In a tech talent war that involves everything from generous death benefits to haircut vans, financing egg freezing for female employees worried about their biological clocks is the latest super perk to hit the headlines. Some applauded the new benefit at the likes of Apple and Facebook as a feminist triumph that gives women more choice. Others, like my Inc.com colleague Jill Krasny, pointed out the move says some pretty alarming things about the ability to combine family life and career advancement at these companies.
"What does encouraging women to freeze their eggs say about their culture?" she asks. "I read the benefit as, 'We're going to help you postpone having kids so that you can work even harder for us!' Not exactly a very attractive message. Here's the other thing: If young, high-achieving women are too busy right now to have children, won't they be even busier--and more invested--in their careers later on when they're supposed to use those subsidized frozen eggs?"
But freezing your eggs isn't just a career decision. It's obviously also hugely personal, tied up with our aspirations (and fears) about love, family, and aging. And it's on these levels too that freezing your eggs can also be less of a great leap forward for women than it first appears, according to a fascinating post on BuzzFeed by Dorie Shafrir that appeared a few months back. If you're a woman who's started thinking more about the egg-freezing option since this latest news, it's well worth a complete read.
"Moments of deep and scary loneliness"
Shafrir's bravely honest article starts with her anxieties about being a single 30-something woman in New York. "In my thirties," she relates, "choices started to feel overwhelming, each one pushing me farther down a specific path beyond which there was no turning back." Plus, her ever-nearing fertility deadline was badly warping her dating life. The bottom line: she was suffering "moments of deep, and scary, loneliness." The solution to her terror of never finding the sort of ties she longed for was freezing her eggs, she decided.
But the process wasn't as straight forward as she expected. Besides the procedure's relatively modest 40 percent success rate and the required, twice-daily hormone injections, something else eventually cropped up that caused Shafrir to rethink her decision--the realization that no medical solution could cure what really ailed her.
"It's the most apt metaphor to say that I realized I was putting all my eggs, literally, in that particular basket, and I had imbued the idea of freezing my eggs with so much meaning that I expected to see all of my anxieties and fears about getting older and being single and dying alone to disappear instantly the second I went through with it," she writes.
That wasn't going to happen. While freezing her eggs might put a temporary damper on those anxieties, it would neither eliminate their root causes or help her face them in fresh and healthier ways. If she froze her eggs, she "wouldn't get the clean break with all of those anxieties that I needed," she realized, deciding not to go through with it at the last possible moment.
Shafrir's story is obviously intensely personal and her anxieties and priorities may be unlike those of another woman who is weighing the pros and cons of egg freezing, but reading it is still a great way to get an up-close view of the logistical and emotional complexities of the choice. It's also a solid reminder that if you're a woman facing profound questions like how to balance competing ambitions and how to approach (or come to terms with) a personal life that's not going as expected, freezing your eggs is far from a guaranteed magic bullet. Even if it's free courtesy your employer.