It doesn’t seem that long ago that motherhood was as American as apple pie, hot dogs, and baseball, and more fun than at least two of the three. Now, though, while some people take it too far, others seem outright offended by human procreation. WNBA star Candace Parker discovered that having a child with her husband has suddenly become a controversial decision for a woman of 22 (via The Corner):
Parker probably figured the news would be non-controversial, given that the fresh-faced Los Angeles Sparks forward and Olympic gold medalist is happily married to Sacramento Kings forward Shelden Williams. Both earn more than enough to support a family: Parker alone reaps millions on and off the court as one of the most celebrated women athletes in the world.
But Parker’s pregnancy was not greeted with the same approval and tolerance that many of today’s child-bearing sexagenarians and single mothers by choice enjoy when they form their families. Instead, Parker was blasted by fans and pundits for becoming a mother at age 22. Critics bemoaned her selfishness in putting maternal ambitions ahead of her team’s 2009 season prospects. Others lamented her foolishness for starting a family when she should be living a strings-free existence oriented around her glamorous career.
Not long ago, a 22-year-old woman was considered plenty old enough to marry and bear children. But in today’s era of prolonged adolescence and commitment phobia, high-achieving women like Parker often face ridicule and scorn for defying the feminist conventional wisdom that marriage and motherhood are second-rate pursuits best delayed until middle age. Young mothers frequently are accused of forfeiting a hard-won feminist privilege: the right to spend their 20s single-mindedly pursuing sexual license, success and self-fulfillment without the hassles of a husband and children.
Colleen Carroll Campbell doesn’t quite note the irony of this observation — that a woman should pursue the procreative act as much as possible during her twenties while avoiding actual procreation like the plague. And plague apparently describes how Parker’s critics see the previously unremarkable event of a young and healthy wife finding herself pregnant. Even the league didn’t exactly buy flowers and candy for the new mom-to-be; the owner of Parker’s team responded, “My first reaction was to just shake my head. We’re inured to this by now so I guess I thought. ‘Oh, yeah, she’s having a baby. Yeah, of course.”
Why “inured”? Another player got pregnant. Two years ago. Apparently, Kathy Goodman still hasn’t gotten over it.
Neither have fans or analysts, either. Some of them complain that Parker has hurt the team by putting her family ahead of her job. No one seems to be making that argument about her husband, however, even though he plays the same sport for the NBA’s Kings, even though he can reasonably expect to take some time off for the birth.
Children used to be considered blessings, especially for young families. Parker and Williams have the resources to build a family, and the desire to do so. It’s healthier for women to have children in their 20s than in their 40s, both for the mother and the children. Have we devalued children so much that a basketball season means more than a new baby and healthy families?