What do you make of the whole Apple egg-freezing benefit?

What do you make of the whole Apple egg-freezing benefit? October 16, 2014

I didn’t write about this yesterday, because I’m skeptical.

Apple has announced that egg-freezing procedures are now covered, up to a maximum of $20,000.  Everyone is aghast that this means that they’re asking their female employees to work 80 hours/week until they hit, what, early retirement age, I guess, at which point they have their frozen-egg-children.

I don’t believe it.  I think that this is just part of the game of expanding fertility treatments to any potential type of fertility treatment.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they cover non-infertility-related services like surrogacy for gay men, either.  Unless I see a statement from Apple to the contrary, I won’t believe that they are offering this with the intent that young women will freeze eggs for the specific reason of deferring motherhood later than it would otherwise be biologically possible.

Which is too bad, because it would make for a great “how outrageous!” blog post.


Maybe this is a real thing. . . at least, everyone’s treating it as if Apple and Facebook’s intention is exactly to enable their female employees to freeze their eggs at age 25 to enable pregnancy at age 45.  And, in the real world, women don’t get to slack off in their career at age 45, but maybe in the Silicon Valley world, it has some logic, to the people instituting these policies.  After all, they’re known for massive age discrimination, whining that they can’t find good workers without importing them from abroad, but turning anyone down who’s not a fresh college graduate.  Periodically there are articles about men in their late 30s, afraid of being perceived of as over-the-hill, going to great lengths to mask any sign of aging.  And in this world, if you’re washed up by the time you hit forty, it might well have made perfect sense to the HR department:  “freeze your eggs at 25, work 80-hour weeks with bonus hack-a-thons until you can’t, well, hack it any longer, then have a kid or two and consider being a stay-at-home mom because you’re no good to us any longer and we’d just be looking for an excuse to can you and bring in your 22-year-old replacement anyway.”

But the New York Time’s Room for Debate debated this.  Slate has its defense, as did Forbes, which I first saw when I looked, in vain, for an article that provided some context for this benefit.

And the reasons they (and their commenters) give for why women need this option, and can’t reasonably be expected to have their children in their early 30s any longer, let alone their late 20s, aren’t even a matter of needing to establish careers first, or of financial insecurity.  It’s that the process of finding Mr. Right, and of the couple being “ready” to start a family, now, apparently, takes a good decade or more longer than it did in the past.

I admit that I don’t really understand this.  I don’t buy that work is so all-consuming that women at the companies simply don’t have the time to meet men — there’s an overabundance of men among their co-workers (unless those men are all geeks and unworthy of their female colleagues).  Is it that they don’t judge the men in their lives to be mature enough to be considered husband-and-father-material until a much later age?  Is it that these women themselves just don’t consider themselves able to settle into a mature, adult relationship leading to marriage until much later than in the past?  Is it, in fact, truly the fault of “men on strike” would would rather spend their time playing video games or going to bars with their buddies than in the company of a woman, or who are willing to “get the milk for free” but not “buy the cow”?  Is their a heightened expectation, that a relationship, and a partner, must be perfect, and can only be deemed to be so after having stood the test of time?  — Or, to the contrary, does cohabitation produce too many Megan McArdles, who stay in mediocre relationships for too long?  (That’s in her book.)  Or is the “it takes so long to find a man these days” lament simply a matter of explaining away a young adulthood spent with every determination to “have fun” without being tied down for as long as possible?

Sorry, all questions, no answers.


Here’s another article, from another Bloomberg columnist, though I haven’t heard of her before.  Her bottom line:  to oppose egg-freezing to cheat menopause “suggests that the only good time to have a family is in your 20s or 30s, and the only good way to do it is by getting pregnant,” because all women deserve to have the “right” to cheat time with childbirth in their 40s, or whenever in their lives they lose interest in prioritizing their career or have ticked off their career and other goals of their life-list.

It’s the latest version of “having it all” — the risks of late-in-life childbearing, even with “young” eggs, and the low odds of succeeding in getting pregnant are wished away, and the disadvantages of parenting a toddler in your late 40s (that is the age we’re talking about here, right?) and a teenager at retirement age are rationalized as being balanced by greater “maturity” and more comfortable finances, in order to pursue that dream of total control, and no sacrifices needed.  Yes, we know it’s nice to be able to travel wherever you want to in your 20s, and even extend this freedom into your 30s, but to imagine that biology, or, if not, then technology, should conform to your wishes to extend your carefree youth, is foolish.

Besides which, this is in the end, a very short-sighted view.  After all, kids do grow up.  If you have them early enough, you’ll have plenty of time to be an empty-nester and still be hale and hearty enough to travel.  Heck, even before they leave the nest, kids are portable.  And, even though very-late-in-life-childbearing proponents claim that children help keep you youthful, I would strongly suspect that going straight from parenting to retirement makes for a poor transition.


Ann Althouse has a completely different theory:

I think that egg-freezing, though promoted as a way to prolong life’s window of fertility, is secretly a way to fulfill the desire not to have children at all, as the woman buys ease in the passage of time. 

The longer she goes without finding a place in her life for a child, the clearer the picture becomes. She really doesn’t want that child. And with that clarity, she finally sees her true and free choice, and she has been spared the old-fashioned anguish of the years of hearing the “ticking biological clock” that had, in the past, pressured women into having a baby as a bulwark against the regret that crystallizes after age wreaks infertility.

In other words, egg-freezing is a way to avoid having that child that you have just to avoid regret later.

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