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Webinar — 19.10.2021

The Panic Years

Every woman will experience the panic years in some way between her mid-twenties and early-forties. This maddening period of transformation and personal crisis is recognisable by the myriad of decisions we make - about partners, holidays, jobs, homes, savings, friendships - all of which are impacted by the urgency of the single decision that comes with a biological deadline, the one decision that is impossible to take back; whether or not to have a baby.

But how to stay sane in such a maddening time? How to know who you are and what you might want from life? How to know if you're making the right decisions?

We were joined by the brilliant Nell Frizzell, journalist, writer, Vogue columnist and author of The Panic Years to discuss how to navigate our way through our own 'panic years'. Described as ‘vital reading’ for men and women, The Panic Years has opened essential conversations about parenthood, fertility, ‘dates, doubts and the mother of all decisions’. 

10 Key Takeaways

  1. The Panic Years is a memoir with a political message - the question about whether to have a baby or not is an unequal problem that falls to women far earlier than men, and it shouldn’t. 

  2. The panic years are a physiological change, a seismic moment that all women experience so it is reductive not to name that time. Imagine if puberty wasn’t named and recognised - teenage girls would have no idea what was happening to them. 

  3. Is it realistic to open this conversation at work? We haven’t been well served by silence! Silence about baby loss, fertility, choosing to or not to have a baby renders us more vulnerable. We can’t expect others to be psychic! 

  4. You can oscillate between two places of wanting and not wanting children. Two opposing feelings don’t necessarily undermine each other. 

  5. It is completely natural to have a complex reaction to other people’s pregnancy announcements. We are pack animals, and designed to move in groups so if one of the group announces big news, such as pregnancy, it’s natural to look at yourself and feel something. Work through those feelings with someone else.

  6. For some reason it’s more acceptable to be publicly sad about not having babies, than having babies. Yet people have moments of both. We must normalise these feelings. 

  7. Feelings are temporary - you can have moments of self doubt and certainty on both sides of a debate. No one enters an emotional state and stays there - we can change and have a range of feelings - that’s what it is to be human! 

  8. What conversations need to be opened further next? Hormones - they are associated with much pain - periods, endometriosis, labour etc but we know so little about them. 

  9. Early parenting needs to be demystified. The panic years don’t stop when someone falls pregnant. And if the pandemic taught us anything it taught us we need to address childcare issues. 

  10. It’s fantastic that conversations about fertility are starting to be had in academic establishments but why just the female colleges? Men need this too! 


Online Event


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Nell Frizzell

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