07/14/2015 05:19 EDT | Updated 07/14/2016 05:59 EDT

The Real Reason Women Are Having Children Later

Shutterstock / nattanan726

There has been much hullabaloo in the media ever since reports surfaced that some companies may be considering footing the bill for female employees who want to freeze their eggs. Commentators are, rightfully, concerned that this will create false hope for women putting off childbearing because frozen eggs are not guaranteed to result in a live birth. Instead, critics of egg freezing warn women that they should simply stop choosing to put their careers ahead of having families.

Whoa, Nellie! That, my friends, is when I get irate. As an infertility counsellor and therapist, I counsel many women considering egg freezing or, if they are too old for that, opting to become a single parent through donor insemination. I can tell you right now, the vast majority of women doing so did not wait to have children by choice!

Sure, there are cultural changes that have changed the average life trajectory of today's generations compared to previous ones. Most of us pursue post-secondary education and few of us marry and settle down until after that is complete. But to say this is a choice is not usually the case. Both men and women generally need to, if not have a career, be employable. It is difficult for most families today to survive on a single income. Given high rates of divorce and domestic violence, it is not wise nor realistic for women to be entirely economically dependent on their partner.

In addition, dating practices have changed and youth are no longer required/expected to marry the first person with whom they are intimate. Frankly, I think that's a rather good thing. Do we really want young people rushing into marriage so we can increase the divorce rate, the number of single parent homes and the proportion of children living in poverty?

Nevertheless, most women are very open to settling down by the time they reach their late 20s. So if we are going to point fingers at the reason for delayed childbearing these days, let's look at men.

A significant portion of my therapy practice is single women in their 20s. One of the issues they struggle with most is the challenge of finding a partner. The situation for singles nowadays is positively absurd. Instead of meeting organically, through shared interests or friends, connections are made through dating or "hookup" sites. This has created a dating environment where people seem to feel there are less consequences for their actions. If you bed someone on the first date and then never call them again (I mean text, because people don't call each other anymore), it doesn't matter because -- at least in a huge city like Toronto -- you likely won't ever see them again. And besides, with tens of thousands of people on all these different sites, each one is essentially expendable. While most women are looking for a partner, a lot of the men on these sites are just looking for hookups.

Even worse, there is the age preference issue. An analysis of dating site data demonstrates that while men in their 20s are looking for women in their 20s, so too are men in their 30s and 40s. Therefore, even those guys looking for a life partner, are leaving the women their age in the cold. The women whose biological clocks are clicking loudest. These, my friends, are the women who are freezing their eggs or opting to become a lone parent. To say it is a choice is inaccurate. To say it has anything to do with their careers is way off-base. They want to find a partner, they want to have children, they just have not been successful in doing so due to circumstance.

So instead of accusing women of prioritizing career over family, perhaps we should acknowledge that it is simply more challenging nowadays for many women to find a life partner during their fertile years. For that reason alone, I applaud companies for providing women with the opportunity to expand their control over their fertility.


10 Best Fertility Superfoods