By Kendall Silwonuk
In Tina Fey’s newest movie, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” the actress/producer plays a journalist, Kim Barker, in her 30s who heads to Afghanistan to report. Barker, in the movie, explains she was chosen for this job because, “I have no kids and no husband, so I’m expendable.” This is the last time the topic of children is mentioned in the movie.
Time Magazine noted, “Kim is very career-oriented, but there’s no hand-wringing about her biological clock or finding a partner, which is kind of rare.” This is true. The problem of planning for children and family life is not an uncommon story thread in movies and books about females’ careers. Kim Barker calls this “the marriage and baby track.” It is planned to happen sometime in a woman’s late twenties to early thirties, a time when she needs a stable job to be able to start and support a family.
Planning for a family is something all people must consider at some point. All people. Women and men. Still, the storyline only ever seems to appear in movies about women, and it is considered noteworthy by the media when it is not incorporated in the movie. Do men also plan to have a family, or is it something that just happens for them, not a major, and expected, “plot point” of their lives?
Of course parenting is a job for both parents. More and more companies in the US are now offering paid paternity leave, or just “parental leave” as Facebook labels it, as it is more socially accepted that both men and women can act as present parents in the lives of their children. Parenting is not a job for one sex. Both fathers and mothers can raise their children. Yet it seems most women still tend to consider the effects of a family on their lives earlier than men do. Wired notes that, even when offered the same parental leave as women, most men only choose to take a week or two off after the birth of a child.
At lunch last week, I sat with three dorm mates and the topic of children came up. The first told me she wanted to have kids in her early thirties, and decided not to pursue surgery as a career so that she would have more time outside of work to raise her children. The second (female) friend shared a similar story. Both had considered the possibility of children and a family when choosing a career.
This was astonishing to the third friend. He said this was something he just had not considered. Yes, of course he wanted to have a family, but he never felt the need to consider this as a 20 year old college kid. It was something that would happen when it did, not something he needed to plan out. Family was very important to him, no less so than it was to the other two, yet it was not something he had to plan for right now.
Medically, it is advised that women have children before they reach middle age, as medical complications are more frequent in the pregnancies of older women. But this affects the husbands of these women as well. Family planning is not something only girls must consider.
The fact that women are predisposed to considering children when planning for their future could be a lasting impact of the traditional role of women throughout history. It is a fairly new trend that women can have a serious career and be seen as a present and active mother. Even in the lives of our grandparents, only fifty, sixty years ago, a working mom was not necessarily viewed favorably. Little girls push strollers and feed baby dolls before they enter kindergarten. Maybe society implants the importance of parenting in the minds of girls earlier than it does in boys.
Tina Fey responded to Time’s comment on “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”’s lack of biological-clock plot points by saying “that’s not every person’s story.” Not every person considers a family when planning their life. But there still exists a large disparity between men and women when it comes to planning their life and career around a family. This is in no small part attributed to the media and social pressures on girls and young women to wish for and work towards family life.