Better educated, more financially stable, confident and settled in themselves. They have the emotional maturity and life experience that translates well to motherhood. Yes, older mothers are on the rise, even though medical research tends to focus negatively on the age-related fertility risks and other health complications of delaying pregnancy.
Biological Clock Vs Career Ladder
It is true that fertility doctors can offer older prospective moms more help today than in the past. But biology still imposes limits. Women who begin pursuing motherhood in their early forties, they are really not giving themselves much time to make their goal of having a biological child attainable.
Many women have confidence (and sometimes overconfidence) in their own continued fertility or the ability of doctors to help. But since having children is for most of us a huge and complicated decision, involving relationships and socioeconomic factors, decision making often doesn’t allow for simple planning where you target one age or another.
The evidence says girls are born with about 2 million eggs. This reduces with age and by our mid to late 30’s we are left with circa 25,000. At 51, about 1000 eggs remain, many of which are not fertile (‘immature’). Despite our advancing years, many of us these days are eager to embrace a world of opportunities that did not exist in our parents’ and grandparents’ time. This can shine a different light as to when to start your family.
Yes, we’re more fertile in our twenties presumably healthier and stronger, but then, recent research by the Young Women’s Trust suggests that we may risk our careers by having children young. Even women with a high level of education are not totally immune to this trend that finds as well as gender, those with one dependent child may be up to 6 times more likely not to be working than those without.
By waiting until our 40s, we may have established ourselves more on the career ladder and therefore are in a better position (in theory) to make more informed choices when it comes to those all-important decisions that shape our lives forever.
Late Baby Bloomers
At Crunchy Tales, the women we’ve been talking to about late motherhood couldn’t be happier. For most (although not for all), late motherhood has been a choice. Many older mothers have and continue to maintain successful careers. They say they have more stability and are generally more financially viable, which certainly helps alleviate the stresses and strains of bringing up young children. Says Deborah C., now 52:
I was just so thankful that modern medicine (IVF) allowed me the chance to be a parent. I was 39, comfortable in my Tufnell Park flat with my cat, and thought, well, that was my life. I met my husband, married at 43, had Edith at 44 and Kit at 46. It was hard work physically, but once out of the nappy years, had brought me endless fun and love. Now they are a bit older I can talk to them. I was inspired by a speech by Michelle Obama who said as parents, we have the great privilege to shape the minds of our kids and give them a compass to navigate life. Being older means that I have a broader (and hopefully calmer) perspective on life, and I hope I can live up to making my kids into good caring human beings.
This assessment is backed up by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) which found the children of older mothers have fewer accidents and suffer less from emotional problems.
A higher income is linked to a higher level of education, which in turn contributes to the children of older mothers having a better vocabulary range compared with other children their age.
Susie W., now 53, had her son at 39. She says:
I was just so ready for the love. The type of love that you give and receive unconditionally. I would have had another, but it wasn’t to be, but I am grateful and very happy with the way things have turned out and Eddie has a marvellous relationship with his dad too. Our little family is complete.
Another positive finding is that older mothers tend to be in more stable relationships and are more relaxed. This is something that filters down into a calmer, more balanced, less stressful family life. We’re on the whole more patient and willing to spend time with our children, according to the Journal of Family Psychology, and our children are more likely to stay in education for longer.
Who says being a mature mother is all bad? We’re living longer too, and hopefully, are bringing up kinder human beings able to contribute positively to society. And that is something to be proud of. After all, we have to make decisions which are right for ourselves and our lifestyles.
UK – Data published by the Office for National Statistics showed the number of births to 50-plus women has quadrupled over the last two decades, up from 55 in 2001 to 238 in 2016. During that period there were 1,859 births in the UK to women over 50, and 153 to women over 55.
US – Births among women ages 40-44 have been rising since the early 1980s and kept rising in 2017, even as the overall U.S. birth rate fell to a record low, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its latest report. Births in women older than 45 held steady. Women ages 40 to 44 had 114,730 of the 3.8 million babies born in 2017; women 45 and older had 9,325.