Is Jennifer Aniston pregnant again?
Or was she never pregnant in the first place? It seems the world is hellbent on rom-com royalty Jennifer Aniston having a baby. First it was her silky, layered hair that won all the accolades and headlines, then her romance with hunky Brad, then her “Move over, Jen” Brangelina heartbreak. Now it’s Jen’s elusive baby bump that never surfaces, yet we’re sure that this time — no, really — Jen is, for reals, expecting a baby.
So, let’s see here. Over the past 10 years, Jen (of course we’re on a first-name basis because Jen is everybody’s best friend who you don’t know and never met but talk about like you do) has been supposedly preggers many times: “Pregnant and Alone” (gasp!), “Pregnant and Getting Married” (aw, happily ever after!), “Pregnant With Twins” (well, that’s what you get for waiting so long!), and alas, 2016 could apparently be the year Jen gets “Pregnant Via Surrogate” (make it work, people!).
Ay, caramba. Can a womb not take a bow already? But really, such (put mildly) fascination with a celeb’s procreation makes me wonder if, for some or perhaps even a great many, a female just isn’t fully a woman until she births a child.
Are Mothers the Only Real Women?
I mean, isn’t that part of the implied message of this timeline we’re discussing here (along with the likelihood that Aniston tabloid covers, like royal baby tabloid covers, sell wildly on the newsstand) — this pushed-upon-us sympathetic sense of “Poor, Jen. She just can’t quite be complete.”
But while Jen is a celeb, she is still a human being. She is not the little belly bump that could. We can’t, as a society, will her to be pregnant and to deliver a baby. We can’t ascribe to her some secret wish and longing to become a mother. (Really, if she desperately wanted kids I think that she’d have figured something out by now, perhaps à la Sandra Bullock, who adopted her son, Louis, at age 46 in 2010).
Why do so many people desperately need to see Jen pregnant in search of some feel-good, all-is-right-in-the-world resolve? Is it because in the eyes many, a female does not become a woman until she bears a child?
Not All Women Need to Be Mothers
I have a dentist friend who has told me countless times how hard it is for her to date because she does not intend to ever have a child. She has decided, definitively, for multiple outlined, measured reasons all her own that for her, delivering a baby is not a ritual she needs to complete in order to feel whole.
Yet, to her dismay, this has created a dating dilemma. And one she wasn’t anticipating. Every time she tries to do what she considers the right thing and tells a potential mate early on of her wish to remain childless, forever, the man will often look at her as if she’s a stone-cold fox alien. She’s suddenly icy. Frigid. Subhuman. Rock-hearted and selfish. Often she gets the confounded “Never? Ever?!” And soon after, the check is paid and the two part ways. For good.
Motherhood in the Workforce
In an interesting new book by a Stanford Graduate School of Business professor, economist Paul Oyer points out that just the mere fact that, biologically, women can have children may be to all women’s detriment in the workforce.
“It’s very hard to prove to what degree the male-female wage gap can be attributed to statistical discrimination, but statistical discrimination could well be a contributing factor,” he writes in his book.
Oyer posits that the gender-based wage gap widens if a company believes a woman is likely to leave her job sooner rather than later and that companies make estimations about this length of time by attempting to know a woman’s motherhood plans. As such, women deemed more likely to leave, and leave sooner, will be offered lower wages than male candidates with the same qualifications.
Worse, Oyer goes on to state: “Women who think there will be a good chance that they will leave their jobs after a short while to have children will be less inclined to work hard while they are in school. This leads to a situation where women, because of the choices they make based on what they expect firms to do, are less qualified (on average). The situation is thus worse for all women because even conditional on their education, women will be less well trained and less productive than men.”
He concludes that women who intend to stay at a firm long-term are discriminated against because (a) there is no way they can show that they intend to stay at the firm a long time, and (b) there is the indirect problem of men assuming women prepared less intensively for the job “because other women, rationally responding to their own incentives prepared less intensively.”
Wow. Really? These are the ideas with which women in the workforce have to contend. These are also the ideas that pit women against women in the workforce, and in society. This is the antithesis of the sisterhood.
Well, you can imagine me bracketing off these graphs and marking large question marks in the margin of this book. Because I did spend time taking classes and attending skills-building workshops and professional conferences after college and graduate school, and was educated and qualified. And the idea that some who know nothing of me may assume I am less qualified — and less productive — because I am a woman is bothersome.
Yet, the truth is, while I was reaching for those work-related goals, I was not pursuing the search for a life partner. And you know what? There were instances where people asked me openly about my personal life and plans in a professional context. Actually, this is why I did not ever really date, like it was my job, until I was in my 30s. In my 20s I traveled, I went to grad school and then I worked. A lot. And for many years, work was my first love and top priority.
So, just to refresh: a potential mate may frown upon a woman’s admission of not wanting (yes, ever) to have children, while a potential employer may judge her negatively (and offer her lower wages) if she expressed a strong desire to have children in the near future. Sometimes you just can win.
Having It All
The truth is that having it all is very tough. I once interviewed Natalie Morales of “Today” show success for a careers package I wrote for “Cosmopolitan For Latinas” magazine. I knew she had a husband and two sons, ran marathons (in her copious amounts of spare time, lol) and had a top-tier (or what I like to call top-totem) job in a highly competitive field. Sitting down with Morales at the “Today” show set in her dressing room, I wanted to look her in the eye and I ask her, “But how in the world do you do it all?”
“Truth be told, I don’t really think we can have it all,” she said, with refreshing directness. “You are going to have to make sacrifices in certain areas of your life.” Then she added, “This doesn’t mean that you can’t have great success in what you do. Just have your priorities straight, and make sure that what’s most important to you is never forgotten at the end of the day.”
And with that nugget of advice from such an accomplished master juggler, I felt a great sense of relief. And I hope that you will, too.