The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock

The roller coaster ride Tanya Selvaratnam experienced when she set out to become a mother at 37 is the focus of her new book, on sale January 7. MORE talks with Selvaratnam about fertility and feminism

by Laynie Rose
The Big Lie cover image

MORE: Tell us what inspired you to write The Big Lie

Tanya Selvaratnam: In fall 2011, I was recovering from my third miscarriage and starting to pursue IVF and fertility treatments. When I was growing up, nobody talked to me about the fertility basics. I was taught how to prevent pregnancy and STDs, but I couldn’t have told you the span of my fertility or what it took to become a mother and to become pregnant. If I had been more aware of what happened to my fertility as I got older, I might have made different decisions along the way.

MORE: What can women who are past their childbearing years learn from the book?

TS: It’s for the good of society that generations talk to each other. Older generations need to allow younger generations to benefit from their knowledge. The conversation can’t just be about preventing pregnancies and STDs, it has to be about empowering young women with knowledge about what is involved with becoming a mother. Those of us who are in our late 30s and 40s were encouraged to be different from our mothers. We were encouraged to pursue our careers and higher education, but we weren’t concentrating proactively on where motherhood fits into that. If we have those multiple goals in mind, then we might not come to the realization that we want to be mothers too late.

MORE: What can be done to make workplaces better for working mothers?

TS: Work life balance is kind of a myth. The workplace has to be more understanding of not just mothers but workers’ individual needs. We can provide more social infrastructure systems that support women so that we’re not spending all of our money on childcare.

MORE: Is feminism to blame for delayed motherhood?

TS: In the book, I ask Amy Richards if women of my generation have been falsely led by feminists to believe that, for instance, delaying motherhood won’t be a problem. Amy’s response was, I blame individual women for not doing their homework. Ultimately the responsibility does fall on our shoulders. It’s definitely not a step back for feminism for somebody to pursue motherhood and to pursue career—it’s about using feminism to make that balance more attainable.

The Big Lie is on sale today. Click to buy

Next: How to Be Perfect (Not)

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