As a young ambitious woman, how often does it happen that you are at a family wedding and pop comes the question: when are you getting married? If you happen to be married, then the obvious question becomes: when are you having a baby? Alas, that baby question can completely off-balance anyone. Is it not?
And sadly, that’s the time in your life (in your 20s leading up to 30s) when you are going for the kill in your career. That’s the time when you are most productive and growth is the fastest. But, it is also the best time to have babies.
Working women in their 20s and 30s invariably are faced with a tricky issue of the biological clock. So what exactly is it? Is there a clock in us that is ticking?
Typically, biological clock has to do with a woman’s reproductive years – time when she can have babies. The accepted age is up to 35 (though science can make even a 50-year-old Janet Jackson a mom). But that, many would say, is the upper limit. Anything above that is generally considered dangerous. And the sad reality is that your biological clock and career clock work in totally opposite direction.
Dr Charanjit Kaur, senior consultant, obstetrician and gynaecologist, Sukhda Hospital in South Delhi believes biological clock is a reality and procrastinating (delay in having babies) is definitely not a good idea.
“The best time to have babies is of course between 20s and 30s. A woman is young and has the vigour to have babies. Sadly, the scary trend I have been noticing is that women are opting for their first pregnancy at around 32-33 years. Having a baby after 35 is wrought with problems – fertility count goes down, lifestyle diseases like diabetes and blood pressure have to be factored in and the risk of abnormal births is high.”
So, what does one do? Pick one over the other and make peace? Not really. Women are choosing to go the middle path.
Khyati Nayyar Chauhan, assistant manager, American Express India Pvt Ltd, Gurgaon says despite knowing about the issue, she is not bogged down by it. She believes she will have a baby when she has to. However, she agrees that the best age to have a baby is between 28 to 30 years.
“I agree that the biological clock and career clock are diametrically opposite to each other. But I don’t worry too much. At the moment, I have put off pregnancy for career as I want to go one level up and then plan on having a baby when I am more settled. The good thing is my husband is very supportive.”
Many aver that women often have an urge to have babies. It’s called hormonal urge, even baby fever, sometimes.
Khyati does believe that there is an urge. At a certain age, hormones do act up in a way that women show an eagerness and willingness to have babies.
Not all agree though.
Sunanda K Malik, AVP - Talent Marketing & Communication, Genpact certainly doesn’t think so. “I don’t believe in hormonal urges to have babies. It’s driven by society and age-old wisdom and I don’t see anything wrong with that. There is a time to have kids -- when you are fit and able to run around after them. It takes energy especially after a hard day at the office. And also when you feel you are ready to take the responsibility of an additional person (or twins as in my case). That’s it. And wisdom tells you that this period is typically a few years after you have been married.”
However, not everybody is willing to buy this argument especially about the right age.
Aashi Rastogi, creative consultant, television shows & digital media, Mumbai feels there is no right age really. “I think the right age is when you are ready. Women are having babies at 40 also.”
More than hormonal urge the pressure comes from family, friends planning their families and the confidence to shoulder an additional responsibility. These are the principle considerations for having a baby.
“The pressure is insane but then that has not affected my husband or me.”
That brings one to the question as how well can women manage biological work vis-à-vis career.
Aashi is clearly optimistic. She says, “Nowadays the organisations have become empathetic towards woman. They allow you a 2-6 months break post delivery. Women are multi-taskers; so they can handle anything. The concept of father-leave post the 6th month of childbirth should also be incorporated. Men will then have equal share and like women they will also share equal responsibility.”
Sadly, Dr Kaur’s experience has been different. In her various interactions with patients, she finds that women getting into the role of a provider (as against the nourishing role), nuclear families and dual income households is coming at a very big cost.
Sunanda, on the other hand, believes that while they can be an overlap, it could work in one’s favour. “I think it can be to one’s advantage. Your earning power goes up so you can provide better for your kids. You have been working long enough to build credibility in the company or industry and therefore can afford to take time off or follow a more flexible schedule without anyone questioning your commitment. You have learnt the ropes of managing teams and other stakeholders and running things efficiently at work and that experience certainly helps manage the additional responsibilities that come with having kids.”
There is also a growing tribe of women, single or married, for whom the issue is irrelevant. Freelance writer Rohini Singhal (name changed) says since her husband and she are open to adoption, talk of biological clock is actually a non-issue. She also believes that much of this is actually who you are and what you believe in. “As a woman, I have never felt that I would be ‘incomplete’ without a child.”
It is also a fact that science has come to the aid of society with many new discoveries and inventions. IVF and egg freezing (Oocyte Cryopreservation) are two options available to women opting for a late pregnancy.