirth. (Not in a “whee, this is fun” way, but involving / worthwhile/ rewarding) We are indeed all different.

  85. When I first married in college, we decided to postpone kids until after we’d both graduated and I’d had a year or so in my first post-college job. However, by that time there were other things going wrong in the relationship and kids were not on the radar. When I met my current partner, I was in my early 30s and definitely looking for someone who wanted kids. As he already had children, he wasn’t sure about more. It became a deal-breaker. I wasn’t going to continue a relationship with someone who had no desire for children, when I wanted them. Time was getting short. In the end, we have two DDs. Our age difference is almost 15 years. Thankfully, we had no trouble with fertility issues.

  86. Mooshi, is he hoping for another chance with you? My mom’s HS sweetheart called her every few years from when he got back from Vietnam until he died. His disappointment that my dad was still around apparently grew more evident with each call.

  87. In college I was definitely not thinking about marriage. I do remember reflecting when heading off to law school that since the guy I’d dated in Ireland had no interest in moving to where I was, and I had no interest in finding a way to stay in Ireland, clearly it wasn’t going to happen long-term no matter how much fun it had been. But primarily, it was when I met the right guy in my late 20s and I “just knew.” So, married at 30, had kids at 33, 35, 37.

    My mother was getting anxious for grandchildren but could see that my sibs and I were following the same pattern as our college friends, so I don’t think she was that worried, and in fact my sister married at 24 so she and her husband (same age, met at college) were actually the early-marrieds of their friends. But my MIL was looking at other families in the rural area where they live for her sample, and she’s mentioned that she was getting pretty concerned at one point about whether she’d ever have grandchildren!

  88. For medical purposes, shouldn’t the guys be thinking about advanced paternal age? I believe there have been studies linking advanced paternal age to autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder (and maybe other maladies as well).

    I wasn’t thinking about marriage much at all through college — the thought of settling down didn’t appeal to me at all. Then I met the guy who became my first fiance (when I was 24), and suddenly it clicked — being with him made me totally understand why someone would want to commit to one person and settle down. I had every expectation that I would be married by 25 or 26, and done with child bearing by around 30. And then he left me, and it took me a long time to recover from that, and then longer still to meet DH. I got married right before my 35th birthday. Yep, life happens.

    I guess I very blithely wasn’t too worried about fertility during my years of relationship struggles, because my mother had her kids at 35 and 38, back in the 1960s when that was unusual. So I guess I figured that genetics were in my favor. I also figured that the fact that I had lived a very boring life (e.g. very little alcohol, no smoking, no drugs) might help, too. I had DS at 36 and DD at 39.

  89. In the home country marriage/family is a big topic so after college, first job that topic comes up unless you have stated that it is an off limits topic (and many young people have told their elders that they have no interest in marriage and family). This is where the biggest change has occurred since my day. Quite a few friends and family deciding to remain single.

  90. I think that guys may think about advanced paternal age, but they don’t worry about it. Also, I don’t think that people really know what it is like to get older until they experience it, or they have to be a live in care taker or an elderly person.

    I was worried about it when I was in my 30s, and my ob/gyn mentioned it at each visit as soon as she knew I got married. She had her own child very late because she married later in life, and she made sure to educate her own patients.

  91. I had a very serious boyfriend in high school and we dated until junior year of college long distance. I could have married him and probably been perfectly happy but I just didn’t want to marry my first serious boyfriend (or I at least wanted to date some other guys first). We had a very bad break up, tried to be friends which didn’t work and then I ultimately met DH at the end of senior year of college. I knew after a few weeks that we would get married (as one does when they are 21) but we waited until I was 25 and he was out of law school.

    Dh’s girlfriend before me was a girl from the south that went to college to find a husband. She and DH broke up a month before we met and she then married this very handsome but very sleazy guy we went to school with. They inevitably divorced when she caught him cheating and she never married again or had children so best laid plans and all. I don’t think you can plan much in life. She seems to be enjoying life even though it’s not the life she thought she wanted.

  92. I agree with Scarlett (!) – I think the mechanics of when you marry and when you parent should be something that is an open discussion through the years. I wanted children, and DH wanted me to finish training before we had them (in retrospect, a very smart decision). I went “straight through” – no breaks between high school and finishing residency, and was 29 when I finished. It took a year to conceive and I was 31 with my first. I had always thought I would work abroad after I finished my education – DWB, something like that. However, after I had a year of real work, I was 6 months pregnant. I had never really done the math, and I had not understood how short time would feel at 3. I would have happily delayed kids for 3-4 years, but it felt so uncertain – what if I couldn’t get pregnant? What if there were multiple miscarriages? It seemed like too much of a gamble to put off, especially as I wanted more than one. 18 year old me made decisions about a life path without any understanding about what a 30 year old me would want (a 401k, kids relatively soon, etc).

    A friend started trying in mid thirties and had an ectopic, followed by several losses due to fibroids. I don’t know if she relates that to waiting too long (she had the same partner for 10 years before they started trying), but fibroids are definitely a problem that increase with age. I suspect she could have had a healthy pregnancy had she tried at 25. I’ve never had that conversation with her – I can’t imagine I can bring any joy or useful revelation. She’s since had a hysterectomy, so she really won’t ever carry a pregnancy. I wonder what her understanding of the whole age, fertility, etc. equation is.

  93. Part of the point of the article was that, though men can certainly have fertility problems too, they have fewer issues than women and are simply not as constrained by biology

  94. ” at what age did your mindset about dating become “I’m potentially looking for someone to marry”?”

    Never. But my wife and I met in grad school. I think for many who met their eventual life partner / spouse / whatever in a college/school setting, whatever level, it was dating that evolved into something more serious.

  95. Did anyone’s parents bring up these issues with them ? My mother certainly did. She was all for higher education and pursuing a career but she also brought up the personal side of the equation.

  96. “Did anyone’s parents bring up these issues with them ?”

    Not at all.

    “are simply not as constrained by biology”

    I think this is the part that I don’t really get. Yes, I was the one who was pregnant, but I worked until the 8th month and then took the maximum leave permitted by my company (~ 4 mos). I just can’t wrap my head around why a one-time 4 month break from work should be held against me for my whole career, to the point where it would impact my career choices. Even if the break was longer or I was pregnant more than once, really, this should impact my whole lifetime of work?

  97. Ok, so it’s funny to me that we spent all day yesterday jumping on the author because of his condescending tone toward a trump voters, but there is little to no discussion of how off-putting this guy’s tone is. “Political correctness” is an excellent way to dismiss a whole line of argument without engaging in the substance – because, clearly, people can’t *mean* it, they’re just being politically correct. And “A social re-engineering back to a more conventional time may be difficult, if not impossible to do” — really? Why is the the goal? He presents a legitimate issue – constraints on female fertility – but then smoothly moves to making his moral/political/whatever point by setting up the strawman that only “solution” is to return to the good old days, presumably when women got married young and started popping out babies right away instead of being so damn uppity.

    Yes, women face more biological fertility issues. I will be the first one to have this discussion – thanks to my fibroids and autoimmune disease, I had a bunch of issues and “old” eggs. My DD needs to know that in case there are inherited issues – and my son needs to know that because he or his future wife could have issues.

    I think the real issue is having thoughtful conversations with our kids about the kinds of lives they want to have, and how various career paths and life choices affect that. It is just as wrong to ignore the potential impact of a job/career path on one’s goals for family life as it is to ignore the potential impacts of family life on one’s goals for a job/career path.

    Apologies for what I am sure are many typos – on train and my phone keeps swapping me to the number pad.

  98. If I had my druthers I would have waited a bit longer (1st at 30) but even then I knew that things got harder as you got older and I knew that we would need time if we were unsuccessful on our own so we got down to it. Turns out pregnant first time both times. Don’t know how much different my life would be had we waited since I always knew that I wanted to be at home if the financials permitted it. Sometimes I wonder if I had chosen a different professional path, would I be doing that now that the kids are older – but I’ve started on some new things (stand up and writing) that are so fulfilling and I’m not sure I would be doing this if I kept working so I’m really glad about where I am now. No point in looking back. I will encourage both of my children to think about what kind of life they would like to have. Sure you never know how things will work out but it is foolish not to try to plan a little. I mean we all could have died at 32 and all of it would be pointless too. Plan and adapt accordingly.

  99. Did anyone’s parents bring up these issues with them ?

    Yeah, but with mixed messages. On the one hand, Mom explained that I’d be a pathetic, worthless loser if I didn’t get married. On the other, she went through long periods of hating my dad’s guts (for no good reason other than that she was very unstable.) So then I got the “Never be dependent on a man!! Always have your own career!! Don’t marry the first guy who comes along!!” And she didn’t want me to have children because she wanted me to be available to take care of her in her dotage. So the messages I got weren’t super helpful.

  100. “Even if the break was longer or I was pregnant more than once, really, this should impact my whole lifetime of work?”

    But from what I’ve seen it’s not so much the four-month break that makes the impact, but the years of taking on a greater share of childcare duties.

    “ I will encourage both of my children to think about what kind of life they would like to have. Sure you never know how things will work out but it is foolish not to try to plan a little.”

    I don’t think I have ever actually asked my kids if they envision fully equal childcare responsibilities if and when they have children, so I think I should discuss this asap since it is an important issue. Even though they’re now young adults, I can easily imagine that when the time comes their preferences and priorities will change.

  101. I don’t quite get the point of the article. Sure, all others things being equal, we should all have our kids as young as possible. But all things aren’t equal and lots of other things go in to deciding when to have children. Why should we encourage women to have children earlier? We should make sure everyone has access to the info and let women make their own decisions. It strikes me as similar to the bs about breastfeeding that women are subjected to over and over again. Sure, BF is best in a vacuum. But often not IRL.

  102. Kate, to me the point of the article was his observation that at the beginning of hi career, a 53 year old postmenopausal woman having twins was unheard of. As he approaches the end of his career, a 53 year old postmenopausal woman having twins was sufficiently common that there were no questions or comments on the patient during the weekly conference with his residents.

    I suspect ruminating on that fact is what led him to write the article.

  103. LfB, I blinked a couple of times at his plan to engage a broad swathe of professionals in “social re-engineering back to a more conventional time” to solve something that doesn’t appear to me to be a big problem. And then decided I didn’t need to chase down the full article.

    But frankly, as full-time woh mothers of children still in the home, haven’t we developed a thick skin toward this sort of thing? I remember the trolls that used to drop by the Old Site apparently because it was the perfect place to get their fill of scolding working moms . . . good times. Compared to open hostility, condescension is minor. And given actual societal trends, the author’s plan to get us all marrying by 22 again seems . . . unrealistic . . . in any case.

  104. “Why should we encourage women to have children earlier? ”

    My guess is this doctor is concerned about the issues he’s seeing with women of (truly) advanced maternal age or those who can’t ever conceive, not with 35 year olds.

    Anecdotally I do know a woman who had a child at age 52. We all thought she was nuts.

  105. at the beginning of hi career, a 53 year old postmenopausal woman having twins was unheard of. As he approaches the end of his career, a 53 year old postmenopausal woman having twins was sufficiently common

    40 years ago it was impossible, and now it’s possible. Common seems like an overstatement though.

  106. I know most of you would think that the fact that my first marriage ended in divorce after 20 years and that we were living on a shoestring for a lot of years is prima facie evidence that early marriage and childbearing is bad all around. (My mother if she were alive would still be thinking that I would have been a candidate for SCOTUS otherwise.) Milo and Providence (from the old site), who were having kids in their twenties successfully, and perhaps some others – not sure of everyone’s detailed life arc – are simply dismissed as outliers. But I couldn’t be happier that I had my youngest child (no 5) at 30. I never share my pregnancy stories because it was always a piece of cake, and I was up and about keeping house and caring for the other children within a week. No grandma nearby, a few casseroles and pick up play dates, dad took a day or two off of work, and then back to the usual grind. My kids say from time to time that that they wish things had been smoother for them growing up, and I would have preferred not to have to make so many financial tradeoffs for them, but we have moved past the apology stage for long ago wrong decisions, very few of which were made because of money or immaturity.

  107. This is probably more of a commentary on where I live, but I know far more women who have had children at 45+ than <25. And not one of the 45+ women went in to it with eyes closed. They all knew the risks.

  108. CoC, my daughter has already announced to me that she plans to live next door to me so that I can take care of her kids for her. She also promises to get an RV so we can all go camping together.

  109. HM, a breast pump is a vacuum and is not painful. Sorry to be a killjoy.

    The bizarre thing to me about the article is the very beginning of the quote WCE pulled out, which assumes that “convention” is women having kids later, with men and women having equal roles in child-rearing and equal importance being placed on their careers. That is so laughably backasswards that I didn’t bother to pay much attention to the rest of what he said.

  110. . Women aged 50 and over—There were 677 births to women aged 50 and over in 2013, up from 600 in 2012 (Tables 2 and 6) (14). The number of births to women in this age group has generally increased since 1997 (144), when data for women aged 50 and over became available again. The birth rate for women aged 50–54 was 0.7 births per 10,000 women in 2013, up from 0.5 in 2012 (data not shown in tables). Because of the small number of births to women in this age group, the birth rate for women aged 50–54 is expressed per 10,000 women. For rates shown elsewhere in this report, births to women aged 50 and over are included with births to women aged 45–49 when computing birth rates by age of mother (the denominator for the rate is women aged 45–49). The increase in birth rates for women aged 35 and over during the last 20 years has been linked, in part, to the use of fertility-enhancing therapies (17,18).

    From http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_01.pdf . No information on how many of those 677 births were natural, although the comparison to the 1997 figure (144) suggests that most were probably IVF. So I’m sure it’s something that feels common to a specialist in IVF for older mothers, but that’s still a birth rate of .07 per 1000, (or .7 per 10000), as compared to .8/1000 for 40-49, and 49.3 for 35-39.

  111. “assumes that “convention” is women having kids later, with men and women having equal roles in child-rearing and equal importance being placed on their careers”

    S&M – he’s based in Manhattan, so probably pretty typical of his practice. Me being the prime example.

  112. HM – I wonder how many of those women used donor eggs, as that would reduce some of the risk.

  113. “Did anyone’s parents bring up these issues with them ?”

    Yes. My mom married at 30, which was very late in those days. She worked until her marriage, though like most in her circle she lived at home during that time. She NEVER said anything to any of us about looking for spouses, and was pretty horrified that DH and I married at 23, though was partially mollified by the fact that we were both in grad school at the time. I was well into parenthood before I realized the relative importance of spousal vs. college/career choice as a contributor to happiness. Things turned out fine for us, but I was greatly influenced by conversations with those whose parents had taken a different approach, and had spoken with them early and often about taking marriage preparation at least as seriously as professional preparation.

  114. I think the author’s perception is strongly skewed by what he does and where he does it.

    But from what I’ve seen it’s not so much the four-month break that makes the impact, but the years of taking on a greater share of childcare duties.

    Many people who are smarter and more knowledgeable than me have made the point that there won’t be equality in the workplace until there is equality at home.

  115. Kate, when you’re talking over 50, I’d assume that most were using donor eggs or previously frozen eggs. Average age of menopause (defined as time of last period) is 51.

  116. @HM – i am with you on all your comments here. Less than 1000 for the total US is FAR from “common”. Statistically, there really aren’t that many women giving birth in their 40’s either. And yes, we should have all developed a thick skin about this sort of thing, at least enough to roll our eyes on condescension.

    @Kate – I agree with you in eye rolling at all the articles about what we should all do in a perfect world. BFing, having children at the ideal age, find the right “good enough” partner at the right age, having the exact right amount of kids, etc. It’s back to what Austin said way up thread about “having it all” looking ridiculous if your definition is to hit all these notes. Plus – life happens.

    I did not find the breast pump to be enjoyable, that is for sure. Painful – not exactly? But uncomfortable, definitely. God I hated that thing. I really wish I hadn’t guilted myself into lugging that thing back & forth to work for so long.

  117. “I just can’t wrap my head around why a one-time 4 month break from work should be held against me for my whole career, to the point where it would impact my career choices. Even if the break was longer or I was pregnant more than once, really, this should impact my whole lifetime of work?”

    I think that the point of the article was that not every woman will be able to step away from her job for a single 4-month break. Certainly women struggling with infertility find themselves having to spend much more time and money just getting pregnant.

    What is puzzling is the language we often use in describing the whole “courtship” (to use an old-fashioned phrase) and marriage process. Ambitious young people are discouraged from getting too “serious” about a partner, because he/she will “tie them down” and constrain their graduate school/professional choices before they are ready to “settle down.” It makes marriage seem pretty unappealing rather than an exciting adventure with someone with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.

  118. HM – I would assume so, although one of my kids has a friend whose mother was 50 when she had her and she used her own non-frozen eggs. She told me that she was a young 50 :)

  119. “I’ve started on some new things (stand up and writing) that are so fulfilling”

    No fair tucking that into a parenthetical comment. Tell us about the standup!

  120. Denver, the two have to go hand in hand.

    Kerri, he may be noticing a trend, but the word “convention” doesn’t mean “what I’m seeing around me right now”. Even if he only intends to be writing to and about part of one fairly small island, I’d be surprised if the trend he objects to goes back over a generation or is as fully accepted by all classes of people there. If he’s worried about a shift he’s noted among his patients in recent years, that is different from a convention, and not worth basing an article on. As for raising an army of regressives to get women back at the stoves, there is no need, as that is already the norm.

  121. I believe that the Guiness Book of World Records in the family room as I grew up gave the title of oldest mother to an Italian woman who gave birth at 54. So there has been considerable change in a generation, now that it is possible for other women to consider that as part of the plan.

  122. DD,

    Does “equality in the home” mean equal opportunity or equal results? If mothers and fathers are free to make their work/family choices as they see fit, but women still decide to assume a greater responsibility for caregiving than men do, does that constitute equality in the home? We can all point to families with SAHDs, which was almost unheard of 20 years ago, but I’m not convinced that they will ever amount to 50% even of Totebag families, nor do I believe that a fair society demands such equality.

  123. “although one of my kids has a friend whose mother was 50 when she had her”

    A few years before I started college, the school had implemented this tradition in which the class that preceded yours by exactly 50 years becomes your “sponsor” class. They do various activities over the four years, ultimately handing you your first set of bars (rank insignia) at graduation.

    I knew a guy whose father was a member of that class, which was shocking, because those guys were positively ancient. Now my dad is that age (although I’m no longer a college freshman).

  124. Scarlett, I believe they mean equality in outcomes on aggregate, not in each specific family.

  125. “This is probably more of a commentary on where I live, but I know far more women who have had children at 45+ than <25."

    And even more of a commentary of who you know.

  126. “ I will encourage both of my children to think about what kind of life they would like to have. Sure you never know how things will work out but it is foolish not to try to plan a little.”

    When they get married, or perhaps when they get engaged, I will point out to them the chronological limitations to my being able to babysit for them.

  127. “I’m pondering your SAHD and sailing proposition. To be honest, I think I would need something that clearly indicates that I contributed to the financial comfort. ”

    Such as a wife with a job typically only held by people with SAHS to facilitate their holding that job?

  128. “This is probably more of a commentary on where I live, but I know far more women who have had children at 45+ than <25."

    I'm guessing you don't know anyone in your circle whose house is assessed at less than $600k.

  129. “no breaks between high school and finishing residency, and was 29 when I finished.”

    Looking back, would you suggest considering a BS/MD program for someone similarly looking to finish training before having kids? Perhaps a 7 year program to give a little time for things like traveling before having the kids?

  130. I would have preferred to have a child at a younger age if I was married. The reason is that I love having my parents in my life. Until very recently, they were able to do everything on their own.

    My mom was 24 when I was born, and that is probably one of the reasons that I still have a grandparent alive even though I’m 50. The life stages that I have been able to experience with my parents will be almost impossible for me to experience with my DD and her children. Also, she has memories of them as healthy, vibrant, fun people. I might not be able to experience that with her kids unless she reverses the cycle and starts her family on the early side.

    My age is the other reason that I only have one child. I know that that we would have tried to have more children if we were younger, and I think that is directly tied to the fact that we didn’t meet until my husband was late 30s.

  131. “I’m guessing you don’t know anyone in your circle whose house is assessed at less than $600k.”

    I think median home value here is north of $700k. So not many.

    That said, DS has a couple of friends I can think of who may live in homes under that. One has a single mom who’s a teacher.

  132. Perhaps a 7 year program to give a little time for things like traveling before having the kids?

    The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne.

    (A Chaucer quote, and it’s English major shorthand for ‘it takes so long to even get professionally qualified that it can be hard to fit in everything you want to do in your limited lifespan.’ A worse problem in Chaucer’s time, obviously, not to mention the ancients Chaucer himself was paraphrasing.)

  133. @Scarlett – took a class and jumped right in. I do a lot of local bars and I joined a troupe where I perform a few times month downtown. Been at the Improve a couple of times which is just like “WHAT??” It is great fun to do. More challenging than I thought it would be and really, really wonderful. New people, new things. I had a friend who said “you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable” and she’s totally right. Thanks for asking!

  134. Before I had my first child I got out of an intense group into a slower paced group. Maybe that was my mistake, in going to a new group without a proven track record.
    I took only a six week break with my first child but there was a reorganization when I was gone and I had a new manager when I got back. I was sort of penalized for not being there through the reorg she and having a new baby didn’t make things easier for me. This led to my leaving the firm and sort of having to start over to build my reputation which did in a way set me back. The best situations I knew of were women who were in their groups a while, had a proven track record, had their kids and came back. They had more leeway and understanding. I did devote a lot of time and energy in my twenties to the firm, I learned a lot but I wish the personal side had turned out better.

  135. I think some one asked the question of whether a four month break would mean that much to a career. In my case, I would say yes – six weeks and a poor review was all it took.

  136. Moxie – that is terrific! Is it fun? I’d be terrified — but then, I’m not funny. I wish we could all come and see you! I remember you talking about this some months ago. So glad you went for it!

  137. Life may be longer, but the craft is so much longer to learn. Docs used to be trained in 1-2 year programs.

    I have met a handful of people from 6 or 7 year MD programs and it has not made me a fan of the concept. I think they end up having very limited college experiences (really just 2 years, all required courses), and awkward medical student experiences (younger than the rest of the class, really a very tiny cohort). I haven’t met anyone who has gone on to take time to do interesting things – though perhaps they feel a bit more free to do an extra year or three of fellowship and become a subspecialist. If one of my kids wanted to go into medicine, I would not search out that type of program for them.

  138. I know lots of people who have houses assessed at less than $600k. But no one in McLean. Can’t get much for $600k here any more, sadly.

  139. In terms of career planning, BigLaw is better than it used to be. Back InMyDay(tm), the general wisdom was to make partner first, then have kids. Now I see many more associates having kids between 2-5 years into practice — work long enough to get settled in first, and soon enough to have a solid year or two left before going up for partner.

    Like many others here, I would have preferred to have my kids a little earlier. But I didn’t meet DH until 28, didn’t get married until 30, and wanted a couple of years to get used to being married first. Even with all of that, had things gone to plan, we would have had our first by 33, and then ideally our second a few years later. But, you know, life. So 35 and 40 it was.

    @WCE: your “top 18%”/ “we’re talking about future CEOs” comment makes me think it’s a little apples and oranges. I suspect people who are that driven to dominate in the work world may not have the same level of drive to have kids, at least if it requires a primary day-to-day role.

  140. I think some one asked the question of whether a four month break would mean that much to a career. In my case, I would say yes – six weeks and a poor review was all it took.

    I would argue that if you took a four month break with an understanding manager who didn’t hold it against you, you probably would have been just fine. The reorg situation and the bad review are what hurt you, not the break itself.

  141. But I didn’t meet DH until 28, didn’t get married until 30, and wanted a couple of years to get used to being married first.

    DW and I met when I was 28 and she was 32, married a year later, and had DS a week before our first anniversary. I would have loved to have taken a couple of years to enjoy being married first, but, we really couldn’t risk waiting on kids because you never know how long it might take.

  142. The main drawback I see to having kids late is the lack of time with grandparents.

    Of course, that’s easy for me to say because we didn’t have fertility issues.

  143. Second baby was much harder to conceive than the first one. I was young, too. Had my first baby at 29 and my second at 33.

  144. The main drawback I see to having kids late is the lack of time with grandparents.

    If the grandparents don’t live close, this is moot for the most part.

    IMO, the main drawback is the lack of energy. There’s no way I’d have the energy to deal with toddlers at this point.

  145. LfB, I’ve always been puzzled by the feminist emphasis on the percentage of women who are senators, CEO’s or similar high level positions. None of the men I know want to be CEO’s and my current manager left a program to support minorities who wanted to rise in the industry mostly because he didn’t want his family to look like the family of the people he was observing.

  146. WCE, it’s because those are the people in power. If there were more women in those positions, it would be easier to implement laws and policies to promote work-family balance and such, because women are more concerned about those issues. At least that’s the theory.

  147. WCE

    surprised that you’re puzzled because you mentioned the same sort of logic for SCOTUS.
    you want someone that is not Catholic or Jewish on the court.

  148. Anon, I didn’t say I care about the religious values of Supreme Court. I explained that many people (including my Trump supporting relatives) believe their values are not represented by the Supreme Court, which is why they support Trump, not because they like Trump personally.

  149. I should say, not because of my personal story – I’ve been with DH since 18, married at 23 , kids at 27, 29 and 37- but for the same reasons stated by LFB, HM and a few others.

  150. Mafalda, do you dislike the article because it’s inaccurate or because the statistics are problematic for your worldview? (I’m not being snarky; I’ve experienced the gamut of female issues and emotionally, IT’S NOT FAIR!)

  151. I’m going to copy what LFB said here: “He presents a legitimate issue – constraints on female fertility – but then smoothly moves to making his moral/political/whatever point by setting up the strawman that only “solution” is to return to the good old days, presumably when women got married young and started popping out babies right away instead of being so damn uppity.”

    Very distasteful argument. It’s like making an argument that statistically men die more frequently of heart attacks so men should be counseled to take less stressful professions and let the women take those “higher stress” positions, since we have fewer heart attacks. Or since men are biologically more violent, perhaps we should have men in professions where they don’t interact with the public as much. Or left handed people are statistically better at quantitative professions so they should be encouraged in that direction….

  152. Mafalda, in retrospect, I should have explained that the author is a reproductive endocrinologist in NYC whose worldview is shaped by the fertility challenges of women 40+. Thanks for taking my question in the right way

    If I could write again, I would include that background. My specialist had been both a planned parenthood clinic physician (I think during his fellowship) and a fertility specialist, and he probably thought more about both sides of the fertility challenge than this physician does.

  153. Anon, I didn’t say I care about the religious values of Supreme Court. I explained that many people (including my Trump supporting relatives) believe their values are not represented by the Supreme Court, which is why they support Trump, not because they like Trump personally.

    1. So then why did you feel the need to point out the religion of the justices in the following paragraph if it has nothing to do with your point?

    2. This is anon’s point. Feminists talk about the lack of women in power because they don’t feel men adequately represent their values or advocate for their concerns.

  154. DD, I pointed out the religion of the justices because OTHER people care. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I tried to make some reference that I personally wasn’t convinced that “diversity” on the Supreme Court is important.

    I understand the women in power point now, and I think you are right. Today was a revelation to me in that my definition of “prestigious career” is different from other people’s definition of “prestigious career.” A “middle manager” in my company likely has a $100 million budget, which might be someone else’s definition of “prestigious career”.

  155. Mafalda, in retrospect, I should have explained that the author is a reproductive endocrinologist in NYC whose worldview is shaped by the fertility challenges of women 40+.

    And that’s exactly why his argument is ridiculous. While the number of women having (or trying to have) babies over age 40 is increasing, it’s still much smaller than the number of women having babies in their 20s. He’s projecting his tiny segment to advocate for a “social re-engineering” of society.

  156. DD, part of why I submitted the article is that, while you are statistically correct, there is often a misconception that the Totebaggy world *is* society.

  157. I thought I was right in line age wise with my colleagues and friends in having kids but these posts tell me that many Totebaggers had kids at older ages.

    Over the years I realized that my work situation was not unique. If you are not present to advocate for yourself during a reorg you are at risk for getting stuck with duties you would not have signed up for.

  158. Tangent – another plug for Bank of America. My experience is clearly much better than some of yours, but this is not unusual. Recently I had thee encounters. The chip on my main credit card was not being read properly – I made a call and the new one was at my doorstep next business day at no charge. Last week one 30 something child was seeking a month long car rental and had not purchased rental car coverage on car insurance, so I transferred funds (not requested, just in response to the FB post) via the app. An offer would have involved back and forth. The action merely resulted in heartfelt thanks. The three day turnaround to a non BoA account cost 3 dollars. I could have paid more for one day turnaround, but not needed. Then yesterday at 2:30 pm I got a text that some real money I had set aside for a family member was needed ASAP (the money had been previously transferred into my BoA checking account by a phone call to my broker at Morgan Stanley – that took all of 15 minutes to complete.) The amount was too large for a transfer via the app. I had just been served a hamburger at a sit down place in a local strip mall. Left the table, asked the server where the nearest BoA branch was, turned out it was three doors down, stood in line, handed the phone to the teller who took down the account number, transfer made, money in the other BoA account before the burger got completely cold.

  159. On topic – about ten years ago I was talking with one my girls who was making professional choices that seemed to me to be a bit dilatory if she were considering the sequencing for a family – exactly the issue of late childbearing and available mates. All of of a sudden she decided to share that kids were not in her plans, with good reasons why. This was well considered, not some airy youthful reasoning that an older person might dismiss with a hand wave. I simply said, oh, then you have no constraints. End of advice session Let me know if I can help in any way. Younger son is having a ring made to propose, S.O. is 31 or so, he is 34, he wants to get cracking on the kids. Regrets the years lost with a previous relationship – younger parenting is better in his book. Older son had his first at 34, wife 31, 2 years married, known each other around town since high school, dated 5 years. Her cancer was diagnosed during nursing period for third child at 35, so they got in under the wire. Other DD is the from the sliver of professional woman demographic that the doctor who wrote that article wants to send for “re-education”.

  160. Off topic, I need some advice. College freshman DD texted last night. She is doing very badly in classes. She is at an out of state flagship, in a hard science major and very unprepared for her classes and doing badly. She is working very hard, but not succeeding, getting Ds and Cs. What to do?

  161. She texted asking for help/advise late last night. We are going to talk to today. I didn’t want to discuss this last night because it was very late, she still had work to do, and I wanted some time to think about how to help My first reactions are drop at least one of the classes, go to tutoring, decide if that is the right school. Or come back, go to a school closer to home, since at this point she can still apply elsewhere for next fall using her high school grades. She is smart, tough, hardworking with the worst luck in the world. She hasn’t really had any successes at her college, and i’m concerned she may start to view herself as a failure.

  162. “If there were more women in those positions, it would be easier to implement laws and policies to promote work-family balance and such, because women are more concerned about those issues. At least that’s the theory.”

    My sense is that many women in “positions of power” get there because of extraordinary gifts and because of choices that they’ve made regarding family and children, and are not necessarily more concerned about those issues as they affect more ordinary mortals. The first female partner at our law firm, who had graduated from Harvard Law back when women were singled out on “Ladies’ Day,” took a pretty dim view of the female associates who wanted to work part-time. She hired a live-in nanny and went back to work, full time, after a 3 week maternity leave following the birth of her only child. And she made sure, in a very polite Dowager Countess fashion, that we all knew this fact.

  163. Scarlett,

    On the other hand, in medicine the influx of women has made things a lot more flexible and family friendly.

  164. anon,

    Some questions —
    Does she have any history of anxiety or depressive conditions? If yes, is she getting treatment/medication? If no, has she contacted her university’s counselors? Our school has beefed up its mental health resources after finding that many students, like your DD, struggle during their freshman year. I would consider encouraging her to seek help there, and assure her that this is NOT a sign of failure. Her mental health comes first, and she needs to be convinced of that.

    Has she been home for a break since school started?

    I think that your first instinct is the better one. Dropping the most difficult class would give her some breathing room to focus on the others, and definitely seek out tutoring, even if you have to pay for it. Sometimes smart kids just never had to learn the study skills required for college work because they coasted through high school. Unless her mental health is at risk (which you may not know yet), dropping out and moving back home would probably make her feel more of a failure than she already does.

    So sorry this is happening.

  165. Scarlett, I knew someone like that in academia. She was born in 1922, and had three kids, but she also had a housekeeper AND a nanny AND a cook. (Husband had a higher-paid job, obviously). She was very unsympathetic to younger women who stayed home with sick kids or wanted a longer tenure path or whatever.

    Anon, what are the consequences of withdrawing from school right now? Can she withdraw with no consequences to her transcript? If so, that’s what I would suggest. Come back home and recover for a minute, then maybe go to a community college for a year to get some of these pre-reqs out of the way before returning. I know this is a very unpopular view around here, but going to a slightly lower-pressure school for the first two years and then transferring back to the higher-pressure (and prestige) one has always seemed a good idea to me. Your diploma still says “High Pressure University” on it.

  166. Anon, here’s my 2 cents.
    Her mental and emotional well-being supersedes everything else at this point. Consider that when making decisions. It’s hard to know if she should “tough it out” or cut back and even drop out. You know her, but I would probably err on the side of her emotional health. Is she panicking or is she being relatively level headed?

    Does the school have an advising dean that she can talk with? Someone that helps students in choosing classes and dealing with academic issues. I would advise her to meet with that person asap. If she hasn’t met with her professors, she should probably do that and get their feedback. I second the idea of meeting with the mental health center if she feels the need.

    Can she take a leave of absence with the option to return? Schools have various policies about this, and sometimes that’s only allowed in medical cases. This could be a option to give her breathing room on deciding how to proceed.

    I feel for you because being far away while your child is having these serious troubles is very difficult. I always felt reassured more by skyping or face timing to be able to read my kid’s face and help me judge how serious things were.

  167. Rhett,

    You know, my female doctor friends think that medicine, at least some practice areas, is much more family-friendly than law or academics. Perhaps Ada would disagree, but they tell me that being an ER doc, or sharing a pediatric practice, enables them to work very regular hours, with few continuing responsibilities after they clock out, unless they are on call. They don’t have “emergency” client needs that interfere with weekends or days off.

  168. She is doing very badly in classes

    Do you have the hard data on that? Is she getting Bs, is she failing, is she just now in the middle of the class vs. being in the top 2% of high school?

  169. You know, my female doctor friends think that medicine, at least some practice areas, is much more family-friendly than law or academics.

    It wasn’t when it was all men.

  170. Anon – are the grades she is getting “normal” for a tough major. DH went through engineering and he says a ton of students had to retake classes to pass the course. These were mostly guys. They rarely dropped engineering all together. Just took more time to graduate.

  171. “are the grades she is getting “normal” for a tough major. DH went through engineering and he says a ton of students had to retake classes to pass the course. These were mostly guys. ”

    A message to the nation’s women: Stop trying to be straight-A students.

    No, not because you might intimidate easily emasculated future husbands. Because, by focusing so much on grades, you might be limiting your earning and learning potential.

    The college majors that tend to lead to the most profitable professions are also the stingiest about awarding A’s. Science departments grade, on a four-point scale, an average of 0.4 points lower than humanities departments, according to a 2010 analysis of national grading data by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy. And two new research studies suggest that women might be abandoning these lucrative disciplines precisely because they’re terrified of getting B’s.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/catherine-rampell-women-should-embrace-the-bs-in-college-to-make-more-later/2014/03/10/1e15113a-a871-11e3-8d62-419db477a0e6_story.html?utm_term=.71cc662d311b

  172. Anon–good advice above. I would just add a couple things–
    Dont be surprised if campus mental health isn’t helpful, and if needed, be open to off-campus/ private counseling. I/ friends have found that campus mental health can be very brusque, you’re fine, just get over it.
    Has she been to office hours for her profs/TAs? Does she have friends in her classes that she can form a study group with?
    Finally, I’m part of a Facebook group with other freshmen parents. Your DD is definitely not alone! This time of first semester is when all the kids seem to be hitting a wall in something. Many of the kids sound better after a week or so. And as one parent pointed out, sometimes parents get dumped with all the emotional trash.

  173. “Mafalda, do you dislike the article because it’s inaccurate or because the statistics are problematic for your worldview?”

    @WCE, I love you, but this sort of question is part of the reason we talk past each other sometimes. You have presented a false choice: I do not dislike the argument because it presents wrong facts; nor do I dislike the article because it presents correct facts that are inconvenient for my world view. My choice is Door #3: I dislike the argument because it presents as “Science!”(tm), but it is really making a political argument about the appropriate role of women. He expressly advocates “a social re-engineering back to a more conventional time”(!) as the appropriate solution. And by presenting this as “Science!”(tm), he attempts to portray his own moral/personal/philosophical/political belief as a data-driven conclusion based on weighty objective scientific analysis — indeed, he portrays it as the *only* solution. But there is a huge, huge difference between “what the data say” (which is the job of the scientist) and “what we should do about it” (which is the job of the philosopher, the theologian, the politician, and each and every one of us who faces this in our own lives). I highly respect and value science. Which is why I am perhaps too easily angered by those who would cloak political points in that particular vestment to give it more weight.

  174. “The first female partner at our law firm, who had graduated from Harvard Law back when women were singled out on “Ladies’ Day,” took a pretty dim view of the female associates who wanted to work part-time. She hired a live-in nanny and went back to work, full time, after a 3 week maternity leave following the birth of her only child. And she made sure, in a very polite Dowager Countess fashion, that we all knew this fact.”

    This is completely true of the first female partners I knew as well. But I think/hope it was also a sign of the times. Just think of what you had to go through to be the first female partner somewhere — you had to work significantly harder, build a fantastic book of business, put up with all manner of bullshit, sacrifice just about everything in your personal life, and basically spend 10 years proving that you were more dedicated and better than any man around you (as if making parter for said men wasn’t hard enough). It’s like being hazed every day for a decade, and then getting up and doing it again the next day.

    So, point 1, you have to be in the top .0001% of all workers — not just women — to make it through that kind of challenge and succeed in that environment. So you’re basically culling female partners from the same group that might otherwise be CEO, S.Ct. justice, etc. — the true career bad-asses. And then point 2, I think when you go through something like that, it is easy to look back and see those hardships as an integral part of what made you successful and therefore a necessary part of the training. Ergo, folks who whine about it either need to grow up or get out, and you’re doing them a favor to hold them to the same expectations you faced.

    Objectively, however, all of that crap may not have been necessary to succeed. And as the door widens further over the next few decades and more women become partner without facing such extreme demands, the next generation of women don’t approach it with quite the same attitude. And so when you start to judge candidates more by merit than gender, then you get down to focusing on what the job actually requires — you move out of the world where successful men have three kids and successful women have to give up careers, or where no one can ever do it part-time because, hello, you have successful partners who are part-time, so obviously it can be done.

    So I do believe having more women in positions of power and responsibility helps. Just not necessarily the first generation who had to out-guy the guys to make it that far.

  175. Anon, my thoughts are colored by experiences of those close to me, and they are likely completely different from your child, so take it with a grain of salt. Anxiety and mental health are concerns for me. In the thick of things, she can’t see her options clearly. I think what you e laid out are very good ideas. I would absolutely have her drop whichever class she is doing poorly in that she feels most lost in. I’d tell her to go meet with the professor for each of the others and talk about what she can do to get back on track and salvage the semester. I would absolutely have her apply to other schools. It is always good to have options even if she ends up staying where she is. Knowing that she has a choice and that there is still a path forward can be very helpful. And most importantly, I think you have to provide the perspective that this is not life-ending and it’s something to just course-correct and keep going. And please make sure she is taking care of her health and knows how to find campus resources to talk to if she’s feeling overwhelmed. My heart goes out to her, and I am so glad for you that she felt like she could talk to you about it, instead of you finding out after the semester is over.

  176. “IMO, the main drawback is the lack of energy. There’s no way I’d have the energy to deal with toddlers at this point.”

    I think this all the time. SIL is my age & has two under 3. That sounds so unappealing. (Again, in this case, it wasn’t “career” issues that led to them delaying – this is BIL’s 2nd marriage and thank god there were no kids in the first one, and SIL was looking for a serious relationship, but they didn’t meet till their late 30’s.)

    I don’t care all that much about women being CEO’s and senators in the sense that I think it should be 50/50 due to some sense of fairness. What I care about is that qualified, interested women are still shut out of those positions due to sexism. I don’t necessarily think that women will promote family-friendly policies in those positions – I haven’t experienced that personally at all. However, I DO think that they are less likely to discriminate against the women below them in the pyramid when considering candidates for advancement opportunities, reviews, juicy projects, succession planning, etc.

    FWIW, I don’t think that work-life balance tilted towards life is really something that you can gave as a C-suite executive. And I don’t know that I care about that all that much. But I would like them to see that there are often actual business benefits to allowing more family-friendly policies for BOTH men & women. More engaged employees, productivity not going down all that much, etc. A big change that I have seen over the course of my career is that the younger fathers now are much more open about wanting to have work-life balance than they were 15 years ago. And I think that is a good thing for everyone.

  177. No chance to reply in depth to anon, but having trouble the first semester, especially in a tough science major, is REALLY common. Dropping a course, and going to tutoring, is a good way to go. She should also go talk to her professor! And her TA if they have that system. They are usually going to be more help than the tutors, who may or may not know the course content particularly well. She should do ALL of these things.
    Don’t drop out of school based on one semester! Everyone has trouble adjusting.

  178. @Risley – it is scary to put yourself and your thoughts out there and sometimes it is crickets so it can be humbling but when it hits – That’s great! Once I have a body of work, maybe i will out myself. Thanks for the support!

    @Anon – I have no advice but want to say I’m sorry. So hard to watch them struggle while they are away from you!

  179. And what CoC said… She is spot on. Lots of students get C’s, or even F’s and have to retake a course.

  180. “My sense is that many women in “positions of power” get there because of extraordinary gifts and because of choices that they’ve made regarding family and children, and are not necessarily more concerned about those issues as they affect more ordinary mortals. ”

    That may have been the case but times they are a changing. Thank goodness!

    In thinking about the tone of the article, I wonder who the intended audience was. I imagine fertility specialist must deal with very complex ethical issues regularly. Maybe this was a shot across the bow to a select group to remind them that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should or we should in a deliberative manner. (Specifically thinking about the woman I knew who had her first child at 52.)

  181. @Anon — Sorry you are dealing with this. Please pay attention to Louise, CoC, Benefits Lawyer. FWIW, I have two specific recollections of early college:

    1. Feeling completely blown out of the water and out of my league (hugely difficult, as I’d always been defined/defined myself as “the smart one”); and

    2. Dumping on my mom on every weekly call, until the day she asked me if I wanted to transfer, and I was shocked (my response: “why would I want to do that? I love it here!”). I was using my mom to vent all of the worries and stress and bad stuff so I could then go happily about my day.

    Not saying there isn’t an issue here — just don’t overreact to it. Be supportive. Let her know that it’s ok not to be the straight-A kid anymore, especially in a hard major, and that the key to success isn’t “getting it” right away (a frequent assumption for smart kids), but rather in finding ways to get help and just plugging away until you get there. But most of all, please don’t take over and tell her how to solve her problem — the biggest part of college is learning to manage the hard stuff yourself. You can support, offer suggestions, help her find counseling/tutoring, etc. But I’m worried that if you encourage her to run home to momma right now, she will see that as she failed and she can’t do it and she isn’t smart and all that bad stuff. Whereas if she sticks it out and manages to pass, that’s a real victory.

    I also think some of these classes are intentionally hard to weed people out. But that doesn’t mean they are always weeding out based on ability — sometimes they may be weeding out based on who’s most likely to throw up their hands and bail. It’s like the old “Paper Chase” version of first year law school (“Look to your left. Look to your right. One of you three won’t be here next year.”), and it disproportionally affects perfectionist girls. It’s reasonable for her to decide that’s not the path for her (I opted against Chem in large part because of the extra bullshit associated with that major at my school at the time) — but she should make that call from a position of strength having gotten through it, not from fear and intimidation.
    Also, does she have any support structure there? I know you said OOS BigStateU — it’s easy to get lost in a place like that unless you find a niche, like a club or a sorority or a specific friend group.

  182. Anon, absolutely strongly encourage her to contact her professors immediately to get some guidance. That’s what office hours are for, and DH finds that far too many struggling students wait until the last minute to come in. There are probably TA’s in these classes too, and their job is to help students with questions. Also the earlier poster is right that not every campus mental health counselor will be helpful, so you should be prepared to go off-campus if necessary. However, the campus folks should be the first place to contact.

    Above all, try to give your DD the message that you are confident that she can overcome these difficulties, even if you have to fake it. Unless you have reason to believe that she is in a mental health crisis, for which you do need to go into full parent mode, your DD asked for your advice so clearly she respects your opinions and will probably take her cues from you. If you sound worried and upset, she may become more worried than she already is.

  183. “This is completely true of the first female partners I knew as well. But I think/hope it was also a sign of the times”

    ITA with your description of the hurdles the first partners, tenured professors, etc had to overcome just to get to sit at the table with the big boys. And I do hope that things are better now. My old firm now has ten women partners. But more than twice as many male partners.

    A friend with two small children who is a non-equity partner at a huge firm says that the female associates thinking about kids are always asking her how she manages. Well, she has an academic DH who works all of the time, but who has a relatively flexible schedule, and a full-time nanny. But part of how she manages is by accepting that she isn’t going to be home with her kids during most of their waking hours on weekdays, and that’s the reason she thinks that some of these women end up leaving. Not because anyone is telling them that the road is too difficult, but because they would rather be at home with their kids.

  184. Anon, my land grant had weed out courses in science and I’d guess the majority of people retook at least one, most commonly organic chemistry. (They redid the curve in that class as people dropped so your early exam grades continued to drop after the drop date. Ouch.) I definitely agree with the recommendation to get a tutor or go to the tutorials, which in all likelihood exist and, in this modern era, you might be able to read about appropriate options on the internet so you can discuss options with your child from an informed perspective. This situation is why I’ve said I would consider paying for a fifth year of college for my children-as others have said, it’s really common. And I concur with the recommendation to talk to the professor.

    RMS, LfB and Meme, I’m starting to get it. It’s kind of like the people who looked at the facts on teen pregnancy in my hometown and, depending on their worldview, said
    1) We need to ensure these girls have access to abortion even without parental knowledge/consent.
    2) We need to open a daycare in the high school.
    3) We need to ensure all students have ready access to contraception.
    4) We need more abstinence education and contraception/abortion information will be provided over my dead body.
    5) The schools should do nothing; it’s a family matter.

    Rather than make an argument in favor of a time when women attempted to start families younger than the patients of a specialist in Manhattan do, it might have been better to either make no policy suggestion or make one (e.g. “no publicly funded fertility services for women 40+ due to low efficacy and high social costs”) that was more narrowly tailored to the data.

  185. Thanks everyone. Yes I have objective evidence of her troubles. If she was getting Bs our conversations would be along the lines of relax and have some fun. I hope to convince her to go to tutoring. Apparently, the word on campus is that the profs will know if a kid goes to tutoring and will drop them a grade if they find out. I know this is bs, but she is still naive enough to believe such a thing. We found out from someone who recently graduated that profs do tell the kids that

    That is one reason I would be pleased if she transferred. Life/college is hard enough without putting yourself under the power of people who like mind games.

  186. “My old firm now has ten women partners.”

    Do you ever get wistful wondering what may have been if you’d stayed on that track and were earning $2M a year now?

  187. Anon – I’m also wondering about the objective evidence. I got a handful of Cs on the first exams in intro physics, which I turned into a B by the end of the semester. The people at the science school across the street got Cs in everything and went on to work in prestigious fields. Other than that – I agree with what else has been said – office hours, tutoring, mental health check up.

    I’d be interested, if/when you can share more, why you think she is struggling – is the work harder than she expected? Is it too many intro science classes? Is she playing a sport/working 30 hours a week/not going to class?

  188. Milo, I get wistful – particularly on the days when all of the kids are sick :). But I still prefer their company to my statute books, so here I am….

  189. On medicine being family friendly – kind of true. Much easier to work part-time in medicine (at least in my experience) than any other similar paid profession.

    In the ER, my schedule is fixed, but it is highly evening-heavy. An average ER might have the following shifts: 6a-3p, 10-7p, 12p-9p, 5p-2a, 9p-6a. That means, if they are evenly distributed, that 60% of the days you work, you are not at home during dinner time. Also, 60% of the days (post swing, post night), you are not there for the morning-rush out the door. If I work a series of swing shifts (5p-2a), I missed my kids entirely – I need to sleep from 3a-10a, and I am out of the house by 4:30p. Also, a full-time ER doc works every other weekend, usually, and half the major holidays – which means that there is no “t-day with DHs family, xmas with my family” – there is never enough family travel time to go around.

    Benefits are that there are lost of mid-week days off, and lots of days off in general. Long-term there is flexibility, but zero short term flexibility (you can’t call in sick/work from home because the kid is sick, the nanny is sick, there is a snow day, etc.)

  190. @WCE — exactly. Good example.

    “But part of how she manages is by accepting that she isn’t going to be home with her kids during most of their waking hours on weekdays, and that’s the reason she thinks that some of these women end up leaving. Not because anyone is telling them that the road is too difficult, but because they would rather be at home with their kids.”

    @Scarlett — exactly right. I have pretty frank discussions with anyone who asks about the tradeoffs that we make. With more responsibility comes more, well, responsibility, and that sometimes conflicts with people’s own expectations/desires about being a parent. We are as flexible as anyone I know (several part-time partners, have voted in partners while they were on maternity leave or after years of being part-time, etc.), but fundamentally, if that level of unpredictable responsibility is not something you want, then, no, this isn’t the right job for you.

    One of my most memorable conversations was with my favorite associate-at-the-time, where I explained that I had the “advantage” of being raised by a mom with a full-time job, so my expectations bar was set really, really low; she, OTOH, had the perfect SAHM (one who literally cut her sandwiches into a pumpkin shape on Halloween), so she was really struggling with her desire to be a partner and her desire to be the kind of mom her mom was. That’s when you say, honey, I love you, but you really can’t do both of these things at that level, so you need to decide what amount of each will make you happy. She ultimately became a partner but left a few years later for a more “stable” corporate existence (there were other things going on, too, beyond just the lifestyle/mom issue).

    Of course, in the category of “man plans, God laughs,” about a year later, her husband lost his job (was denied partnership in an up-or-out environment) and became a SAHD in the SF area, so she is now sole breadwinner, working her butt off, with an hour-plus commute each way. And she seems to be happy as a clam (I’m just mad she’s working for someone else — BOY do I miss her).

  191. “Can she withdraw with no consequences to her transcript? If so, that’s what I would suggest. Come back home and recover for a minute, then maybe go to a community college for a year to get some of these pre-reqs out of the way before returning. I know this is a very unpopular view around here, but going to a slightly lower-pressure school for the first two years and then transferring back to the higher-pressure (and prestige) one has always seemed a good idea to me. Your diploma still says “High Pressure University” on it.”

    Anon – I agree with this completely.

  192. Anon – I think I’m likely too late to this now, and you have received excellent advice above, so I don’t think I have anything new to add. I only wanted to say I’m sorry you and your DD are dealing with this, and I hope the two of you will find a solution soon. Please keep us posted.

  193. Milo,
    Not really when the kids were younger. Now that they are mostly grown, and I see my former lunch partner now managing partner (!), yes it would be nice. But then I wouldn’t have time to hike in the Grand Canyon during fall break, or hang out at my pool all summer, or play on this board. So all in all, I’m not that wistful. I have a good friend who is a partner at BigLaw, making boatloads of money, but literally too busy to spend it. He has a national practice, so lives on airplanes, and when he takes vacation time, the last thing he wants to do is get onto another plane, even in first class. He is at the beck and call of clients who do stupid things and expect him to fix it, and apparently that gets old.

  194. One of my most memorable conversations was with my favorite associate-at-the-time, where I explained that I had the “advantage” of being raised by a mom with a full-time job, so my expectations bar was set really, really low; she, OTOH, had the perfect SAHM (one who literally cut her sandwiches into a pumpkin shape on Halloween), so she was really struggling with her desire to be a partner and her desire to be the kind of mom her mom was.

    LfB, that’s my DW as well. She literally did not have store-bought bread until she went to college because her mother always baked it fresh. It took years to get her to understand that there is nothing wrong with buying a birthday cake for your child.

  195. We found out from someone who recently graduated that profs do tell the kids that [that they’ll know if the kids are getting tutoring and will drop the grade]

    Assholes, assholes, assholes, I swear to God, when I am queen of the universe these guys are going to be the first ones up against the pock-marked wall. There is NO EXCUSE for that shit. The point is to learn the material. Ooooo. Makes me stabby, it do. And also reinforces my view that taking all the fucking “weeding” classes at the community college and then transferring back for the more interesting upper-division classes is a good strategy.

  196. “It took years to get her to understand that there is nothing wrong with buying a birthday cake for your child.”

    Pretty sure I was well into my 40s before I caved on that particular issue. :-)

  197. My mother was of that first wave of career women in the home country. She throughly embraced outsourcing. She was/is an excellent cook but all her cooking was reserved for special occasions. As for birthday cakes – mine were always store bought but from some fancy bake shop.
    The funniest thing, is that my MIL thought my mother had never foot in the kitchen. MIL was very surprised when she saw firsthand the fancy dishes.

  198. Yeah, you guys are just selling it wrong. I thought it was cool that I got a special, bakery cake for my birthday.

  199. Anon, not sure if you’re still reading, but I agree with several of the above posters. If your DD drops out now and comes home (to what? the xbox?), it can easily lead her to think she’s a failure. Dropping the hardest class now would probably be a smart move. If she does, then make sure you frame it as something she has learned about course load or grades or whatever. She should get in to office hours ASAP. I’m guessing from what you’ve said about her academic history that she probably has already done some work she thinks should result in the grades she wants. Showing that to the prof, instead of giving the mistaken impression that she wants the prof to take care of her slack attitude, can make a big difference (Yes, people who have skipped assignments or tests show up at the end of every semester asking for extra credit). I get it that she wants to do well in the major she’s taking tough classes in, but there is room for other classes too, isn’t there? That’s what she should sign up for next semester, even if it puts her a year behind in the major (assuming you or she can swing the extra year). And I absolutely, positively, fully agree with Laura that you your biggest role should be empathizing/being there for her, and that she should make the decisions. I completely don’t understand the bit about profs penalizing tutoring. That makes sense only if it’s the kind of “tutoring” where someone else is doing the work. Good luck to her!

  200. When there is a party at school or some other event where you need to volunteer to bring something, what do you bring? DW will always jump in and offer to bake/cook something. My mom instilled in me the value of bringing the paper goods.

    In the ER, my schedule is fixed, but it is highly evening-heavy. An average ER might have the following shifts: 6a-3p, 10-7p, 12p-9p, 5p-2a, 9p-6a. That means, if they are evenly distributed, that 60% of the days you work, you are not at home during dinner time. Also, 60% of the days (post swing, post night), you are not there for the morning-rush out the door. If I work a series of swing shifts (5p-2a), I missed my kids entirely – I need to sleep from 3a-10a, and I am out of the house by 4:30p. Also, a full-time ER doc works every other weekend, usually, and half the major holidays – which means that there is no “t-day with DHs family, xmas with my family” – there is never enough family travel time to go around.

    Benefits are that there are lost of mid-week days off, and lots of days off in general. Long-term there is flexibility, but zero short term flexibility (you can’t call in sick/work from home because the kid is sick, the nanny is sick, there is a snow day, etc.)

    This is exactly my point when people (usually Rhett :) ) mention nursing as a great family-friendly career. It has the exact same issues.

  201. “I completely don’t understand the bit about profs penalizing tutoring. ”

    Saac, It’s a form of hazing.

  202. “When there is a party at school or some other event where you need to volunteer to bring something, what do you bring? DW will always jump in and offer to bake/cook something. My mom instilled in me the value of bringing the paper goods.”

    I am like your DW: I always baked something. But then the schools required everything to be pre-made and pre-packaged, and I learned the value of juice boxes.

  203. I enjoy making scratch cakes, but if birthdays fall on weekdays it’s hard to find time to make them. The kids don’t seem to have strong preferences. DH did alarm me on ds2’s birthday a few weeks back. He called and told me ds has picked out a “bubble gum” cake and that he wasn’t able to talk him out of it. It sounded pretty nasty, so I picked up two big tubs of ice cream so I would have something to celebrate with (it’s my giving birth day, after all). Turns out it was a normal white cake with gumballs on top for decoration. At least we were good on ice cream for awhile.

  204. my MIL thought my mother had never foot in the kitchen. MIL was very surprised when she saw firsthand the fancy dishes.

    Pleasantly surprised? Or grudgingly so?

    Anon with the daughter, if she’s getting Cs and Ds she’s passing, right? I agree with other posters that, in addition to all the other good advice, it would be good for her to have an accurate sense of (1) what grades are typical for people who do continue on in the major — she may not be out of the ordinary — and (2) whether this is a case of not being able to understand the material period, or not being able to understand it without putting in significantly more time, as is often the case for those who’ve been accustomed to mastering material easily without having to put in much time studying it. With that information she’ll be in a better position to assess her situation.

  205. “When there is a party at school or some other event where you need to volunteer to bring something, what do you bring? DW will always jump in and offer to bake/cook something. My mom instilled in me the value of bringing the paper goods.”

    If it is during the week, I buy something. Paper goods are good, but so are drinks or store-bought desserts or a fruit tray.

    If it is on a weekend or holiday break, I will make something homemade.

    Most school-related things are in the middle of the workweek, and get store bought. Some work things and most personal things get homemade.

  206. “I enjoy making scratch cakes, but if birthdays fall on weekdays it’s hard to find time to make them. The kids don’t seem to have strong preferences. ”

    DS specifically requests his favorite dessert from a local bakery. DH specifically requests homemade items. I specifically request the strawberry-custard-whipped cream cake or gelato-filled cupcakes from Whole Foods.

  207. DW will always jump in and offer to bake/cook something. My mom instilled in me the value of bringing the paper goods.

    I alternate, depending on the situation. For this year’s iteration of an activity’s Sunday afternoon potluck, I seriously felt like we’d gotten away with something by bringing rice this year. For a school activity potluck on a weekday evening, given for a group from another island who had hosted our students the previous week, everyone bought food, but it was all good stuff, big pans of noodles, trays of chicken katsu, sushi, various restaurant specialties. Back when my husband was still on the boat and they had this thing of having the wives sign up to provide T-day dinner for those who were on duty so the cooks could have the day off (because men deserve to have a break from cooking on T-day!), I prompted him to sign up for the dinner rolls slot every year and we’d buy a few big bags of them from Costco. Never, never, never the turkey. If we’d gotten stuck with that I would have just bought it from Zippy’s or something. And if it’s something like stocking the refreshments table for a swim meet or a show, I happily sign up to bring a flat or two of bottled water.

  208. “the profs will know if a kid goes to tutoring and will drop them a grade if they find out.”
    I have never ever heard of such a thing, especially with the huge first year retention pressure that universities everywhere are facing. In fact, many schools are investing resources in new tutoring models.

    That being said, I am less than enamored of tutoring and becoming more down on it every day. Why? Because the tutors are just students themselves, and they don’t really know what I or any other professor wants, and they don’t have experience or training to understand how to reach extremely lost students. And at their worst, they simply write much of the paper or program code for the student, so the student learns nothing. Many of us suspect that excessive tutoring is behind the many students who as seniors, can’t write or do math or write programs despite having gotten decent grades in course that teach this.

    Office hours and the course TAs are the best resource, with tutors useful for patiently filling in background material.

  209. Anon, thanks for sharing.

    You’ve gotten a lot of good thoughts. A couple that haven’t been mentioned yet:

    -First of all, I think you and she have clear evidence that she’s smart enough to handle the work (e.g., ACT/SAT scores). The fact that she’s having difficulty is likely due to (ok, perhaps a bit redundant here) some combination of her HS not preparing her well, the huge jump in academic rigor and expectations relative to HS, the weeding process, the difficulty of the major she’s chosen, and her own high expectations of herself.

    -Is she on academic scholarship, with the renewal of it dependent on GPA? The spectre of losing that scholarship may be weighing heavily on her. Perhaps you might want to reassure her that losing it isn’t the end of the world– she still has options, e.g., transferring to a state school or JC, or, if you can afford it, continuing without the scholarship.

    -Is the school extremely competitive WRT getting into specific fields, so she’s worried that she will get shut out of the field(s) she wants? Does she aspire to an especially competitive field? If this is the case, you and she need to take that into account in planning your next moves.

  210. “My mom instilled in me the value of bringing the paper goods.”

    I’ve noticed that for potluck signups, typically the first slots filled are paper goods, drinks, and rice (if there’s a slot for that; sometimes there’s no slot for rice, but there are slots for sushi or spam musubi).

    This is especially true in cases where most of the people don’t know each other really well. When people know each other well, they’re much more likely to volunteer to bring the good stuff.

  211. “I thought it was cool that I got a special, bakery cake for my birthday.”

    Ditto; getting a cake from the bakery was a BFD. Even though my mom made great cakes, a bakery cake usually meant something really special, like a rainbow cake.

    Of course, given our relative ages, I’m guessing that her mom, like mine, lived many of her formative years during the depression and the war.

  212. I believed in baking from scratch until I brought home-made cupcakes to DD’s 3rd birthday at her daycare and all the kids licked the frosting off and left the cupcake untouched. At that point, I switched to a mix. Later, I really smartened up and switched to donuts from Krispy Kreme for the kids to bring to school on their birthdays. I am also the first to sign up for paper products and/or juice boxes. Same at work. We’re having a holiday potluck. Before kids, I would have made something from scratch. Now I contribute money. When I’m an empty nester, I can see going back to baking. I enjoy it – but not if it’s the gazillionth chore added to an already too long list.

    My mom stayed at home, made everything from scratch, made me amazing Halloween costumes, etc. However, she was also pretty unhappy – and I knew that if I stayed at home with the kids, I’d also be unhappy. So that freed me up considerably.

    And late to the original discussion but I loathe advice about you should get married and have kids when you’re young because it assumes that it is somehow in your control. It certainly wasn’t in mine! I do think it’s good to discuss that who you choose for your spouse is the most significant decision you will make. I feel so lucky that I ended up with DH.

  213. My mom worked part of my childhood and stayed home part of my childhood. I liked it better when she was working. She was happier, we had more money, and I liked visiting her at work.

  214. HM – MIL was grudgingly surprised.
    My mother goes to restaurants, tries dishes and sees whether she can duplicate the same thing at home. So, even though Italian food say was not known in the home country she would make a restaurant type dish based on what she had tasted. She is a very good copycat.

  215. I just discovered that I can send money via PayPal to my kids’ homeroom moms who will buy the required item and put my name on the sign up sheet.

  216. “I’d be interested, if/when you can share more, why you think she is struggling – is the work harder than she expected? Is it too many intro science classes? Is she playing a sport/working 30 hours a week/not going to class?”

    The work is harder than she expected. She told me that in one study group, one of her friends commented that “Didn’t you learn that in freshman biology?” Um no. Yes, she has too many intro science classes, and she didn’t take AP Chem or AP Bio, and the profs assume that everyone has.

  217. Anon, this sounds like my first semester, especially chemistry. I also sent to a school that did not have any AP science. Worse yet, we didn’t really have labs because we didn’t have equipment. So although I had an A in the lecture part of the course, I failed, yes FAILED the lab portion. It was a nightmare – all this lab equipment and lab procedures that everyone else knew about, and I had never seen. I am kind of klutzy in that kind of setting anyway, and the lab TA spoke no English. It was a real eye opener for me.
    Like all good little smart girls of that era, I was a declared pre-med, but after a year of chemistry, I decided that there was no way on this planet that I was going to take organic chem the next year, the course being famous for its scheduled 8 hour lab. I also really hated biology – all that memorization, all those nasty little animals to dissect. So I changed majors and everything improved.
    So your kid might figure out how to stick it out in her major, or she may decide to look at other majors. But she will likely persevere

  218. Anon, that tends to confirm my initial guess that the problem is not that she’s not bright enough to do the work, but that her HS didn’t adequately prepare her.

    Beyond the suggestions from others here, you and she may want to revisit how good a fit her current school is for her, given that she apparently has some catching up to do. If she likes the school and still thinks it is a fit, she could stay and do some catching up next semester, and perhaps during next summer at a CC near you; or she might take a semester or two off and go to a JC to catch up. If she likes the area of her current school, she might look for a nearby JC that regularly feeds her current school.

    If you and she decides it’s not a good fit, but she still wants to do engineering, one thing to consider is a SLAC with a 3/2 or 3-2 or 4-1 program in partnership with a school that has an engineering program, especially if she feels like her current school is too big and it’s hard for her to get individual help, or that she’ll get dinged for seeking it.

    BTW, did she take any SAT subject tests? I’m guessing not; a disparity between SAT/ACT scores and math and science subject test scores would’ve suggested a bright kid who hadn’t had a rigorous HS curriculum.

    And I’ll also emphasize what others have already said: Engineering coursework is difficult even for very bright, well-prepared kids (or adults).

  219. Anon, for any other children you have, consider on-line options for AP chemistry/biology. In my state, I think you can do this part-time as a part-time homeschooler. In any case, there’s some enrollment option where you can enroll in online coursework through a remote district that supervises your child’s work. Or consider community college science courses after junior and senior years in high school, knowing that they will likely need to be retaken at Rigorous U.

  220. Thanks Mooshi, Finn and WCE

    Yes she getting a b in the lecture portion of chemistry and a d in the lab. The only only SAT subject test she took was in English,which she nailed. She really like biology and wanted to work on genetically modified organisms. I think plan b might involve a less rigorous u where she can do well enough to go to grad school.

    The next child will take a year between high school and college as a prep year taking the classes she should have had in high school in community college.

  221. I’ve mentioned my friend whose son went to Texas A&M and then Berkeley for PhD in plant genetics. From what she has said, lots of land grant schools offer good plant genetics programs- I don’t know how rigorous they are. I can’t talk to her, because she’s been busy fixing up the house they bought in Berkeley so her son has somewhere affordable to live that is close enough to his lab that he can actually graduate.

  222. Anon said “I think plan b might involve a less rigorous u where she can do well enough to go to grad school.”

    Honestly, that would have killed me. I would have felt like such a failure. Whereas switching majors didn’t feel like failure at all to me. I guess it depends on whether she is more wedded to the school or the major. In my case, I am glad I switched because I like CS a lot more, and I wouldn’t have even known it if I hadn’t failed chem lab.

    OTOH, when I taught at Directional State U, we had tons of really bright kids who had bombed out of their elite SLACs on first try. They were happy to be with us, and I guarantee you our courses were just as good as at the elite SLACs. We sent students off to great jobs and grad schools. So it just depends

  223. “Whereas switching majors didn’t feel like failure at all to me. I guess it depends on whether she is more wedded to the school or the major. ”

    Right, one of the possible concerns I raised is that getting into majors within engineering at her school is very competitive (i.e., they get accepted into the CoE but are not guaranteed acceptance into certain engineering majors; they must apply for that later), and she might not be able to get into her preferred major without a high GPA. Which is another reason a less rigorous, or perhaps a less competitive, U might give her a better chance to get into her major of choice.

    So again, she might need to decide whether she’s more wedded to the school or the major.

  224. I concur with Finn on the school/major choice. In at least some (most?) land grant schools, you apply to admission to your department after your sophomore year courses are complete and departments manage their enrollment by taking the xx students with the highest GPA. Cutoffs don’t usually vary that much from year to year and an advisor or department secretary would know details. Cutoffs do vary significantly by major, with industrial/manufacturing < civil < mechanical ~ electrical < chemical/biochemical at the land grant universities of people I cooped with, generally.

  225. Which is another reason a less rigorous, or perhaps a less competitive

    Yeah, go with “less competitive”. At least in Colorado, there are classes (including calculus!) that all the colleges provide and that are “automatic transfers”. Same textbooks (or online equivalent), same exams, but maybe less with the professorial dick-swinging at the community colleges and more with the extra explanations.

  226. Mooshi, I have a really impertinent, personal question, feel free to ignore if you wish.

    It sounds like you actually failed a class your first semester, yet you managed to get into grad school? Is that true? How did you explain your first semester?

  227. There are many colleges and universities that will accept students that failed a course, I think we tend to focus on the same 50 – approx 100 schools that actually reject applicants because they have enough other students to fill those spaces. The reality is that there are many good/very good schools that take students that are not perfect.

  228. If I were on the grad school admissions committee, and I saw an F from freshman year but good grades, good GRE scores, and interesting projects in subsequent years, I wouldn’t give it a second thought. I’d think, “Oh, she had a hard landing freshman year. It happens.”

  229. Also you could write about that “F” in your essay or discuss it in your interview and explain how it made you grow, learn and overcome obstacles.

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