POV: Politics

Having babies is not a college student's first priority

OK, I’ll admit it. Sometimes when I see a baby, I can feel my ovaries bursting with anticipation.

It’s terrifying; I’m only 19. Grad school exists. Careers.But apparently, according to a recent Gallup poll, 58 percent of Americans think I should get cracking soon on reproducing.

And that’s really terrifying.

Women, like me, who want to pursue a college degree, face severe disadvantages in doing so and in achieving their later career goals if they have children so young.

So what are 58 percent of Americans trying to say?

The majority of the 5,100 American adults polled by Gallup believed that women should have their first child before the age of 25.

In reality though, a recent Pew Research study showed that only 3 percent of mothers with a college degree give birth before the age of 25. In fact, 31 percent of all mothers with a Bachelor’s Degree did not start having children until they were over 35.

Why? Because the earlier that women start having kids the more difficult it is for them to continue their education.

I think all of us who have pulled all-nighters preparing for a test could understand the added difficulty, nay the impossibility, of pulling frequent, additional all-nighters calming down screaming babies.

The statistics seem to agree. In Hoffman and Maynard’s 2008 studies on teen pregnancy, they found that only 10 percent of teen mother completed a 2 or 4 year college degree program.

Even if they complete the amazing feat of college education, young mothers can be hurt later down the line too, as they enter the workforce.

Sociologist Joya Misra’s research has found that motherhood has become a greater predictor of the pay gap than gender in America, mostly because of a paltry child care system that prevents women from working full time as mothers.

Another sociologist, Shelley Correll, has discovered that mothers earn 5 percent less per hour, per child, than their childless female peers.

Mothers, in general, are also less likely to be hired if they leave or try to change jobs. Correll’s work showed that employers were half as likely to call back women whose résumés, through mention of an elementary school parent-teacher association, implied that they were mothers.

In our already hostile economic climate, these are risks that the under-30 cannot take.

The Guardian reported that over 2 million of those Americans 20 to 24 years old are unemployed, as are 2.5 million 25 to 34 year olds.

Additionally, student debt has reached a staggering 1 trillion dollars, and studies show that our generation will not reach our median wages until we are 30 years old- bad for mom and bad for baby.

A 2013 Pew Research study concluded its findings on higher education and motherhood by saying that it was “irrefutable… that on average the more education a woman has, the better off her children will be.”

If this is true, why is “when should women start having babies” a question that needs to be asked?

I can’t say I’m glad that yet another facet of my behavior, appearance, and lifestyle as a woman has now been marked out and dictated to me by the larger American public, but I’m more concerned that the dictate is one that limits my opportunities in the public sphere, and is, in fact, not beneficial to me or to my potential baby.

Is America telling its women to retreat to the birthing rooms of lore? To focus on family before personal growth? To trade their identities for ultrasounds? It seems so.

And that makes my ovaries calm down significantly.