Yesterday the television presenter, Matthew Wright, announced the very lovely news that, after eight years of IVF, he and his wife are expecting a baby in February. The baby is the first for the couple. Matthew is fifty-three and his wife is forty-two. Yesterday Matthew’s show on Talk Radio had a phone-in about older parents. This made me think a great deal about when or if there is a right time to have a family. Nowadays most women have children much later in life. Is this a good thing or is there really a limit to when you should have children? I am not discussing the biological possibilities but more the benefits and downsides of each opposite view.
I had my children at the age of thirty and then nearly thirty-eight. When I had my son in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, at the age of thirty, they classed me as a ‘geriatric mother’. I was in hospital with a girl who was having her fourth child at the age of eighteen. By the time I had my son, I felt that the time was right. Yet it was a huge change as I had become used to enjoying life. Being able to go out when I wanted and being able to put myself first. It felt quite a wrench suddenly having to put another’s life first. Eventually after several months I became used to it. But the sleepless nights and the endless nappy changes and having to stay in, were a shock to the system. I had my daughter when I was much older. I insisted on breast feeding both my children. My daughter had been in neo-natal care for several days when she was born. Because of this, she was on two-hourly feeds for the first few weeks. I can remember having to wake up and breast feed her and saying to myself, “I’m too old not to get any sleep!”
However, there was a great deal to be said for having my children later. I’d managed to focus on my career for my twenties and so I didn’t mind putting it on hold for a few years. I’d also experienced life more and so I didn’t resent staying at home and being with them. It was a welcome relief to take life at a slower pace. I also feel that as an older mum, I was a lot more chilled-out than I had been when I was younger and as a teacher I knew plenty about bringing children up with encouragement and praise.
Yet I do feel sad that I probably won’t live long enough to help my daughter through much of her life or if I do, then I will not be young enough to enjoy any grandchildren. My parents, on the other hand had me when they were very young. In fact, compared to me, they were still little more than teenagers themselves. My Mum had two children by the age of twenty-two. My parents grew up with us and because of this, my brother and I were heavily influenced by their popular culture. My parents played a lot of music and when they wanted to discover the World, we went with them. It didn’t seem that long ago that they had been children and I suppose it helped them to identify with us more.
I still have both of my parents around now and I hope this will be the case for many years. I’ve seen how rewarding an experience it is to be a grandparent and to be actively involved in your grandchildren’s lives.
The biggest difference comes down to finance. My parents had very little money when we were growing up and their main expense was a mortgage. They really could hardly afford anything and so treats were rare. I’ve been able to spoil my children as I was more financially secure when they were born. But material items really can’t compare with spending time with someone can they and being around to see someone grow?
I find it hilarious that my daughter always excuses me for having her so late, ’Of course Mummy, you were very old when you had me.’ Whereas I used to excuse my parents for being so young. ‘Well they were only teenagers when they had me.’ So, in all truth it must be down to the individual and what is best for him or her. I suppose all that really matters is that a child is loved and cared for. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.