Fifty years ago today, Betty Friedan released the book The Feminine Mystique in which she described “a problem with no name.” She described how educated women felt trapped in suburbia, gazing longingly toward unrealized opportunities in corporate offices. Today, women enjoy those opportunities in the workplace, but are now experiencing a new problem with no name as they find themselves looking out their corporate windows wondering about life with a family.
Writers ranging from conservative Danielle Crittenden to liberal Sylvia Ann Hewlett describe women who find it tragic that their corporate success came at the expense of having the opportunity to invest in children. Crittenden writes, “In the richest period ever in our history…the majority of mothers feel they have ‘no choice’ but to work.” In just 30 years, Hewlett says, “we’ve gone from fearing our fertility to squandering it–and very unwittingly.”
This is what it’s come to. The successes of women in the twenty-first century are diminished by their sacrifices. For all our relative wealth, we can’t afford babies. For all our learning, we don’t understand the limits of fertility. For all our advances as women, motherhood seems unreachable.
Adapted from Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies