Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett is the author of a new book chronicling the unhappiness of successful women who postponed childbearing for the sake of their careers only to learn that they had waited too long.
"Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children" has received lots of attention: "60 Minutes," "Oprah," the morning news shows and newspaper and magazine ink.
But the book itself isn't selling, and that, more than the specter of power-suited women weeping over empty cradles, is the phenomenon:
How is it possible that the public isn't slapping down $22 in the face of this publicity juggernaut?
I think the answer is as obvious as what will happen to women who wait until they are in their 40s to start thinking about kids.
I'd rather curl up with a Pottery Barn catalog than a dreary chronicle of regrets and a formulaic list of suggestions for a more family-friendly workplace.
That the child-bearing years coincide with career-building years is obvious. That childbearing becomes more difficult with age shouldn't be news to any woman.
That the American workplace does not make it easy for women to succeed and also have a hands-on relationship with their children is also not news. If I read one more comparison with Sweden, I am heading for the passport office.
The only news in "Creating a Life" might be Hewlett's case that science has not solved the problems of infertility nearly as thoroughly as women presume.
The fact is, Americans have been marrying later and having fewer children since the invention of the cotton gin, and the news that most of the mothers of school-age children work is 30 years old.
The women Hewlett writes about claim to have waked from a career dream only to realize that they had forgotten to have children. Excuse my cynicism, but I think it is just as likely that a 40-something decision to produce a baby is the lifestyle equivalent of botox -- part of the boomer refusal to grow old with dignity.
If Hewlett's point is that women need to have a more realistic understanding of their reproductive limits -- and of the limits of medicine -- that is one thing, and it is good advice to young women. Women's magazines and the popular press have created the impression that infertility can be easily solved.
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