I turned 40 last year, which is also when my dad turned 80. He was 39 when I was born, and I've always been aware of my friends' parents who were up to 15-20 years younger than him. He's a young 80, but it's a number that hangs heavy in my heart. It is what it is, yet I can't help but be envious of those I know whose parents are still in their 60s and early 70s. My dad will be around for a long time, but at some point your mind starts to wander to places you wish weren't reality.
As it turns out, I didn't meet my husband until I was 30, we got married when I was 33, and our first daughter wasn't born until I was 35 - although not for lack of trying (three miscarriages came first). My second daughter was born when I was 38, which means I was only a year younger than the age I've often lamented my dad was when I was born. My husband is five years older than me, so you do the math.
Of course these days most people (that I know, anyway) are having babies in their 30s and early 40s, as opposed to our parents' generation, who mostly had their kids in their early 20s. While I would have liked to have been a younger mom, I also think I know more now than I did a decade ago, am more equipped emotionally and have more experience as I approach the philosophy and practice of being a parent. I still have energy, but I'm not sure I ever had patience.
Sure, there are plenty of women who put off becoming moms because they're too busy forging a career path. Women who wait too long to start trying are more apt to have a hard time conceiving or giving birth to healthy babies. But not everyone finds a partner in an ideal time frame, or has the means to do it alone (if motherhood is the goal). And for some women it genuinely is a problem to get pregnant, which can mean years of trying, figuring out what's wrong, and by the time they're successful, they're necessarily older.
While perhaps being an older mom truly is the goal for some, for others it's a variety of circumstances. What I find irritating however, are those who judge how, why and when anyone becomes a mom. If I had to guess what surveys show when asking women when they prefer to become parents, I'd say most would rather have babies sooner rather than later.
An article in the UK's Daily Mail, talks about one older mom's experience being judged for the fact that she's no spring chicken. As she said, if the goal of publicly casting aspersions on someone like her is to "encourage women in their 20s to be mindful of their fertility," well, then, great. However, it seems more likely that those perched on their soapboxes are doing it more so to point out all that can go wrong in the health of a fetus, newborn and child, when born to an older mom.
The ironic part is that the more educated a woman is, the more likely she is to give birth later. Which means those educated women really do know the risks involved in having babies at a later age. Do they really need someone uninvolved with their bodies preaching to them what they already know? And who's bugging the men about the risks their offspring face as a result of their own advanced age?
Instead of chastising women for waiting too long, why not make it easier for women to take a break from their career track to have babies earlier, but not lose pace with their male peers when they return? Or how about, figuring out how to lower the cost of infertility treatments such as IVF, so that it's not just older women with more money in the bank who can afford it?
But the bottom line is this: Assume and judge all you want, but realize that what often seems selfish on the outside is an entirely different picture on the inside. When you denigrate another person for her "choices," realize that perhaps she had no choice in the matter to begin with.
Photo credit: Meredith Carroll
By: Meredith Carroll