Workism prevents children from being born


Christian Life

Adeline A. Allen, WORLD News Group

A business woman who made a good career seems to be the role model for young women. Photo Unsplash, Magnet.me

Idolizing careers has led to a decline in childbearing, Adeline A. Allen argues.

Courtney Lorenz had a good job as a software program manager. So at 37 years old, why was she picking up a second job as a cashier at Tractor Supply for $16 an hour? “It was a little surreal sometimes,” Lorenz said, “to come off an intense project meeting with executives and head off to Tractor Supply and listen to country music and fold jeans.” But it was all worth it for the fertility benefits at Tractor Supply—insurance that paid for egg retrievals. Four rounds of it.

Lorenz was in the same situation shared by many other women, who work for the insurance coverage, not the paycheck. Jessica Porta beat the sun in rising to work as a barista at Starbucks half the week—for the IVF coverage. And Maria Mendivel may have all of them beat. She has worked at Tractor Supply, Starbucks, and Amazon, all in pursuit of IVF procedures.

Prime child-bearing years

A recent Wall Street Journal-NORC poll results made waves, showing that fewer Americans value having children (along with religion, patriotism, and community involvement) than ever before. Only 23 percent of 18–29 year-old Americans—that is, Americans of prime child-bearing years—say that having children is very important to them. One thing, however, has garnered more devotees, and that’s money. In 1998, 31 percent of Americans said money was very important to them. Now it is 43 percent.

A college degree is, as the generally accepted belief goes, the way to get into the kinds of jobs that make more money than other jobs. Now, not only do women outnumber men in colleges, but they also outnumber men in college-educated labour force. But money may be a proxy for workism, a term that author Derek Thompson has coined. Workism is the outlook that our work, more than a means to provide for ourselves and our families, gives us our very identity, meaning, and worth. Workism is not laboring in use of our gifts in the service of God and neighbour. It is a perversion of work and, as Thompson saw, a quasi-religion.


Workism is equal-opportunistic when it comes to men and women. But as to how it runs into fertility, well, the biological clock is constricting for women. The big open secret kept from women about their fertility is that it nosedives after they turn 30. But a woman’s 20s is also the decade when workism demands that she lay the foundation to live her best life to be a girlboss—life’s purpose and worth, remember. The workplace is all too pleased to have women revolve their lives around the great god workism, round the clock and through the years. Hey, it’s great for the company’s bottom line!

It’s not that midnight strikes at 30, and women see their gilded coach turn into a pumpkin. It’s more like high noon is women’s 20s when workism and fertility meet up for a duel. America’s fertility rate is 1.66 babies per woman (with the replacement rate being 2.1), so we are an aging and shrinking country. It’s not that women shouldn’t work. Women have always worked. But their work was once normatively friendly and oriented to the home and the hearth, to bearing and raising children. The Industrial Revolution changed that, and today’s idolatry of work has only worsened things.

New life

To be sure, infertility is a complicated challenge, as is why women work. But workism looms large in the story. Meanwhile, the longing for children is profound, etched deep within us and inherent in the fabric of our being. The woman’s body (thus her very person) is oriented toward new life.

The irony is that if workism is one big reason keeping women from becoming mothers, or, as may be the case, from having more children than desired, now some are turning to ... even more work. That is, more work in pursuit of fertility—or more accurately fertility benefits in insurance coverage. But the grim statistics of IVF failure, on top of the pain of infertility, are sure to break hearts.

Those of us blessed with children ought to take care to raise them, the next generation of Americans, in the truth. Teach them, contra mundum, that in marriage they ought to be open to begetting life. Teach them that “children are a heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward” (Psalm 127:3). Teach them not to miss these living, breathing, made-for-eternity-with-God heritage and reward called children—for the false promises of workism.

Adeline A. Allen is an associate professor of law at Trinity Law School.

This article was published by WORLD Magazine on October 12, 2023



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