Best time for Parker to become a mom? Is there one?

Published: 1/24/2009 12:01 AM

When news broke earlier this month that WNBA basketball star Candace Parker was pregnant and would deliver in May, just weeks before the start of the season, my initial reaction was disappointment.

Not about the fact that the 22-year-old pride-and-joy of Naperville was going to add a bundle of joy into her family, but about the fact that her career was going to be forever altered.

"That's too bad," I thought to myself. "She's so young. She just completed her rookie season, she's just getting started. I wish she would have waited."

Then I came to my senses.

Waited for what?

If you're a career woman, is there ever really a good time to get pregnant? Is there ever really a good time to start a family?

Of course, the answers are no, and no again, no matter how much you may be looking forward to having children.

Have a baby early on like Parker and you're forever juggling the responsibilities and demands of motherhood with your career. Not easy, especially as time passes and you're anxious to push yourself to the next level at work.

Have a baby mid-career and you're forced to slow down, perhaps even stop altogether, just when things are getting good, or about to take off. By the time you're ready to get back into the game, there's no guarantee your spot will still be there.

Have a baby later in life, once your career is well established, and you're putting yourself and your baby at risk. Women who wait into their forties to start a family often have trouble getting pregnant in the first place. Their risk of miscarriage increases, and so does the risk of birth defects.

Some set of choices we women have.

Of course, men don't have to make these choices.

Do you think Shelden Williams, a forward with the Sacramento Kings and Parker's husband, is worrying one bit about how this pregnancy and the addition of an infant to the family will affect his career?

The notion is laughable.

Oprah once did a show on the impossible struggle women face between career and family and she made a very profound point.

She said, "It's possible to have it all, just not at the same time."

It's true, but so unfair.

This week, our country celebrated a barrier broken, a moment of social advancement when Barack Obama was sworn in as the first African-American President of the United States.

We marveled at how far we've come as a nation, how inclusive we've become.

I say we still have a long, long way to go.

Women, particularly working mothers, are still fighting a steep uphill battle for equal treatment and consideration in the workplace.

Remember what Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell got caught saying into an open microphone in December regarding the nomination of Janet Napolitano to head the Department of Homeland Security?

"Janet's perfect for that job," Rendell said. "Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19 to 20 hours a day to it."

Sounds like he believes that motherhood is a liability in the workplace.

Sadly, I think a lot of people believe the same thing, which is why deserving women get passed over for jobs and promotions every single day ... simply because they are also mothers.

Fortunately for Parker, she's in a business in which it is possible for her to dictate her own success and advancement, whether she's a mother or not.

That's the way it should be for all of us.

But until society stops penalizing women for a part of biology we can't control, or for making choices about parenthood that a man can make without thinking twice, this country isn't nearly as progressive as we think it is.