Are older moms better moms?


There was a girl in our primary school who inadvertently made an enemy for life in my mother. She innocently asked my sister, after having met my mother: ‘Is that your grandmother?’ This poor little girl would never be invited over to our house.

Of course, my mom, who by then was in her early 40s, was not even that much of an older mom by today's standards. The National Centre for Health Statistics reportedly says that between 1976 and 2006, the birth rate among women ages 35 to 44 has more than doubled. 

I was 37 years old and eight months pregnant when I was admitted to hospital for observation due to some blood pressure concerns. In the bed next to me in our maternity ward, was an 18-year-old girl, also in for observation, also expecting her first child. Her mother, at 36, was younger than I was. (She looked older though, everyone hastened to assure me).

Ashley (not her real name) and I were at opposite ends of the parenting spectrum. This girl had not planned her pregnancy and was only staying with her policeman boyfriend because of the baby. In the four days we were in hospital together, her boyfriend never came to visit her. It would be two days before a cousin came by with a change of clothes and a toothbrush.

I, on the other hand, had a husband who came to visit every evening. My friends and family brought magazines and treats. While I was reading pregnancy books, Ashley watched horror movies on TV. When she casually told me how she smoked while pregnant, I had to work hard to keep a horrified expression from my face.

The benefits of being older

While it is true that older mothers have greater difficulty falling pregnant and they and baby are more at risk of all kinds of medical conditions, I think the emotional and financial benefits of being an older parent outweigh all these disadvantages. 

Older moms may struggle more with sleep deprivation and running around after a toddler, but they are also more likely to be comfortable with giving up on parties, holidays and job opportunities in favour of putting the needs of their child first.

I never exactly planned to be an older parent, but I have no doubt that I am a better parent now  than I would have been 10 or 20 years ago, when I hopped between jobs and partners and thought nothing of blowing the money of a retrenchment package on a pair of boots (which I still own, by the way).

William Gilbert, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of California, Davis, Medical Centre sums it up well on medicinenet:  ‘Biologically, we should have babies in our early 20s, but emotionally and financially, we should be older.’

One of the biggest concerns for older parents appears to be whether they will still be able to relate to their children once they are teenagers. I have no doubt, however, that I will have as little regard for the Hannah Montana of the future as I do now.

And as for the fear of not being a grandparent and seeing my children's children? Sure, there is a pang of sadness there. But I'd rather be a great parent than a great grandparent.

Did you have kids early or later? What are the pros and cons?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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