It was nice to read this article today, which discusses the benefits of being an older mother. The mother quoted in the article had her first child at 40 and her second child at 43, and says:
“Personally, I’m a much more grounded person in my 40s than I was in my 30s, much more self-assured, self-confident. My 30s were a period of exploration and my 20s I just didn’t know what the hell I was doing. In my 40s, yes, you feel, ‘Yes, I can really impart a sort of level of calmness, a level of experience about the world that I couldn’t have done in my 20s and 30s.’ I’m [also] not sort of drawn in by stuff that I would’ve been in my 20s, like, ‘Oh, my kids have to have this and go to that school’. I can make sort of more mature choices, maybe.”
I can really relate to this, and just the other week Tristan and I were talking about it and agreed that, for us, parenthood has come along at the precisely the ‘right’ moment, when we’re both confident enough, and mature enough, to handle it. And we’re only in our 30s! In my 22 week post I talked about how I feel like I’m able to keep the natural worries of my pregnancy to reasonably acceptable levels – I’m quite sure that this would not have been the case if I’d been going through a twin pregnancy ten years ago, or even five years ago.
It’s also nice to hear that, by being an older mother, I might also bring benefits to my children:
According to a major new study, the children of older mothers are getting a better start in life in a variety of ways.
The UK study, of over 78,000 children, said children born to women over 40 can benefit from improved health and language development up to the age of five.
It also found increasing maternal age was associated with children having fewer hospital admissions and accidents, higher likelihood of having their immunisations by the time they were nine months old and fewer social and emotional difficulties.
Older mothers tend to be more educated, have higher incomes and be married – all factors associated with greater child wellbeing, said the study from University College London’s Institute of Child Health which was published in the British Medical Journal.
“Basically once the risks around pregnancy and birth of older mothers have been negotiated, older mothers often have greater commitment to parenting, more settled home lives and/or careers, more stable relationships, and more experience generally which all gives them greater confidence” Dr Edward Melhuish, Professor of Human Development at Birkbeck, University of London and one of the authors of the study says.
The results of the study were “noteworthy given the continuing increase in mean age of childbearing” in developed countries said the report and “relevant to concerns raised about older people seeking to use fertility treatments and possible risks posed to children delivered by older mothers.”
Dr Gino Pecoraro, spokesperson for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, agreed the study was noteworthy.
“Intuitively it would make sense that older mothers tend to be more established, educated, mature and financially settled. This may well help with language development, potentially improved supervision of children needing to less hospitalisation to accidents.”
I’m sure that there is an element of “reading what makes me happy” in this, and of course there are any number of witless older parents around, just like there are any number of wonderful younger parents, but it is nice to read something positive about having children later in life – there can sometimes be a stigma attached to it, and even these days it seems to be fairly unusual to have your first child in your late 30s or beyond (I am almost the last of my wide circle of friends to have children). According to the article:
Last year Perth obstetrician Dr Barry Walters caused controversy after he told the West Australian that older mothers were selfish and would burden their offspring with having to care for elderly parents.
What a clown! Everybody will be ‘burdened’ with elderly parents eventually – does it make a big difference if this happens in your 30s, or in your 50s? I’d rather deal with it when I’m in my 30s, and still have time, energy and financial resources to help me, rather than in my 50s, when many people are panicking about not having saved enough for their own retirement. And there are clear financial benefits to having children later in life (if you’ve been smart with your money, anyway): for example, when I’m in my early 50s we can expect investments and life assurance policies that we’ve developed in our early 30s to be available for useful things like paying for our children’s university careers. I’d wager that most people who started their families ten years or so before us have been unable to both fund their children’s current needs and salt away decent amounts of money for their futures.
Having said all that, I am quite sure that I wouldn’t be as knackered as I am these days if I was experiencing my twin pregnancy while I was a reasonably energetic 25 year old!