In defense of slowing things down

If I’ve learned anything in my 24th year of life, it’s that sometimes it’s okay to slow things down. This is a hard lesson to learn, and to be honest, it’s something I still have to remind myself of. I think women especially struggle with this–we want it all, and sometimes all at once. And we feel pressured to do it all as fast and as perfectly as we can.

Multitasking

But why not slow life down? After all, isn’t timing everything?

Let me put my musings into context: I stumbled upon this article while “conducting research” for my thesis. It’s about a recent trend among graduate students to have children while they’re finishing their programs. The author goes on to ask whether or not universities should provide support and accommodation to parents with newborns, such as maternity leave, healthcare, and private nursing rooms.

I was surprised by how many women commented about their own experiences. Apparently, having a baby midway through your Master’s, law, medical or doctorate degree is a very real thing:

“I’m a third-year social science PhD student, and my husband and I are planning to have a child in the spring of my fourth year when I’m 26.”

“I had my daughter at 28 during my 3rd and last year of residency.”

“I had my first child during my 5th year in a Ph.D. program at an Ivy League university.”

“My daughter was born during the winter break before my final semester as a master’s student.”

“I had my son at the end of my 1st year as doctoral student in clinical psychology, attending a school in NYC.”

“I gave birth to my first son while I was in my second year of law school.”

“We have a very unhealthy obsession with work and looking busy in our culture.”

What struck me the most about these comments, besides the whole how-does-she-do-it question, is how frantic women seem to get pregnant “before it’s too late,” even in their mid-twenties. This comment, however, also stood out (and made me feel better about not having children on my radar anytime soon):

“We have a very unhealthy obsession with work and looking busy in our culture.”

I couldn’t agree more. Do we push through, multi-tasking all the way, because we want to or because we feel like we have to? Do we ever stop and enjoy the moment? Can we pause between our accomplishments, without somehow feeling like unproductive failures?

For me, it’s all about taking things one step at a time. And right now, I’m refusing to feel bad about that.

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Stigmas and standards: Pregnancy past 40

Halle Berry isn’t just pregnant with her second child, she’s pregnant with the second child she’s had past 40.  Big news, everyone, or at least you’d think so by all the way-too-excited headlines reporting it. Here’s the rundown: She had her first daughter at 41 with model Gabriel Aubry, and now at 46 she’s expecting a boy with fiancé Olivier Martinez (of Unfaithful fame). Truth be told, I would not know Berry’s exact age if it weren’t for this pregnancy. For some reason, the number is not to be missed.

halle-berry-oliver-martinez-pregnant-gi

Okay, it’s not just for some reason. Her age is getting so much attention because, let’s be honest, there’s a stigma associated with women who get pregnant past the age of 40 (and really, even past 35). In 2013. No matter who you are (in this case, a famous actress), how much money you make (lots), or what the state of your physical health is (uh, she looks pretty damn fit/perfect to me), if you’re a woman who dares to have a baby “later” in life, prepare to be picked apart.

I’ve already read too many lines about her diabetes, the risks of geriatric pregnancies, and how she will raise children during her “twilight” years. And in the comments sections, readers are scrambling over how she got pregnant in the first place. Everyone calm down. She’s 46, not 86. Besides, why, really, do we care? Of all the pregnant women in the world, I don’t think Berry needs our concern. And on that note, does any pregnant woman deserve the quick judgement of strangers?

Halle Berry attends 'The Call' Premiere in Buenos Aires

This might be personal for me. I’m more than 20 years younger than Berry, but I’ve already listened to friends talk about when they think they“should” try to have a baby, followed, very clearly, by when they shouldn’t. My objections to these engrained rules are answered with phrases not unlike the ones that come up in articles about Berry’s pregnancy: something about risks and the fear (distaste?) of being an older mom.

Here’s what Berry has to say about it:

“I’m a much better mother at 46–or 41, when I had her–than if I were like 21 or 25. I mean I was just a little baby trying to figure it out–trying to figure out who I was, let alone having the responsibility of trying to help another little soul develop and grow. I’m so glad I waited.”

By the way, I had to search around a little for Martinez’s age. It isn’t automatically listed in every article (and headline!) like Berry’s. He’s 47.