March 04, 2006

Motherhood After 40? Nope!

I was interviewed for a news piece about the childfree vs. parents in the workplace six years ago. Not long after the piece aired, I was at a roller rink I used to skate at regularly. Upstairs in the rink was a bar for those 21 years and older. The concession stand on the first floor was closed, so I went to the bar to get a soft drink. The bartender, who I knew, gave me a look. "You said you hated kids on TV," he said. Several who were standing nearby stared at me. "I didn't say that," I told him. "I said I didn't want any." It was the same difference, according to him. He was always bragging about his kids, and stating he would have many more if he could afford to support more.

"She told everyone in Chicago that she hates children," he announced to the other patrons. "What?" one woman said in astonishment. "I have several and I love them." It is always at least one woman who has to declare how wonderful children are in a vain attempt to convince someone else to join her in the "joys" of motherhood. "How old are you?" the bartender asked. I was 38 then. "You'll change your mind when you're 40." he said. I'm now 44 years old.

Why in the heck would I want to have a child after 40? Common sense would dictate that if I wanted to be a parent, I should have had them before I was thirty and not far away from youth. It is foolishness to start a family in middle-age when the golden years are closer than they have ever been. I'm going to deal with kids in the midst of worrying about financing my retirement and perhaps while battling with menopause? Doesn't sound like a good mix to me.

I see articles all the time about women who opted to become parents in their middle years. The comments are all the same, "I feel fulfilled", "This is the best time of my life", "The baby is my little miracle", blah, blah. What were they thinking? I would assume if you have a toddler and you're twenty-five, you have a lot more energy to chase after it, then you do at forty-five. I also understand that older mothers are often left out like the weird kid on the playground when they are among younger moms. The younger moms and dads lives don't look like that of ol' mama and papa at that point. Not a lot of common ground between the two, I'm guessing. Plus the other older moms' kids are not in diapers anymore; in fact, some of those women have grandchildren now.

I'm used to being able to get up and go, do what I want, and come back when I feel like it. I've been doing it for a long time. Why would I suddenly stop that for 2:00 AM feedings?


NikkiJ said...

Having a child after the ages of 40 is one good reason NOT to have them. When my husband and I were considering the issue of having children or not, it was clear that if we did decide to go down that route, we would be having a small child when we were in our mid 40's to early 50's! (assuming of course that I coneceived right away). As most know, the older you get the harder it is for a woman to conceive. It is not the case for men, who can continue to produce kids until they are fairly old. Where would we get the energy needed to look after a baby then a growing child? And as for when the child was a teenager... well let's not even go there. It was definitley not something we wanted to experience. Yet, women are constantly pressured to have children if they don't yet have them even after they are 40. And women in their late 30's suddenly start trying harder to have them regardless of the fact that they will have less energy to look after them, on the basis that "well it is still possible to get pregnant when you're 40 now" Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should.

Anonymous said...

Boxing Tomboy -- thanks for sharing your story about your experience being interviewed on television representing a childfree woman in the workplace. What that bartneder did to you was beyond rude, it was ignorant and hostile.

As you may have read in the recent blog posts, our local No Kidding! chapter has been approached by a television show wanting to do a similar story. No wonder everyone reacts with some trepidation at the thought of a camera in our intimate group. It is so easy to be taken out of context when you are reduced to a sound bite.

I think it is important to take a risk (be prepared) and to tell our side of things when the media comes calling, and I recognize that that is what you did. Sounds like the reporter got it right, but the audience didn't that time. On behalf of all PW, thanks for doing the interview. I am sure you represented us well.

ChrisR said...

""How old are you?" the bartender asked. I was 38 then. "You'll change your mind when you're 40." he said. I'm now 44 years old."

Dammit! I've been asking people how much longer I have to put up with the 'how old ... you'll change your mind' routine. Now you're telling me I've got another DECADE of this to put up with? Give me strength!

Interestingly, why is it always two years from my current age when I'll change my mind? Always, two years. Wonder what the reasoning behind that is?

Elise said...

I can well understand how tricky media exposure is for the CF. We had a get together for denizens of, the Usenet group, at my home (which had an attached music business space, perfect for a small conference of about 20, as it turns out) in southern NH during the late 90s. Turns out that a producer for the American TV show "Nightline" got wind of it (CF was a much newer topic then, and an even hotter potato than it is now!!!) and turned up with a camera crew, wanting to interview us as a group. We had a good time and the crew took us out for a sumptuous dinner afterward, but some of us (myself in particular, I think, as I'm an educator and work with high school aged-students) had some trepidation. What would become of the footage? Would it be fairly edited, or become fodder for "sound bites"? It never did air, so our concerns were unfounded.

The entire "biological clock" BS that society puts on women is just that --- BS. If it were truly a biological clock, it would be going off loud and clear in the late teens and throughout the one's 20s, when a woman's body is best able to actually deal with pregnancy. Instead, I like the term "sociological clock": in other words, a eupemism for a woman waking up in her 30s, 40s, etc. and saying "Wow, if I'm going to have kids --- and of course, everybody does, right? --- I better get while the getting is still good". It's an entirely intellectual process, not an innate "biological" one whatsoever.