The New Republic recently tackled the issue of the increase in older parents. I’ve been curious about this issue for a while because I think it’s fascinating, the complete opposite of everything I’ve lived thus far. I couldn’t imagine having kids at 40, after two decades of doing what I want to do and when I want to do it.
In the piece in the New Republic, Judith Shulevitz shares her experience of having a baby in her late 30s and later discovering her son had some sensory and fine motor issues and required some occupational therapy. As she looked around his therapy session, she noticed all the other moms were older as well, which lead her to question whether there was a correlation between advanced maternal age and developmental delays.
This is one of the first articles I’ve read that gives a comprehensive look at having children later in life. In a nutshell: There’s risks and rewards (much like having kids at any age, huh). She talks about her experience with fertility drugs and shares how unregulated the fertility industry is (which is really scary if you stop to think about it), and also how older parents are more likely to die when their children are in their 30s and 40s. Also, older fathers are more likely to produce children who are schizophrenic or have other mental issues.
And of course, she cites research that shows children of older parents tend to have wealthier households, lead more stable lives, and do better in school. But then she talks about negatives, which are never ever mentioned. Like, ever.
But the experience of being an older parent also has its emotional disadvantages. For one thing, as soon as we procrastinators manage to have kids, we also become members of the “sandwich generation.” That is, we’re caught between our toddlers tugging on one hand and our parents talking on the phone in the other, giving us the latest updates on their ailments. Grandparents well into their senescence provide less of the support younger grandparents offer—the babysitting, the spoiling, the special bonds between children and their elders through which family traditions are passed.
*nods head in understanding*
The way I did it, was going from my parents house to college to my boyfriend’s place, with a baby. I never lived alone and for a while that bothered me. I had my first kid at 20, my second at 22 and somewhere in between my two kids I got married, graduated college and got my first “real” job. There has been increasing responsibility every year since 2006, and when I look around at my peers, the people who graduated high school with me, I feel like I’m decades ahead. Most are childless. Some have “real” jobs, while others are in graduate school or traveling the world. Most are single. Some are in long-term relationships, but they’re not talking about getting married.
Being “thrust into motherhood“? Well, it turns out that I quite like how my life is and have grown to prefer it, to be able to defend my choices when some loud-mouthed person thinks it’s okay to belittle me and my family.
If I’m being 100% truthful, I want to look at this article and shout, “See!!! There are benefits to being a young mom AND HERE IS YOUR PROOF!” I get tired of the “you’re too young to have kids” and “babies having babies” articles and want someone to understand that the current trend of schooling until 30, marriage at 35 and kids at 40 has some downsides as well.
But alas, I don’t want anything painting a negative picture of my life based on statistics, so I won’t paint older parents with the same brush.
Read the article and let me know what you think. Will the increase in older parents change society?