Redefining the Greatest Gift

Mika Brzezinski makes a series of harmful assumptions in her article "Don't Forget to Have Kids." Not only does she inform aspiring young career women that the "greatest gift" a woman can receive is children, she warns that it is unlikely any of them will find a suitable man. These statements are completely illogical when presented together, and in a piece that begins with career advice to women the sentiment they represent is unacceptable.

That sentiment places a woman's value chiefly on her ability to reproduce. It ignores the fact that the maternal instinct is not universal. Many women do not want children, or if they do, are unable to have them. The implication that childbearing is life's greatest gift belittles these women. Their lives are not empty and meaningless because they are childless. Nor is it a terrible idea for women to wait before starting families.

Some women are simply not ready to become mothers in their twenties. Others, like the women Brzezinski addresses in her article, plan to pursue careers. This choice does not signal a death knell for their fertility. Although it is true that the risk of certain birth defects increase with age, it remains highly unlikely for a woman over the age of thirty-five to experience complications. In fact, the birth rate among women aged 30-35 has risen 57% over the past nineteen years. That figure is 70% for women aged 40-44.

It is much more likely for a young pregnant woman to face workplace discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that pregnancy discrimination claims have risen 45% since 1994, and the trend is not limited to the United States. A recent study by the Institute for Employment Studies reveals that that British women face similar treatment.

As long as workplaces remain hostile to pregnant women, young women might be better off starting families after they have become established in their fields. Furthermore, those young women might just find that the greatest gift they can receive is the fulfillment of a successful career.

The dream job waits for no woman. And although work and family can be and often is balanced well, it is not a balance all women strive to attain. We don't all want babies. We don't all lose sleep over finding the perfect partner, whether that partner is male or female. The dreams and aspirations of women cannot be summarized so neatly. It is disheartening to see a successful woman like Mika Brzezinski operate on such a blind assumption regarding those aspirations.