69 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2002
....because you think Hewlett has an anti-feminist agenda! I am one of the "high achieving" women that Hewlett describes in her book. I make in excess of $200K, have a demanding professional career....and I desperately want to be a mom too. Luckily, I am married, and I'm only 31. Unluckily, we're in the midst of expensive and emotionally/physically taxing infertility treatments. It happens more than young women may think. I certainly never expected to have trouble. Now I see all these women just like me, struggling to have children. Many people don't see this, because infertility is a very isolating, and painfully personal tragedy. Who wants to go public with being infertile? From my seat in the clinic waiting room, in chat rooms, in discussions with female co-workers, it looks like a silent epidemic. I do not regret waiting until my 30s to start a family -- putting aside my job, I was not emotionally ready to do that. But after reading Hewlett's book, I know that if I want a family (and I do), I was right to start now -- she is dead on when she talks about how the ART industry and the media lull women into a false sense of security about their fertility. There *is* a biological clock, and it should be factored into the choices we make -- not ignored wholesale.
I find the controversy over this book very sad and funny at the same time. Wasn't feminism all about giving women all the information they need to make reasoned choices? The whole idea that feminism is about steering young women into go-go professional careers is as short-sighted and uni-dimensional as the way we deal with the threat of eating disorders (that it's not OK to tell kids to exercise and lose weight because they might develop an eating disorder -- meanwhile most of the country is now overweight).
Hewlett is not saying that women like me should have chucked the idea of getting a professional degree, and that I should have been barefoot and pregnant at home by 22. She's just trying to share another side of the story. Knowledge is such a powerful thing. I used to look at women above me and assume that they had chosen to be alone and childless. Now (both from personal experience and from the stories in Hewlett's book), I know that the truth is likely more complicated. Why is it wrong to reveal the regrets that powerful and successful women have about remaining childless? Shouldn't we celebrate ALL the things that women are capable of, including child-bearing? Why ignore that? What is wrong with letting young women know that there are temporal limitations to "having it all" and that one should plan accordingly? Better to know what the potential pitfalls are now, than to find out when it's too late.
As a book, I thought that it was a little too surface-y in its discussions. The book is mostly a collection of quotes and stories (deeply moving stories) from successful women, interspersed with results from her survey. It's not a scholarly treatise, and is a quick read. But it is a book worth reading because it raises issues and questions that should not be dismissed lightly.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2005
This book has a lot to offer. First, Hewlett gave her background as a career woman and why she IS qualified to speak as a mother. Though she was able to have a child at the age of 51, she went through miscarriages and a lot of medical expense to do so. She points out that for many women it's not easy or financially feasible to wait until your forties or fifties, and women should know this. I read articles on independent medical websites about the struggles and risks of having children after age 40. To those who know people who have been successful, good for them. But the websites and fertility clinics are reporting that most women don't have it that easy. Pregnancy rates are 4 out of 10 women among 20-somethings, but it drops to 1 out of 10 women among 40-somethings. It's not as common as it may seem.
Giving people knowledge is NOT a scare-tactic. We women deserve to be informed! It should not be hidden information just because some women are uncomfortable with it or believe that it does not apply in their case.
I have to argue with the idea of "having it all." One of my colleagues used to say, "I can do anything, one thing at a time." Males and females sometimes make the mistake of trying to have high-powered, demanding careers while at the same time undertaking the high-powered, demanding responsibility of being a parent of young children. I agree with the suggestion of having children early on, then working on your career afterwards. You can probably have it all - ONE THING AT A TIME.
Even hard-working fathers make sacrificies, although Hewlett apparently does not notice. Fathers sacrifice by not spending as much time with their children as they would like, having wives who divorce them and move away with the kids, or having two, three, or four unsuccessful marriages. This book makes it seem that men really "have it all," when they don't. She even gives exampls of men who don't live with their children or who have been remarried. She says about one man, "At least he has children." However, life is not about breeding children then feeling like you accomplished something because "at least I had children." He was regretful over the sacrifice he had made putting career before family, as many women are regretful.
I would consider being a successful parent and having a FULFILLING (not perfect) career to be the definition of "having it all," even if I relinquish all chances of ever having the corner office or partnership in the firm or the opportunity to travel around the world just a few more times. Women (or men) who leave the workforce to raise children would do well to rethink their thinking. Being flexible at how you define your goals and your happiness is better than feeling hopeless, pitiful, and unchallenged.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2002
I think this book stresses the importance of facts and becoming educated on making life decisions. Having children and having a career are both choices and with choices in life there are always consequences. However, what Hewlett points out is that women have been given false information in terms of how long they can wait to have children. Having fertility information at 25 (as opposed to 45 when it's too late) can be helpful when attempting to plan for both career and family and I think her message is just that simple. I agree with her suggestion to look at where you want to be at 45 and plan backwards, however, there is one tiny stipulation. Just because you have a plan, life is full of surprises that cannot be forecast, foreseen, or prevented and plans have to remain flexible enough to change. For example, you can plan to get married at 27, but you may not meet your partner until you are 32.
I think the key is understanding the consequences and potential consequences of making these decisions. I would love to say that in a perfect world, you can have a great career and a great family. However, when maintaining a balance, both areas may not get full attention all the time. Life is a juggling act. You may only be 80% productive on your job and 80% productive on childrearing. But that is much better than neglecting one or the other because both are important.
96 of 126 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2002
I am a 52-year-old man who married at 19, had 5 children by the age of 33, and am now facing the last stages of aplastic anemia. In other words, I think I'm a good deal more qualified to comment on family life than is Ms. Hewlett. I will be honest: Although we both hold masters' degrees, my wife makes twice the income I do, and when we were younger, we split shifts to make BOTH our careers work and enjoy parenting. My wife and I have an income well over six figures, which certainly puts us in Hewlett's "high-acheiving" category. Yet, we could only find a few "caricatures" (since that's exactly what they are) in this book that resembled anyone we knew. We DO have a daughter struggling with infertility--who married at 22, has two advanced degrees, and is 29 and married to an equally accomplished man. Her infertility obviously isn't age-related. (I was so terrified she'd find this book that I returned it to the bookstore.) Nor do I think that men are somehow dumping "accomplished" women in droves. In my professional life as a public interest lawyer, I knew few men who were not married to women who were at least their intellectual equals. Some of them, it's true, did have difficulties having children and careers simultaneously, along with their wives. Was it that they and their spouses "put themselves first?" No--it's a much simpler reason, and as a former economist, Hewlett is a fool for not mentioning it: It's the economy. While the "simple living" movement made a nice dent in this, the fact is that materialistic tomes emnating from places like Manhattan make it difficult for couples to survive on one income. At one point Hewlett writes that she didn't have to "maximize her earnings" during the several cutting-edge infertility she went through at 51. Maximize? Uh, right.
There's a solution to this--it's not scaring little girls into having babies at 19, nor whipping "career women" who have to wait. It has more to do with raising wages, affordable housing, marital stability, better health care (much infertility is caused by untreated STDs), and teaching people about when it's realistic to be parents (I wasn't at 20, some aren't at 35, and some aren't ever, especially if the baby is just another "accomplishment." My mother had six children, spoke only Spanish, and could not read or write in any language. She had her last child at 49--not by choice, either. My father was no more educated, nor did he make a "living wage" for eight people. It bothers me that as I get ready to leave this earth, we haven't come much further than Brownsville, Texas in the 1950s. In Hewlett's view, a woman must have an accomplished husband, children, and high-track career. My mother had few choices--now it appears that my daughters don't, either. What a waste, to promulgate this do-as-I-do "feminism."
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2002
This book was very insightful and based on real-life research. I am thirty-one and have spent the last ten years focused solely on my career as a professional. This book opened my eyes to the fact that I really don't have forever to start a family. The book follows several successful women in a variety of fields and discusses the challenges they face with finding a spouse and starting a family as they get older. These women tell their tales of how they basically woke up one day and realized they were forty and single. Many of them faced personal challenges as they drained all options to get pregnant and were unsuccessful. This book is definitely an interesting read.
26 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2002
Hewlett's claim that she wanted to write a book about successful women and then uncovered the tragedy of how many of them 'forgot' to have children is disingenuous. She has an ax to grind - she can't stand the fact that some women haven't reproduced (the author herself just HAD to have a baby at age 51 despite her husband's reluctance). So she gathers data from discredited studies, asks misleading questions, and then draws her so-called conclusions. For instance, she says only 14% of women she surveyed wanted to be childless yet almost 50% of those surveyed were. Therefore, there must be large numbers of women yearning to have kids but who just haven't. Yet she arrived at that 'conclusion' by asking women if, while they were in college, they thought they would have children. But, interestingly, she does NOT ask them if they still think they want children (if she had and the numbers were the same, she might actually have had a real piece of data!). She just assumes they do and, q.e.d. they're unhappy and unfulfilled. Wouldn't it have made sense for her next question to be, "Now that you're older, do you still think you'd like to have children?" The fact she didn't ask seems to me to indicate she realized a lot of the women in her survey would have said "no;" so she took her "when you were in college" question and leaped to the conclusions she had already decided upon.
Too bad this author gets so much spotlight. She has so little to say, and no data to support it.
25 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2002
Poorly conceived and deeply problematic. As an historian, I can contextualize this book: Hewlett is no different from eugenists who argued in the 1920s that upper-class intelligent women were failing in their duty to produce children and that these women would regret it. She is also no different from 19th century gynecologists such as Edward Clarke who claimed that women who attended college would suffer from infertility and uterine problems (and like Hewlett, Clarke also insisted that women and men were/are equal!). The truth is Hewlett's thesis isn't even new---moreover, her thesis has yet to be proven with good accurate statistics and an unbiased approach to the question.
Where is the discussion of the DROP which occurs in men's fertility as they age? Where is the discussion of the rise in birth defects which increase as men age? Fertility is NOT dependent solely on the woman's status---it takes two to make a baby. Hewlett's compelete disregard for and refusal to discuss male fertility and the problems which occur as men age reveals serious problems in her methodology. No scholar would ever approach a study from such a biased angle (ignoring half the problem). As an academic, I was deeply insulted by Hewlett's slipshod approach and methodology---regardless of her conclusions, her book is seriously flawed by this type of carelessness and disregard for basic standards.
I strongly suggest that readers who are impressed with Hewlett look at discussions of her work which have appeared in magazines as diverse as Fortune and The American Prospect. When Fortune (not exactly a liberal magazine) condemns Hewlett's work you know it's got to be bad. Moreover, Hewlett's claim that career-women are NOT having children is graphically refuted by both Fortune's studies as well as statistical studies by the American Prospect. Career-women, as these better studies illustrate, simply have their children at a slightly later age (and, contrary to Hewlett's thesis, they DO have children at the same rate as their working-class counterparts---they just have them later).
On a personal level (since we are throwing away the idea that unbiased approaches to this issue are key), ALL of the women whom I know of who suffer from infertility are in their 20s and early 30s; fertility is not always age-related (as would be evidenced by the fact that most of my friends who are in their late 30s and early 40s have managed to get pregnant). If nothing else, the fact that Hewlett herself managed to have a child at 51 (why is this acceptable for her but not other women?) should throw a wrench in her thesis.
I still find myself confused as to why Hewlett's book has generated discussion. Why did the New York Times feel a need to run op-eds discussing the fact that this book wasn't selling? Do we do this with other books which don't sell? Do we do this with books which scholars dismiss as poorly documented? Of course not. The fact that the book generated such discussion indicates the presence of a tremendous backlash against women, especially career women as well as a desire on the part of the mainstream media to create an issue which may not exist.
The book has done what Hewlett intended--scared younger women into believing that marriage is the answer (look for more divorces in the future) and provided older women with "the" answer (this is the reason why they didn't have children). The truth, as always, is much more complex than Hewlett would have us believe---in fact, Hewlett's thesis (the more successful a woman is the less likely she is to have children) has already been refuted (with a better and less biased use of statistics) by several scholars and journalists. As a social commentary/explanation as to why today's families are smaller or why some women (AND MEN) are not having children, Hewlett's work is insufficient.
20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2002
Despite all of the hype in the media over Hewlett's book it, like her similar tome A LESSER LIFE: THE MYTH OF WOMEN'S LIBERATION IN AMERICA, is a flop in terms of sales. Hewlett, as some remember, wrote A LESSER LIFE during the middle of the Reagan years, when books urging "accomplished" women to give up their careers in favor of husbands and children were quite popular, at least with the media. Hewlett received much deserved criticism for her antifeminist thesis from feminists like Betty Friedan and especially Susan Faludi, the latter showing in her book BACKLASH Hewlett had a tendency to disregard the truth.
Years have passed and although Hewlett has gotten some positive recognition in some quarters for her advocacy for parents' rights in the workplace, she hasn't changed one bit in her hostility towards feminism and women who don't fit the prescribed marriage-and-babies mold. She also hasn't changed in her disregard for facts and statistics. A recent article in the American Prospect magazine discredits Hewlett's book in general and her dubious statistics in particular (among other facts the author of the A.P. article notes that "highly accomplished" women differ no more than other working women in marriage rates or in having children, except elite single women are much less likely to have children out of wedlock). Readers who are interested in Hewlett's thesis might want to take a look at this article before shelling out the money for her latest screed.
Hewlett puts on a pretty good front by claiming she's a "feminist" because she advocates social policies that are politically untenable in the United States, but everything else she writes belies her "feminism." The antifeminist feminist schtick is a good act, and it's helped her over the years with the media, but more sophisticated readers (especially those who are familiar with the women's movement and career issues) will immediately see through her facade. Furthermore, her elitism offends 90 percent of American women because they are not "high achievers" (by default they are "low achievers," an insult if there ever was one) making six-figure salaries and working in male-dominated fields. At the same time she has offended 90 percent of the ten percent who are in the elite fields by saying they've messed up on their personal lives. Not a good way to sell books, Ms. Hewlett.
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2002
I watched Hewlett on the talk shows. She told interviewers that she started out just wanted to write a book about Successful Women. Give me a break - just take a look at her other books and you will see she is on a crusade to send women back to the home.
Everyone has choices and then they have to live with them. She talks about the successful men having children but she doesn't talk about their relationship with their children. She says that senior women don't have rich family lives, well plenty of senior men don't have rich family lives. I don't care if a man can father a child at age 60 it still doesn't make it a good idea!
My understanding is she was very "selective" about who she interviewed to get the results she wanted to write this book!
Understand also that statistics can be manipulated and usually are. People read statistics in a book and think it is an absolute fact! You have to look at every aspect of the study to really judge it!
This woman is crazy pushing herself to have another child at age 51 when she had 4!
Here is a direct quote from Hewlett - she hopes ''young women will absorb this information and put it to good use.'' Focusing on a career ''with a laser beam and postponing all else works for men, but not for women.''
Things are different than they were when Hewlett was in her early 30s. Many men are deciding to stay home these days.
Don't let this book scare you - make your own choices!
22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2002
This book has received far too much press. Women finally have the freedom choose and don't have to settle for less than they deserve. As a "high acheiving" corporate professional woman, I do not have regrets and take full responsibility for the choices I have made and their outcome. Many married women with children would say the same thing. If I found a man who truly wanted to be my equal in parenting I would probably "have it all". We are responsible for raising children in the best possible environment and not have them just for the sake of having them.