“Do you think we’ll be the oldest ones there?” I have to say of all my pre pre-school worries, my age was the last on the list. After my husband posed this question on orientation eve, it began to inch to third. I suddenly had visions of trendy older teens bouncing out of their cars with bountiful energy, racing their toddlers to the door of the classroom, while my husband and I, still adjusting to a life with little sleep, ambled awkwardly, toting our toddler twins. I was relieved after that first day that our children’s classroom proved to be a mixed batch of parents. Recently, my relief turned to reflection when this week’s New York Magazine peered at me from its perch at the Whole Foods Checkout stand. It seems that current trends would not have my husband and me as the oldest parents at back to school night. Not by a long shot.
The first three pages of Lisa Miller’s article, Parents of a Certain Age made me question our postponement to pro-create, so anyone longing for a later in life child should skip these pages. Miller outlines the many risks and pitfalls of trying to conceive at a later age. Later age, however, has gotten even later. Modern science has made it possible via donor eggs and egg freezing to have a biological child well into menopause. The choice to bear a child past child bearing age has raised many an eyebrow and has evoked more than a few emotional responses. In the second half of the article, Miller discusses the rewards of later in life parenting. She reveals that she had her first and only child at 40, and that in her “brownstone-Brooklyn neighborhood,” she hardly sticks out. The question, however still remains. When it comes to having children do the rewards of older age outweigh the risks?
Immaturity, infertility and income are my reasons for having a child at 36. We wanted to be ready, not knowing that you can never really be ready for what parenthood brings. However, it felt and still feels like a responsible adult decision to us to have a secure home and income before we willingly invited someone into our life who pooped their pants. Like many modern couples we had careers, travel, and a ton of fun we wanted to have before we dedicated our lives to children. While I am hardly a grandma, I do feel the physical and mental strain of being almost 40 with almost 4-year olds, but wouldn’t I have felt this way at 26? At 26 I probably could have added bitter and broke to the mix, having had fewer financial safety nets and youthful good times to fall back on. If I could go back and talk to 26 year old me, would I tell her to stop messing around and just have a baby, because it is only going to be harder later? She wouldn’t have listened to me anyway, and I, for the most part, am glad.
The birth control pill turned 50 this year. It was controversial at its inception and it is still causing confusion and questions about conception. Its creation provided a pretty full proof way for women to take control over their fertility, making it possible to be the architects of a life that can be all that we want it to be. Perhaps its creators did not intend for us to wait until we are 50 to create our families, but here we are, with yet more choices. The fact is pregnancy and parenthood are private and personal, yet everyone feels okay to weigh in on other people’s choices. How many times did someone ask me when I was going to have a baby? And by someone, I mean anyone, from my Uncle Joe to the lady at the Clinique counter.
“It takes a village,” as they say, but the village does not show up at 3:00 am to feed your baby so perhaps the village should pipe down about the many difficult choices a modern woman has to make . The answer to, “Is she too old for this,” can only be found within the individual faced with what feels like too few options when given so many choices.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog.
*photo credit: New York Magazine