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The pros and cons of geriatric motherhood

Having children in your 40s may be all very well for the mother, but what about the children?

I was interested to read this piece by Mariella Frostrup and the comments attached to it in the Guardian recently.

Frostrup is a mid-life mother and very positive about it, but personally I have my doubts about how wonderful it is, having kids in your 40s when you're not a wealthy person with money for nannies. 

I did briefly consider having children in my late 30s, but decided against it for a multitude of reasons. The truth was, I'd left it too late. Eight years with a partner with whom I didn't want kids, and serious issues with both of my parents, especially my mother, had gotten me to the age of 37 or so before I'd really felt comfortable about the idea of ever becoming a parent. 

Fundamentally, I am not a well-adjusted, happy person. Nor are my siblings. Nor were my parents, or their parents, or their parents. I do feel that somewhere along the line, all this has to stop - you can't keep perpetuating depression and dysfunction generation after generation. Better to let the Devine family die out, frankly.

Perhaps I would have felt different if my husband had been pro-children, but he was not. And the thing is, if he had been pro-children, I might not have been interested in him. One does have to face the Freudian fact that I might well have chosen him precisely because he doesn't want kids. 

Another complication for me, though, was my fibroids. I developed these, coincidentally, at about the same time as I was coming round to the idea of possibly, maybe, one day but not yet, having kids. And that's a Freudian issue too. It's well known that fibroids can be caused by an internal conflict and that it appears some women develop them as form of a reproductive block. It is quite possible, medically speaking, that I GAVE myself fibroids in order not to have children. 

Now, at the age of 46, I find myself feeling that I've dodged a bullet, and one reason is something brought up by a commentator on the Frostrup piece - do the math. How old would I have been when my child was 10, 20, 30 years old? What responsibilities would I have been placing on a child's shoulders at such a young age? How fair is it to do this? If I had one now, I'd be 64 before he or she went to university, and I don't much like those odds - my dad died at 61.

I also have to admit that I HATED my parents being so elderly when I was still at primary school. Too old to play, too old to go in the sea, dragging me round museums and stately homes all day rather than anything fun like Alton Towers or an adventure playground. They were more like grandparents than parents, having had me at the ripe old age of 36 (old in those days). There is nearly a generation between me and my sister and when we recount our childhoods (which hardly overlapped), we realise that we had quite different parents. 

It is true that 40 is not what it was, but we needn't kid ourselves that it's really the new 30. That is all marketing bollox. My friend M knows full well that with her second child, whom she has when she was 40, she's permanently knackered, permanently run-down in a way that she wasn't at 35. She's delighted to have her, of course, but wishes plaintively that she had managed to get pregnant when younger, given that she tried from the age of 16. 

From the standpoint of 46, I now think 35 is a reasonable cut-off point for planning to have children. Of course, you might slip one past the goalie, but that can't always be helped, and if your circumstances are right, then you'll probably keep it. But planning is a different matter, where you need a clearer head, and if you're planning to have children later in life, it doesn't do to underestimate what you're asking of your child as well as of yourself. 

What do other readers think?


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