Older Women As Good Mothers

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In Britain, there's been an ongoing fooferaw over whether women in their 50s should be allowed to use in vitro fertilization to conceive children.

The first study to investigate the parenting experiences of older IVF mothers has revealed that they cope equally well with the stress of motherhood as those who have children in their thirties and forties, and are no more likely to suffer physical or psychological ill health….

The results showed no significant differences between the three groups on any of these measures. If anything, the oldest mothers [who gave birth in their 50s] suffered slightly fewer psychological problems than younger ones….

"Society still has these feelings about motherhood," [says Richard Paulson, one of the study's authors.] The way we view the mother is much more circumscribed than for the father: she should be young and attractive. That is underneath all this talk about the ethics and legality of treating older women. Deep down, society has a fixed idea of what motherhood should be, and this causes deep discomfort."

More here. The news stories I skimmed (haven't seen the study itself) didn't make comparisons between mothers in their 20s and I'd be curious what that match up looks like, though I doubt it would be any different. The researchers suggest that women in their 50s tend to be well off, in good domestic situations, and motivated as parent. The one caveat: The oldest children in the study were 13 years old, which means that the dread teenage years had yet to begin in earnest.

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  1. Who cares what happens to the mothers. What are their kids like? I find kids of much older mothers to be coddled little brats. Actually, I find most other people’s kids to be coddled little brats. The reason older mothers “hold up” as well as younger mothers is because their kids are not given as much lee way (not allowed to get hurt). And these kids usually end up being passive little wimps, with very nice clothing.

    That said, it is very hard to “control for” the fact that these mothers tend to be wealthy and well educated.

  2. I love how that “older” now means ‘in her fifties.’ When I was pregnant with my kids, at ages 34 and 38, I was treated to more than a few “how is someone your age going to cope?” lectures, as though being 35 was a handicap. I was perpetually reminded that I’d be 48 when Andy (older kid) turned 13 and would immediately regret having waited past my own teens to give birth. My response was to tell such busybodies that “teenager” is a creation of the 20th century. Things like the “Generation Gap” are the effects of sudden prosperity, not an inevitable biological state. These mothers will cope with their teenagers just as well as younger women do. Given their money, stability, and educational attainments, probably much better. Go for it, ladies!!

  3. When I was married my wife and I were well into our 30s and childless. Lots of folks would say “you really should have kids,” or women would come out and ask “is there anything wrong with your penis?”
    This crossed a bit of a line for me. I doubt I could get away with walking up to a carriage pusher in a mall and say “You know, you really shouldn’t have had kids. By the way, how’s your vagina?”

    There’s a piece in New Scientist that puts forth the idea that in the near future natural childbirth by younger women may be seen as irresponsible.

  4. Oh great. This just means I have to listen to the old “you still have time to change your mind” crap until I’m in my 50’s now!

  5. JeffP,
    “”is there anything wrong with your penis?””

    Perhaps a good respons would be: ” It’s too damn big!! Here, look!”

  6. The last time a woman gave me the “you really ought to have kids” line, I said “I was going to, but I was afraid they’d end up like yours.”

  7. Hee hee Jennifer – I also like this one:

    “But your children might cure cancer!”

    “I’m sure that’s what YOUR parents thought, too.”

  8. No, no, Pirate Jo. The proper response is “the Angel of the Lord appeared unto me in a dream and said my kid would grow up to be Hitler. That’s why I aborted him.”

  9. No, no, no, Pirate Jo. The proper response is “the Angel of the Lord appeared unto me in a dream and said my kid would grow up to be Hitler. That’s why I aborted him.”

  10. You know what would suck even worse than giving birth to Hitler? Giving birth to whatever idiot’s responsible for the Reason server. Horror of horrors.

  11. There’s something to be said about getting your inheritance in your 20s instead of in your 40s or 50s.

  12. Jennifer and Pirate Jo, I used to say I was going to wait until the Niemar-Marcus Christmas catalog offered babies. That comments allows me to point out that my children are, in fact, quite superior to theirs, since mine came from such an exclusive source.

    Seriously, who raised these people? In what universe is it okay to make rude comments about the personal and private matters of total strangers.

  13. The thing is, Karen, there’s never a good reason to say “why don’t you have kids?” Either the person is childless by choice, in which case “why don’t you have babies” comments become annoying; or even worse, the person really WANTS to make a baby, but can’t, in which case these constant reminders from strangers are downright cruel.

    I once faked a few tears and told a rude busybody that my husband and I really, really wanted a baby, and we kept trying but we couldn’t have one, and WHY DID GOD CURSE ME WITH BARRENNESS (sob)? The busybody bitch looked suitably horrified. Hopefully her middle-aged self learned a valuable politeness lesson that day, a lesson she should have learned while still in junior high school.

  14. People that insist on pressuring other people into having kids, and/or question the morality of not doing so, are one step away from:
    1: Those damned Indigo Kid mothers who perceive that their children are, quite literally, more like God than other kids.
    2: Those parents who dress up their miscarriages and take photos of them.

    Next time I’m asked, I’l look around me real quick, then lean in and whisper “Kids? With the apocalypse coming?”

  15. or women would come out and ask “is there anything wrong with your penis?”

    “Not sure, take a look.”

  16. Jennifer, that’s exactly my point. There’s just no good reason for anyone to even have vague passing thoughts about starting a conversation like that. Either you’re a close friend and know why the person doesn’t, or you’re not such a close friend and therefore it’s none of your business.

    I love your “CURSED WITH BARRENESS” answer. I’m forwarding it to a friend of mine who now has two kids, but only after thousands of dollars and two and half years of fertility therapy. We were out shopping together one time while she was going through an unsuccessful round of in vitro and some idiot brought up the question of why neither of us had kids. I was, at the time, pregnant, but wasn’t showing yet. I just glared. Friend, however, collapsed in quite genuine tears.

  17. The way we view the mother is much more circumscribed

    I didn’t know Britain allowed female circumscription. That seems so barbaric…

    Lots of folks would say “you really should have kids,” or women would come out and ask “is there anything wrong with your penis?”

    Jeff P… when or where the hell did you live during this time? I was in my thirties and childless and no one asked any impertinent questions like that.

    (disclosure: I live in a place where traditional families are statistically falling off the scale)

  18. I have a blanket answer for anyone asking when I am going to commit any life changing act. I always say, “next Wednesday.” This either shuts them up or allows me to go into an elaborate tall tale.
    Although, now that I’m married, I own a house, and I have a child, the only thing they ever ask me is when I plan to quit smoking. I prefer that rather than ask me to quit smoking they tell me something like, “you know smokers have a 67% chance of dying before the age of 75,” or some stat like that. My answer for that is “oh yeah, did you know that people who go around quoting statistics are 300 times more likely to get spit on by strangers?” I don’t spit on them. I just stare into their eyes without saying anything.

  19. Paul: Late 80s-Early 90s. Connecticut. Mostly nosy family members and their hideous neighbors.

    At one point my retired father-in-law said “You married, now, when are you going to have kids?” and I responded with “your retired, when are you going to move away?”

  20. highnumber:

    You should get one of those T-shirst that says,
    “Hassling Me About My Smoking Can Be Hazardous To Your Health.”

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