Older mothers

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!

9 thoughts on “Older mothers

  1. I think older parents are becoming more and more the norm – I don’t think there is much stigma to being an older mother these days – many of my friends are only just having their first baby in their late thirties/early forties. I don’t think there is any great advantage to having them in your twenties, thirties or forties really – it’s all swings and roundabouts – either way there are advantages and disadvantages. I’m really glad I had the girls when I was young, although it was hard, I’m now really enjoying them so much, and can relate to them so well. But I also found that I was much more confident as a mother having Liam when I was 32, and even now, at 40, I’d love to have another baby. Being a decent parent, and raising happy healthy children has, I believe, more to do with you who you are, rather than how old you are.

      1. Interestingly in my case I was more confident when I had my first than my second 7 years later….I had to buy a book for the second one!! Mind you by the third I was so relaxed it was funny!!

  2. I accidentally got pregnant at 24 (I was planning to start when I was 30). My husband was a barman at the time. We had Emily and he went back to Uni. Once he had finished we decided that perhaps we should just have one baby and concentrate on buying a house, paying of uni debt etc.. then we accidentally got pregnant again. And yes, we had a third accident. All these accidents have been wonderful additions to our lives. Much better than anything I could have imagined. As a result we are not financially set up, we don’ t own or have a mortgage on a house. However, we have three very bright, healthy and happy children. When I started reading that article about how older parents make better parents my blood started to boil. But then I figured that some people will be great parents, some will be appalling and there will be some middle ground – and it doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 45. As long as you love your kids lots, and read to them lots (yep I’m a librarian) they should be okay 🙂
    I have had moments when I was so frustrated but also moments of pure joy – enjoy your parenting journey
    PS – my daughter also ended up dux of the school and had a leaving grade of 99.7 – so you don’t have to be an older parent to produce intelligent children 😉

    1. I initially thought about not publishing your comment, because – as I’m sure you’ve realised from reading any of my other posts – this is my personal blog, designed to keep my family and friends around the world updated regarding my pregnancy. In other words, it’s not intended to be a forum to debate parenting issues (and I’m really not interested in doing that in any forum, to be honest – I tend to employ a ‘live and let live’ attitude, and as long as people aren’t abusing their kids, they can do what they like!). Because of this, I only post links to articles that are directly relevant to my personal situation, and don’t do so to stir up disagreements.

      However, I changed my mind about publishing your comment because I wanted to say a couple of things about some of the points that you’ve made.

      I can’t that this article contains much to incite boiling blood! At no point has it implied that younger parents aren’t very good parents as well, and it certainly hasn’t said that you have to be an older parent in order to produce intelligent children. Rather, it’s commenting on a substantive piece of research, involving 78,000 children, that indicated that there are specific benefits that can be attributed to being raised by an older parent.

      Of course, this doesn’t mean that younger parents can’t also produce children with similar attributes. And this or similar studies may find an entirely different list of benefits associated with being raised by younger parents. But that’s not what this article was about, and that’s not what’s relevant to my life! As this article says, there has been a lot of negative press around being an older parent, either by choice or (as is my case) because of circumstances beyond a woman’s control, so it was nice to read something that set out a positive case for being an older mother. You’ve obviously done a great job of raising your kids (and I agree that reading to them is a great building block), so I don’t think you have any cause to be threatened by the points made in this article.

      And the point I made about being financially stable as older parents was in response to the reported comments from the obstetrican regarding older parents being a ‘burden’ on their kids. I don’t think that this is the case. The value that you place on financial stability may be different to the value that I place on it, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that..!

      1. Please feel free not not publish this reply.

        I have to apologise on two fronts – firstly I didn’t realise that this was a personal blog probably because I didn’t read down far enough (one of my downfalls!!).
        Secondly, I hope I didn’t offend you with my comment because in all honesty it wasn’t meant to offend. It’s hard to articulate my feelings sometimes and I have to admit I was very premenstral when I left my comment so maybe it came off a bit harsh. Anyway, I have been a mother for 18 years. In that time there have been many studies done into a range of aspects of mothering; older mother v younger mother, child care v non child care, natural birth v caesarean and so on. Usually every study has a counter study and I’m sure that they are all well researched. My issue is this: why do we have to always justify what we do? Why can’t we make decisions in our lives and feel safe that we won’t be judged.
        There are so many women out there who are still traumatised by the fact that they had to have a c section because studies show that women who have c sections don’t bond as well as those who give birth naturally. That must be a hard one to get over.
        Anyway, I guess what I’m saying (and this is a personal parenting tip which you don’t have to take on board) is this – make your decisions, together with your husband and don’t worry about what the rest of the world thinks because in the end the only people who matter are you, your husband and your babies.
        And please know that I was never, ever attacking you.
        Enjoy this new journey – it’s wonderful

      2. Absolutely no offence taken! And thank you very much for your kind words and excellent advice. I think we are definitely on the same page when it comes to our attitudes towards parenthood, and you are most welcome to stick around and comment to your heart’s content!

        And PS: I’m an older mother who will almost certainly have a c-section, will give breastfeeding a good try (but doesn’t intend to destroy herself with guilt if she can’t manage to feed two babies for very long), and has already been investigating childcare options… let’s face it, in many people’s eyes I’m a cautionary parenting tale just waiting to happen!

  3. It’s a funny thing, after wanting a baby for so many years I am pretty glad it hasn’t happened for us until now. Now I am totally ready (well as ready as you can ever be). By my age my mum was divorced with 3 kids. I couldn’t imagine 21 year old me having a baby! I wouldn’t mind the energy of a 21 yr old though.

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