Home » Career versus motherhood – A biological and social dilemma

Career versus motherhood – A biological and social dilemma

The Career Versus Motherhood debate has been a poignant issue for females of recent decades. Today, women’s lifestyles are changing rapidly as more females are entering the workforce and enjoying successful careers. The difficulty of balancing careers and motherhood requires women to consider the options of delaying childbearing, leaving the workforce temporarily to rear children, or making professional success the top priority in life.

With infertility in women on the increase and more women choosing not to have children, the developed world is observing it’s lowest birth rates ver. This rate will continue to decline, and will eventually have detrimental effects to the survival of the family unit, society and the population as a whole. In the past, most women were expected to have a family. Despite their potential and success, if they were asked to choose between their family and career, they always chose their family (Reis, 2003).

However, that is no longer the situation today, women of today now have the freedom to choose which career path to take, be it motherhood or professional development (Reis, 2003). There is a strong indication that women will continue to delay childbearing. The median age of childbearing has increased from 26. 5 years in 1979 to 28. 2 years in 1989, then to 29. 7 years in 1999. Over the past 20 years there has been a fall in the proportion of births to teenage mothers, from 8. 2% in 1979 to 4. 7% in 1999.

Conversely, the proportion of births to women aged 40 years and above has increased, from 0. 8% in 1979 to 2. 5% in 1999 (ABS, 2004). Since 1901 Australia has experienced two long periods of fertility decline, the most recent starting from 1962 to the present. After the 1961 peak the total fertility rate fell rapidly to 2. 9 babies per woman in 1966. This fall can be attributed to changing social attitudes; in particular a change in people’s perception of desired family size, facilitated by the contraceptive pill becoming available (ABS, 2004).

During the 1970s the total fertility rate dropped again, falling to where it has remained since. This fall was more marked than in the early 1960s and has been linked to the increasing participation of women in education and the labour force, changing attitudes to family size, lifestyle choices nd the greater access to abortion (ABS, 2004). [pic] Australia’s total fertility rate for 1999, of 1. 75 babies per woman, is one of the lowest in the world and well below the world’s average. According to the United Nations, the world average total fertility rate for 1995-2000 stands at 2. babies per woman, declining from the relatively constant five births per woman that existed until the late 1960s and early 1970s (ABS, 2004). There are many factors that can influence a country’s fertility rate, such as differences in social and economic development and the prevalence of contraceptives. In general, developing countries have higher fertility rates while developed countries usually have lower rates (ABS, 2004) As fertility decreases with age, more and more women are finding it increasingly difficult to have children in later years.

Those who decided in their early twenties not to have children until they were mature, financially stable and satisfied with a long and rewarding career did not have access to information about declining fertility rates (Haussegger, 2002). Because the quality of eggs deteriorates over time, fertility declines. Childbearing rates drop sharply after age 40, although menopause typically will not arrive until around 50. Because eggs age along with all the other cells in the body, the eggs of a mature woman are more likely to have chromosomal problems than the eggs of a younger woman.

Older mothers will face an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. In the United States, only about 70,000 babies were born to women in their 40s during 1995. That’s a tiny fraction of the 3. 9 million babies born that year (NACB, 2003). The success rate of IVF for a 39-year-old is around one n five – and dropping. At 40, the chance is only 6 per cent (Haussegger, 2002). Women who invest years in tertiary studies in order to establish professional careers are less likely to marry and become parents.

Those that do marry and rear children are more likely to continue some kind of involvement in their career after becoming parents (Dingle, 2002). The decision to start a family can be viewed as a cost-benefit analysis, taking into account time, money, lifestyle, and the symbolic meaning of children (Nock, 1987). There is also compelling evidence that while women are ncreasingly accepted into responsible and well-paid roles, their acceptance is often on the condition that they do not have children (Turnbull, 2002).

In the past, children have been valued for their ability to contribute to the family income, or to take care of their parents in old age. However, as our society becomes more individualistic, these expectations of children are less often met and children are more likely to be viewed as a burden rather than an asset to the family. Women who endorse male-female equality, rather than traditional gender roles, are less likely to view motherhood as central and defining aspect of their adulthood, and are therefore more likely to subscribe to the shift in meaning towards children as a burden. Nock, 1987) The trends towards increased numbers of women in full-time work, and increased numbers of women combining motherhood with work, suggest that the decision-making process with respect to roles and timing is becoming more complex. For some, it constitutes a real dilemma. For these women and their partners, efforts to facilitate decision-making is crucial if outcomes such as work-stress and relationship problems are to be avoided Probert, 2001). The repercussions of the decline in birth-rates are numerous.

Within the lifetime of most Australians living today, the proportion of our population aged over 65 will rise from 12 per cent to approximately 25 per cent in 2040. Our working-age population will decline from around 67 per cent to about 60 per cent (Turnbull, 2002). This will result in the crowding of retirement homes, the health system becoming overwhelmed, the economy will stagnate, the generation gap will create major divisions in our society, and innovation will decrease. Some picture our world of the future as a population of old people living in old houses with old ideas (Reid, 1988).

The newly introduced ‘Baby Bonus’ incentive indicates that the Australian Government is acting on this trend. Unfortunately low-paid women would receive the least from the baby bonus because the scheme is packaged as a tax rebate. Thirty per cent of working women (low income earners) will be entitled to less than $10 a week, 50% of women (middle income earners) will receive up to $16 a week, while just 5% (high income earners) will gain the ost with a rebate of $48 a week (ACTU, 2004).

Women must, in particular, re-evaluate their notions of success and redefine their priorities in terms of personal values and beliefs. While various circumstances and situations compel women to work, individual pressures, responsibilities, and concerns relative to work are common issues that concern most working women (Dingle, 2002). Although there are more social causes to this phenomenon than biological, it is extremely important for those who want children later, to be aware that biology is against them.

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