Before I actually begin writing this article, I want readers to know that I am well aware that this is a controversial issue and I am not shying away from it. Many single women are dealing with the issue you will read about in the article. I also know that there is a lot written on this topic, but I am just one person with a full-time job, family, and responsibilities. If you feel that I didn’t hit on some important points in this article, you may be correct, but know that I did visit several websites and read articles. If you would like to read more about this issue, you, too, can do research about it. Do not take my opinion as the final word or “actual news” on the topic. That being said, let’s begin.
I was speaking with my friend a few days ago and she was angry. She was yelling about being set up with a fellow who was 52 years old and the very first question he asked her in the first minute of the phone call was, “Are you still able to have children at your age? I want a family.” My friend is in her mid-forties and never married. She (and I) were appalled that this was the first thing said to her. She told me that she answered, “Do you know if you’re capable of having children? After all, you are 52. I’m so glad that Hashem spoke directly and told you that women of a certain age can’t have children. You think you’re guaranteed children if you marry someone in her 20s or 30s?” My friend said that she should have told him to march himself over to a fertility clinic to get tested and then send her results, and he has no business asking that. The sad part is, my friend told me that this isn’t the first or second time that a fellow has brought up her age and her ability to have children. This was, however, the first time that it was asked right away.
This is an issue that I have recently become aware of. A few people have written to me, and another friend spoke with me about how women in their 40s and even upper 30s are being questioned about having children, and if they have had any eggs frozen. Yes, you read correctly: if they have had their eggs frozen. I have seen several Facebook posts about frum women in their 30s and 40s who have decided to freeze their eggs. I have one friend who told me that she was seriously considering doing it. These women haven’t found their zivug yet and understand that it may become harder as you get older to become pregnant, so they want to do their hishtadlus and prepare in order to increase their chances of becoming pregnant when they do marry and may have trouble conceiving the natural way. I recall a few emails from women in their early 40s telling me of the trouble they are having because the men that are age-appropriate for them want to date younger women because they still want that chance of having a (large) family. One woman wrote, “I’m no spring chicken, but my friends are still having kids. My issue is that men my age want to date girls ten years younger because they still want a family, or I get set up with guys ten years older than me because the younger ones won’t date them.” Another wrote, “The shadchan told me that I have to accept what she redts to me because, at my age, it may be doubtful if I can have kids and guys still want kids, so don’t be picky. She makes me sound like I belong in a nursing home! I’m 39, for crying out loud.”
With science being what it is today, we hear about women in their 40s and even 50s having children! I know of a few women in their upper 30s and lower 40s who have had their eggs frozen. These women want to be mothers, but they haven’t been able to find their bashert yet, so they were proactive and made the decision to have their eggs frozen so that when they do meet their zivug and marry, it may make the process of getting pregnant easier. But I also know women in their upper 30s (myself included) and lower 40s who became pregnant and gave birth naturally without help from medical science. What I’m trying to say is that it isn’t like it was in the 1950s or ’60s anymore. It’s not like you have to write off a woman who is 43: “She’s too old to have children. I want a younger woman of child-bearing age as a wife.”
I spoke with another friend of mine who is 41. She said that she has not frozen her eggs, but has a friend who did. She told me that she is well aware that she may never have five or six children when she marries, but she will be happy if Hashem gives her one or two, which can realistically happen. She complains that she is being redt to men her age and they don’t want to date her. She was told by one shadchan that a specific man she had gone out on one date with didn’t want to see her again because he is still dreaming of having a large family and didn’t think my friend would be able to give him one. My friend felt like that was a slap in the face and unfair. She too wants a nice-size family, “But I can’t get it by myself.”
Many women are being turned down because of their age. The men don’t think that they can have the family they have always dreamed about with a woman in her late 30s or early 40s. Not true! And it’s also unfair. Yes, it is common to think that women are the ones with the child-bearing issue, because they are the ones who are pregnant and give birth. So it may be easy to place blame or to point out the obvious. But it’s not really as simple as that. According to my research on www.andrologyaustralia.org: “For about one in five infertile couples, the problem lies solely in the male partner. It is estimated that one in 20 men has some kind of fertility problem with low numbers of sperm…” According to www.azuravascularcare.com: “Male factor infertility is the primary medical issue in about 30 percent of all infertility cases…” It’s not right to “blame” a woman for her age and think that she can’t have (many) children anymore. Science has proven that at times it is the male’s fault. So looking strictly at younger women to date just makes it harder for the older woman to find a bashert, and doesn’t necessarily make it easier to marry a younger woman and have children.
A couple of years ago I wrote of a single “older” man whom I had met years ago while visiting my sister in Baltimore for Shabbos. The man saw me talking and joking around with my father and thought we were married and complimented us that we didn’t let our age factor into the shidduch. We explained to him that he was mistaken, and that we were father and daughter and not each other’s basherts. We ended up speaking and getting to know him. We tried several times to redt a shidduch to him. He was in his mid-50s and absolutely refused to date any woman over the age of 35. He kept saying that his rebbe told him to date younger women because he was supposed to have his own children, not just be a stepfather. My father and I tried to explain that a woman of 40 can still have a child; it may not be as easy as it is for a woman of 30, but there are no guarantees that a woman of 30 can have children. How many stories do you know of where a couple has been married five or ten years and they have yet to have a child? I know of a few. This man wouldn’t dream of dating a 40-year-old woman. We tried explaining to him how wrong his mentality was and how we thought his rebbe was leading him down the wrong path. We told him he was passing up the opportunity to go out with great women who can still have children, and he had to be a little lenient in his thinking. We also explained that he had to be realistic and understand that a 35-year-old may not want to date someone 15 years older. We asked how many times he has actually been on a date with a woman in her mid-30s. He said that there are “some” out there willing to date an “older man.” (In my heart, I hope these women had pure intentions and weren’t looking for a “sugar daddy.”)
The opinion is widespread and spreading even farther that women in their upper 30s and 40s won’t be able to have (many) children and that men should date younger. I think that’s outrageous. As we all know, two are involved (most of the time) when creating life, three if you count Hashem. Why is the oneis of having the big family solely put on the woman? I’m not stupid – yes I know why – but the articles I quoted above (as well as many others) prove that the man could be at fault. So looking at a woman’s age and then deciding if she is worthy of marriage may be wrong.
I am not here to discuss if single women should freeze their eggs. I’m not here to discuss that men should date women in their appropriate age bracket and not to write off the “older women” because I have written about that several times. What I want to open the discussion about is that frum single women are being made to feel like the sole responsible one for procreating in klal Yisrael. They are being encouraged by some to freeze their eggs, as if that is the answer to their problems. These women are being asked upfront by strangers about their fertility. Is this right? Is this tzanua – to ask or to think about? Yes, we all want to marry and to have a family, but to make women feel as if they are literally dried up old maids is not right or the answer. Dating younger women is not the answer. I don’t have an answer, but a suggestion: Stop blaming the women. When I got married in my early 30s, I was looking for my bashert, my life partner. Yes, I also wanted a father for my future children, but I wanted a best friend and someone to journey through life with. Now it seems like people get down to business right away and are looking for a mother for future children before they look for their bashert.
Again, to repeat, I know there is much to say on this topic. I could go on for pages. I have researched several websites and spoken with several single people (both male and female). I am not going into any more detail other than what I have written. Feel free to Google the subject on the Internet and read more about it if you are so inclined. I wanted to make people aware of what is going on out there, and hopefully they can start their own conversations.
Hatzlachah to you all.
Does the Apple Fall Far From the Tree: An Answer to Your Questions
I have received a few emails in regard to the response printed in last week’s article for Malka (not her real name). Several volunteers of Shalom Task Force contacted me in some way asking why I didn’t address the serious issue of abuse and provide Malka with the STF (Shalom Task Force) number and urge her to give it to her future mother-in-law, asking her to call.
I’d like to explain what the whole situation was. I was in contact with Malka for about two weeks. We emailed each other back and forth about half a dozen times. I, too, worried for her mother-in-law. Malka was very clear with me in regard to the fact that she wanted her email published, but not to include all that I wrote to her in my response. She said that this all made it “too real” for her and she was afraid someone may be able to identify her future in-laws from all that was included in our correspondences. I had a decision to make: Do I not mention abuse at all, or STF, but hope that by me printing the letter it would alert people to recognize the signs of abuse, OR do I publish everything, run the risk of turning Malka off, having her feel betrayed, which may lead her to not speak with her future mother-in-law and pass along the information that I gave her? I thought about this long and hard. I don’t take my responsibility as a column-writer lightly.
My decision was to help someone who was in a possible abusive relationship right now and make others aware of what is happening. Yes, looking back now, I don’t know if I made the right decision. I was trying to help someone, yet the article that was printed caused a few to reprimand me for not doing right by Malka and her mother-in-law. This is why I am writing this addendum to the article. I did touch upon the issue of abuse in the article, but did not go into it as much as I would have liked. Malka made her wishes very clear to me. I do not like when someone limits me on the content of my column, but I made the exception in this case. So all of you who emailed me and even those who did not, but were concerned after reading last week’s article: Fear not. I gave Malka all the important information and urged her to pass it along.
It warms my heart to know that so many are out there and care for a stranger they haven’t even met just by reading a letter that her future daughter-in-law wrote. That is what klal Yisrael is all about: caring for one another. Mi k’amcha Yisrael!
By Goldy Krantz