Deborah Young

Deborah Young
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JANUARY 23, 2009 11:36AM

Ladies! Stop giving birth to your grandchildren!

Rate: 31 Flag

Holly Hunter gave birth to twins at the age of 48. When they are 10 she will be 58. When they are 20, she will be 68...if she lives that long. Ditto actress Geena Davis and her twin boys. There's a long list of Hollywood women who put off having children while they built their career and then when their ovaries puttered out, they applied their extensive wealth toward in-vitro fertilization and voila! insta-family. Or they bought a baby in another country. {See Madonna who will be 60 when David is 12; Meg Ryan will be 60 when her daughter Daisy is 15}. Diane Keaton might win for most audacity, at 64 years old, her adopted daughter is 14, her adopted son, 9.

sexy-senior-710944

There is a reason that we're so fertile and energetic in our twenties: so we can have babies, keep up with the babies and send them off into the world while we're in our forties so that we still have 5 minutes left to read that book we've been meaning to get to.

I have friends who had their babies late in life. I'm talking their first baby.

When I was growing up women often had their 4th or 5th baby in their early forties - their ooops! baby, their just-about-to-enter-menopause baby. But those kids had siblings to help out and experienced parents who had already raised children and knew what the heck they were doing.

My friends who had their first baby in their forties, well, it hasn't worked out so well. And they'll be the first ones to tell you. By the time their kid is rarin' to go with hormones and discipline problems and peer group pressure, they are worn out, exhausted and dare I say? Old. They are grandparent material. They don't have the energy to walk up two flights of stairs, never mind stare down the flighty teacher, the neighborhood bully or their 6 ft. son who wants to experiment with drugs. My colleague told me yesterday that the son she had in her forties, she pretty much gave up any oversight on after the 8th grade. He was 12, she was 52. She'd burned out from the previous 12 years. She doesn't recommend it for anybody.

Now I know there are always exceptions to the rule, and I'm sure you know somebody who had their first child in her forties and while her daughter is 16 and she is 61, they find lots of things in common with each other and Mom has her finger on the pulse of her progeny. I just haven't seen it. These stories tend to be anecdotal.

The disconnect appears to be generational. If your own parents are 23 or 28 years older than you, there's still a bit of cultural references that you share, common histories. When you are 14 and your mother is 64 the conversation and shared touchstones can be almost invisible. How can your mother possibly understand internet, texting, twitter and the easy access of the drug ecstacy? There weren't even computers when she was your age; she watched black and white TV that shut down at 9pm. It's "Father Knows Best vs. The Simpsons" & the cultural clash ain't pretty. And that's where it stops working so well. The teenage angst that your parents don't understand you is absolutely true once your mom and dad are the age of most kids grandparents. How can they understand you? They still refuse to use email and need your help using their ancient VCR.

You are also burdening your offspring with your elderly self. While they may be going to college, they are on high alert as you slowly start to stroke out, get forgetful, or succumb to cancer. Do you want your legacy to be that you orphaned your kids at a young age? Kinda cruel if you ask me. Their grandparents were dead before they were born and now their parents are dying. Fun times!

I don't think history will judge this social experimentation kindly. And it may only last one or two generations before the women who chose this path tell the women coming up after them, "have your babies early!" This is the first time in history women had the ability to put off having children and then be able to afford the medical interventions to allow them to have them later. And it's the first time in history single, older women have been allowed adopt. We are still in the middle of this particular continuum; the outcome is yet to be decided.

 

 

 

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With all due respect...welcome to the 21st century! I probably would have just chuckled and moved on if you had included men in your rant. Men who have children sometimes when they are in their eighties but no one seems to have a problem with that....maybe because the child raising is still seen as the mother's sole domain?

I would never presume to tell anyone when they should or should not have children because it TAIN'T my business. For whatever reason, they have chosen to bear children in the later stages of life. I was 21 when I had mine and my youth didn't make it any easier. Also, there was no guarantee that I wouldn't make my child an orphan simply because I didn't have wrinkles. There are lots of kids who have young parents in the grave.

I think you should have kids when the time is right for you. I don't think there should be arbitrary time tables placed on them. If the plumbing works or needs a bit of adjustment, I say to each her own.

And in defense of the older set (which I proudly claim as a 50 year old), there are quite a few of us who have more than two brain cells to rub together so we aren't so feeble that we do not understand how the internet, texting and twitter works and to be perfectly honest, a lot of 60 plusers have probably ingested more drugs than their kidlets would hope to....not that that's anything to brag about.

JMHO.....
Yeh, sorry. Count me among the disagreers. I had my first child at 31, my second at 37. So now I am 53 with an almost 16 year old and I am plenty hip and have plenty of energy for her. My only regret at not starting earlier is that I didn't have time to have more. I don't think 20 somethings know any better what they are doing or do any better a job at raising kids than 30 or 40 year olds. If parents check out because they're "too old" that is their problem and they're cowards.... Raising kids has never been ajob for sissies, no matter what the age. The ideal age is when you are in your early 30s, but what in life is ideal. And I agree with the poster who mentioned men. They seem to father children way up into their 70s and no one seems to give a damn about that.
Yes, I could have had a child when I was younger, but I was married to Mr. Wrong and had to fix it and meet Mr. Right first. Personally, I'm glad my child won't have to live through her parents divorce like I did. Or the parents deciding to have their roaring 20's while she's in high school because they got married and settled too young. I was 37 when Her Maj was born and frankly, feel lucky to have gotten a lot of selfishness out of the way before she got here.
While your entry is very interesting, and witty, I have to say that the moms I know who are older(say, 35 and up) are more "engaged" with their children. Younger does NOT mean "more ready", except in terms of "younger eggs".
The first commenter here makes a compelling point that men who become fathers later in life, are never chastised for doing so.
I'll add that I'm 51, and considering adopting an older child/children, as it was never a priority for me before, but I feel I have much to offer(now) to a child/children, who have no home, need guidance, exposure/encouragement in the arts, etc.
There's always more love to give,...and when you're older, you know more about how to share that love.
Peace.
www.lisananetteallender.blogspot.com
www.practicewhatyoupeace.blogspot.com
This is not a very respectful essay. In-vitro is not something a person does easily ("viola, insta-family"). I'm not sure what your beef is. The older mothers that do go through in-vitro (try it sometime if you don't believe that it's difficult and painful) REALLY want their babies and may well be more mature than people in their twenties. They know more about the world and about themselves, things which are a great help in raising a baby. One plus for society of women having babies later in life is that many women who start late will not have more than one or two, and given the strain on resources that the world's ever-growing population is causing, that's a good thing.

And, for the record, I don't like the salutation "Ladies!" Does that bug anyone else?
I think you make a good point here. While I know people who have children late in life and are happy being parents (although generally overprotective), I also recognize the importance in my life (and in my husband's life) of grandparents, and if you have children late in life, the grandparents are often out of the picture. I had a LOT of grandparents (my great-grandparents were all still alive while I was growing up AND my maternal grandparents were divorced and remarried so there was an extra grandma and grandpa). And they were all just these great blessings! Nobody adores you or patiently spends time with you like a grandparent. I now spend enormous amounts of time with my grandkids and am able to do the stuff with them that I should've done with my daughters but was too tired/busy/neurotic/impatient to do. Plus, I'm 57, and cannot imagine being a full-time parent at this age. I get exhausted after a weekend of grandkids, and I get colds more easily, and can't quite pull off the no-sleep routine like I did when my girls were small and I never got any sleep. Onecorgilover's point about men being older is true, we don't seem to have a problem with men being older and having children, and find it charming, like Tony Randall where we ridiculously give them points for being able to impregnate someone (like THAT's tough). But usually this is because we're talking rich guys married to young women who aren't going to be left poverty-stricken and struggling. Still, the kid has to lose Dad at an early age (as opposed to losing grandparents, which sort of breaks them in to the idea of old people = eventual death/loss = pain). And it would suck being 25 and having to take care of your aged parent. We all think we're going to stay vibrant and energetic, but then shit happens. Thanks for a thought-provoking and well-written post!
With all due respect, I disagree.

I had my first child at 42, and it's working out quite well. I have concerns, like any parent, but if you're going to have this rant, you do need to mention men as well. I'm also very annoyed that this is an editor's choice. Does Salon really support what I see as a fairly sexist, backward attitude? That surprises and saddens me.

The generation gap will undoubtedly happen whether I am 20 or 60. I think you need to reexamine your ideas for the sexist beliefs embedded in them. Unless you want to do a post on men, too. Then, I'll just generally disagree as many women and men have children in their forties and beyond and do just fine with the raising.

Did you know that the average age for most women to have the final child is the mid-forties and has been, far beyond fertility treatments, which I did not have by the way, for many years? It's completely normal, and only our paternalistic, misogynistic society has decided otherwise.
I agree with some of what you have said, and I recognize the irony of your writing, as well. My parents were forty when they had me. While it's true that sometimes parents die in their twenties, it has proven more likely that I will lose one or both or have to care for one or both at a younger age than my friends whose parents had them earlier. When I was 27, my mom was diagnosed with bipolar and with dementia. My friends' moms go shopping with them or go on vacations or badger them about grandchildren. My friends are trying to build careers or putting off having babies or only worried about themselves. I am counting medicines and cleaning up accidents. These celebrity moms who have all this money may have the money to have someone take care of them if their kids are relatively young when the parents get ill. The average person, however, will probably depend on their child to take care of them. I know you are really never up to the task of taking care of your parents, but I would have appreciated ten more years with a healthy mother. I am too young for this burden. She will probably not last until the age when I have children. All my grandparents but one were dead before I was born. I was a teenager in the nineties. My parents were teenagers in the fifties. There was definitely a greater disconnect between myself and my parents than between my friends and their parents.
That said, the average person usually can't afford to have kids or adopt them at the more advanced age that the stars can, so their kids don't come much past 40, and as I said before, the stars have more money to help their kids take care of them or to let the stars get better health care and live longer. Also, you should have mentioned all these men who have kids at 70. It seems an ego trip to me, but maybe they just feel like they should get the most out of life while they can.
I still appreciate your rant, though.
I had my first child at 21. And I have to say that I think all of this is a little off base. I tend to agree, with Lisa, as my friends are now starting to have their first babies in their early forties. They are some of the most engaging parents I have ever seen. I think because they have lived their crazy lives and been through all the relationship business, and now they are some of the most doting and attentive parents I know. I understand that it is easier on your body, to have children young, but I often think that people need to do what is right for them, and if that includes having children at any age, then I am fine with it. Let's face it, there are terrible parents in the world, some of them are young and some of them are old, so making judgements about one's ablilities due to your age, is probably one of those "isms" I would personally avoid.
I have mixed feelings about this. My parent had me when they were 20 and 23; I had my daughter when I was 26, my boys when I was 30. Now, my husband has an older daughter whose son we are raising. He is 4, I am 45; and yes, i am exhausted a good portion of the time. I don't know how someone can have their first so late in life. My lawyer friend, who had his daughter close to 40, lamented to me just yesterday that he can't do the things he wants to do. Hello! Welcome to my life for a long time now. I think people get into the swing of a free adulthood and the sudden responsibility sometimes feels like prison to them. Although they love their children deeply, they also resent them.

That said, I do know people who waited and are very successful in their parenting. They have the financial means to put their children in good schools and expensive extracurricular activities. They have a maturity we did not have in our twenties.

Sometimes it works, often it doesn't. I was often pleased that my parents were so young but then my dad got cancer and died at 52 so there are no guarantees, no matter the age. All in all, good people make good parents, and have the foresight to know when they are becoming parents for them or for the child.
I don't think its your place or anyone else's to pass judgment on how people build their families. Times have indeed changed. People live longer, women are approaching equality, and as an educated society, many are choosing to have kids later in life (and some are having them earlier knowing that the party can start when they're 45--I raise my glass to you guys).

Here is the upside of having kids later: you are probably better off financially. You are probably in a stable relationship. You are probably educated. But one thing you certainly are is wiser. Maybe you are more able to put things into perspective. Age and experience tends to do that for you. You are better able to see impending danger. You can separate little deal from big deal better.

You know what? Parents and teenagers aren't really supposed to relate. And even when I was a kid, people's parents weren't always in the best of health. Hell, my dad became paralyzed when I was in my twenties. My mom had cancer when I was 18. Shit happens. You can't stop it.

Sorry your friends are so tired and old that they're asleep at the wheel. I find that with a couple of cups of coffee, I can conquer the fucking universe. So kudos to me. Judge me if you will, but don't expect me to go quietly.
A very daring and non-PC post!

When I was doing my teacher training, we had a pediatrician as a guest speaker one day, just talking about development from a medical perspective. He mentioned that he had more patients than ever whose mothers were dead because he was seeing so many children of older mothers. (This was in La Jolla.)

I personally don't think 40 is too old to start a family at all, but once you get close to 50, male or female, you're chances of not being able to see your child through young adulthood become significantly increased. That has to be considered, as well as the possibility of disability.

Every individual has to make these decisions for him/herself, but I would not choose to care for an infant late in life, unless my grown children could not take care of their children, or something like that. It's far from ideal.
I am also wondering where the men are in this piece. And my 74-year-0ld father is the (second) most tech-savvy person in my family. The only one who beats him out is my younger brother, who happens to be one of the designers of Bluetooth.

Ageism and sexism. Fail.
It should be pointed out that men who have children very late in life usually have much younger wives. If a woman is married to a much younger man, then the chances of one parent being alive and good health are much increased.

Is it ageism to point out that the older one gets, the more likely one is to die from disease or "old age," become disabled, or suffer from "senile" dementia?
My second sentence should have read,

"If an older woman and a younger man have a baby, then then the chances of one parent being alive and good health are much increased, than if they are both elderly."
There are definite benefits to having your kids in your 20's. I had my first (an unexpected conception within the "bonds of marriage") at 20 and my second at 22. It's been harder in some respects, I guess. Generally, though, it hasnt' been. Both my husband and I earned our degrees by the time we were 22. I am in grad. school and that's going very well. We have the energy to run after our kids and be involved.

I look at my Dad, who's parenting a 4 year old at 50, and thank God I don't plan on doing that. He's doesn't ever get a break! He's still cleaning up shit at 50. I want to be done with that part of my life by the time I'm that age. He's got an AARP card and drops his son off at daycare. I mean, that's his choice, and that's fine, but it's strange. I want to be preparing for retirement at 50; he'll never be able to retire.

This is not to mention the risks of downs syndrome and other genetic diseases which are increased in mothers of advanced maternal age. From everything I've read, your egg quality reaches it's peak in your early 20's and starts to decline after you hit 30. So...your fertile years are in your 20's. A friend of a friend is currently trying to get pregnant. She's 42. She got married at 35 thinking she had all the time in the world to get pregnant. She started trying at 38. She went to a repro. endo. and he said to completely skip a fresh cycle of IVF and go straight to egg donation. There's no point of doing a fresh cycle at her age he said. She's all upset. Well, what do you expect? You're 42! You could be hitting menopause any time now!
"People live longer, women are approaching equality,...."


If only someone would tell this to our ovaries. Women are approaching equality, but our biology has not changed. The fact remains that women start being pre-menopausal (if not menopausal!) in their 40's. If only evolution could keep up. It's so ageist and sexist of it to limit women's childbearing years to the vast expanse of time from 15 to 40ish, you know? So unfair. So un-PC.
I concur with most of the criticisms I've read in comments, but the saddest part of this post to me is the idea that by 60 most people will not only have failed to keep abreast of changes in our culture and technology, but will also be worn out by two flights of stairs. That's giving up on vibrancy pretty early in an age when people live so long.
Holly, you are right about our biology, but there are biological generalism and then there are individuals. For example, at 35, I saw a genetic counselor due to a weird picture on a sonogram, and when she went over my blood tests, she said I had the results of a 26-year-old. The problem with making these sweeping condemnations is, well, that they're sweeping. I've found that parents judge other parents very harshly. Many people take the "my way or the highway" stance. And that's just wrong. Really, this is just another one of those "the problem with kids these days..." pieces of writing.

I stand by what I said. If someone wants to roll the dice and start this stuff late, it's their choice. Not yours. Just like you can't tell someone how many kids to have, or what language to speak at home.

And that line about "limiting" childbearing years to 15-40 is kind of silly. You know in our culture it is certainly not ok to give birth at 15, and everyone living in their own societal corner faces many, many rules about procreating that put very many more limits on them than just age.

You guys have my panties in a bunch! Watch out!
Actually, holly, my ovaries were in great shape, my eggs were perfect and I conceived at 42 like a champ. As well, cutting age research is beginning to indicate that the idea that our eggs are old is inaccurate, that in fact we produce eggs the way that men produce sperm. It's extremely new research but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it panned out as accurate.

And it is ageist to presume everyone will be dried up and ready to die by a certain age. And it is sexist to only address women on this issue. I could just as easily ask you to accept the fact that you're ageist and sexist because you can't get past the dried up and gone social customs of the 1950s, just as in the same way you have been in assuming that everyone's ovary reproduction dies off and menopause starts at age 40. Or I could be ageist and say that because you're younger, you don't have the wisdom to get it.

But I'll refrain.
Someone mentioned downs syndrome and I used to think that too until I read that statistically 80% of DS babies are born to women under 35.

From the March of Dimes website:

Does the risk of Down syndrome increase with the mother's age? Yes. The risk of Down syndrome increases from about 1 in 1,250 at age 25, to 1 in 1,000 at age 30, 1 in 400 at age 35, 1 in 100 at age 40 and 1 in 30 at age 45 (6). Women over age 35 have been traditionally considered most likely to have a baby with Down syndrome. However, about 80 percent of babies with Down syndrome are born to women who are under age 35, as younger women have far more babies (2).
OH SNAP.

Sorry, that's the coffee talking.
I also don't agree with Deborah's specific criticisms. My only real problem, to the extent that I have one, is that when a Holly Hunter gives birth to twins at 48 that it may raise false hopes in others who may want to try at the same age. My wife and I went through two rounds of IVF over two years ago to have our son (at ages 36 and 35, respectively) and I can tell you that even under ideal circumstances the odds are against success on any one attempt, and those odds decrease steadily after age 35, precipitously after age 40.

People don't think that someone like Holly Hunter might be able to afford many more attempts than most people ($10K per try) or that she might have used donor eggs, which adds to the cost. The thinking, because you want to believe is "Holly Hunter had babies at 48, so maybe it will work for me too."

None of this is to pick on Holly Hunter specifically; she just makes a good example. But what I have found as a parent in my mid to late 30s so far is that while I have less energy than I may have had in my 20s, I have more patience; I have thought things through more and feel more prepared (to the extent that anyone can truly be prepared for parenthood). On the whole, that's a trade I've been happy to make.
My mom was in her early 20s when she had the 3 of us. I remember clearly b/c she always told us how we stole her youth. She was a terrible mother, and my dad, the same age, was a terrible father - they were immature, insecure and had zero coping skills. So they took it out on us, physically and emotionally and psychologically. For 17 years, until each of us could flee home.

And I know plenty of people my age who had youthful parents, with similar stories. The therapist's office, not to mention the jails are full of people who had super young energetic parents. Your premise that youth=parental competence is, quite simply, flawed.

My mom was a much older 40 than me. At age 40, SHE was winding down and depressed with her failures and disappointments. I, on the other hand, have run over 35 marathons, run 2 ultra marathons (33 miles, 50 miles) run across the Grand Canyon 3 times - all since turning 40. My health is superb, my energy is unlimited and my maturity is a tad more advanced than was the case in my 20s and early 30s. Plus now I have lots of reference points for what not to do as a parent, having watched my friends who were young parents, and how badly some of them screwed it up.

Age has nothing to do with being a good parent. And age doesn't have all that much to do with being energetic, or smart, or able to multi-task your way to a balanced and rich life. That's maturity, which also doesn't have crap to do with age.
Wait...wait...WAIT! I want TWO grandchildren from my now a New Yorker son and his finally a professor after so many long years of graduate school 34 year old wife.....she will be 38 at least, before they "decide" whether to have #2...their perfect jewel of a condo is teeny tiny... they don't know quite how to fit in the one coming this spring! THEY are the exact people who SHOULD be having children...high IQ's, professionals, GOOD hearts, rang door bells and donated the max to Obama, recycle everything, kind to their parents and step-parents, love Leonard Cohen and Thai food!
COME ON! That little girl, right this moment, is hearing Mozart or Vivaldi in the background while her mother reads aloud to her some brilliant student's paper on poetry...and the first thing she heard upon waking this morn was Fresh Air!
THESE kind of nearing forty people should be PAID to have children! Seriously!
First, Please PM me a link to these journal articles. I have university access to practically all medical journals, so I should be able to access them if you give me a reference.

Second, Don't argue with me about sexism, argue with Mother Nature. She's the one that "designed" a system in which women start menopause between 45 and 55. I didn't have any part in that. You conceived at 42, great! I'm not saying it's not possible, obviously it is. Many women do, and do it successfully. How many months did it take you to achieve a pregnancy? Did you need the help of ART?


My primary reason for not wanting a baby past 35 is genetic diseases, like Downs. If, right now, I would discover that I was having a baby with Down's, or any other genetic problem, I would abort- no discussion necessary. Statistically, women over 35 are more likely to have a baby with Downs than women in their 20's. Secondarily, I also want to be having young kids in my 40's. But that's more personal preference than anything.
I, for one, will be forever grateful that I had my first child at age 32 and not age 22. My children would have suffered nor would we have the relationships we do if I had had them in my twenties. The addtional ten years prepared me for 24/7 parenting and gave me the maturity and patience I did not have in my twenties. The irony of this was that I was much better prepared to deal with kids at age 22 than most as I already had one degree in psychology and had more or less raised my much younger brother after our mother died when he was five years old.

As my 24 year old daughter was telling me yesterday, she knew few in college or high school who liked their parents, nor did they enjoy spending time with them. "Wow!" I said, "How sad!"

As a psychology professional, I have rarely, rarely met anyone who really knows how to be a good parent. The problems you describe such as "experimenting with drugs, peer pressure, etc." have nothing to do with the age of the parents and everything to do with the relationship they've cultivated with their children over the years, a relationship which begins the moment that child is born!

If all parents were good ones, we wouldn't have the social problems we do have....remember, the family unit is supposedly the foundation of society. My older daughter figured this out at about age 13 when she said to me one day, "If the family is the foundation of society, then no wonder the world is so screwed up because I don't know any happy families or anyone who likes their parents!"
Conception aside (because that's not the way children come to us), I can say that I am a much better parent, especially for children with problems, than I was 20 years ago. While it's important to understand what a child's life is like, mothers aren't supposed to be best friends. Twittering isn't the same as parenting, nor is it nearly as important.
Holly, you can start with this article and look up the rest yourself. It's still VERY EARLY in development but very compelling.

http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/2004/03.25/11-moreeggs.html

The thing is, this stuff is sexist and ageist. It is our society that creates these ideas that women (always specifically women not men) cannot have children, cannot do these things after a certain age. They are so ingrained that we accept them as 'biology' ignoring the fact that, years ago, when women had tons of kids until they reached menopause, the average age for the final kid was something like 45 or 46. Which means women had them even later than that. It's NORMAL to be able to have children until you go through full menopause, which for many women doesn't happen until early fifties.

Now, having them even later, with the aid of technology, while unusual, is both expensive (and therefore, rare) and more difficult. But, I don't have the complete omnipotent knowledge needed to judge these women and their choices. I imagine that they wanted children and had them. It isn't any of my business and I have no right to judge.

And neither does anyone else. Your comment isn't in the abstract, you know. Some of us are real people.
"Someone mentioned downs syndrome and I used to think that too until I read that statistically 80% of DS babies are born to women under 35.

From the March of Dimes website:

Does the risk of Down syndrome increase with the mother's age? Yes. The risk of Down syndrome increases from about 1 in 1,250 at age 25, to 1 in 1,000 at age 30, 1 in 400 at age 35, 1 in 100 at age 40 and 1 in 30 at age 45 (6). Women over age 35 have been traditionally considered most likely to have a baby with Down syndrome. However, about 80 percent of babies with Down syndrome are born to women who are under age 35, as younger women have far more babies (2)."



So, you've proven my point exactly.


Let's do the math:

Holly's chances of having a baby with Downs at the age of 25: 0.08%
Holly's chance of having a baby with Downs at age 40: 1.0%

That is an over 1000% increase in the chance of having a baby with Downs when comparing age 25 to age 40.
I feel as if I've stumbled into 1955. As long as the parents are loving and attentive I don't see the how its anyone's business when a woman decides to have children. (I won't even get into the absence of rancor for elderly parents of the male gender in this essay...) As others have mentioned, many older women have their last child in their early forties with no worries. And even if there are worries they are the worries of that particular family and they are decidedly not any of my business. Based on the arguments in this essay we should also chastise the disabled for reproducing (How dare they?!). And as for the self-congratulating ego-massaging younger parents posting (I mean you, holly) -- be careful. Life is an unmarked minefield. Evolution may have already decided you or someone in your family is chaff to be separated from the wheat. I wouldn't be so flippant about how it shapes our lives and the choices we make.
I agree with Sandra and onecorgilover.
I don't object to women having children in their later years either. I donated my eggs at age 23 to an older couple and I was more than happy to do it. I was overjoyed when I heard she conceived. My point is, I think the feminist movement does women a disservice to push the idea that women must either choose to be successful in their careers or having children before 35. In fact, this is completely false. Women can have everything, so long as biology permits. I can have children in my 20's and I can be successful academically. I know because I am living it. I have young children, am 24, and am pursuing a graduate degree in nursing. I am able to juggle all of these balls, keep my sanity, pay my bills and make it work. I can have children at whatever age I please and be as successful as I want to be in my career of choice. The idea that women must wait until their later years to have children if they want to "live the dream" so to speak is detrimental to women, because it pushes more women into ART in their late 3o's and 40's- costing them more money, more emotional stress and the possibility of ending up with no child at all or a child with problems such as Downs.
KH--An excellent post, said better than I. Age for me brought both wisdom and the realization that I didn't know anything at all. I certainly didn't know what was best for other people and other peoples' lives. Of course, that's why I'm a super left liberal. I think people have the right to make their own choices without being castigated by the peanut gallery.

This stuff is so sexist, but so ingrained that it would take more than a crowbar to get it out. I pray that, by the time my daughter reaches age 20 (at which time I'll be 62 and you know, according to some here, dried up, rickety, dying or dead, feeble, oh wait! no! I'm already that, right? Why haven't I rolled over and played dead, like a good woman should! Let me get my walker ...) anyway, I hope that she can say she has had a wonderful childhood and a mother who loves her desperately. And that she can spot sexism a mile away. Because I'd at least like to be able to teach her that.

I'll point her to this article as a start.

Here's a statistic for you. Did you know that, because I had a child at 42, I'm more likely to live to 100?
Given the quality of life I've seen in people who are 100, you can have that one.
And another thing.....who do you want having more children...Sarah Palin's teenage daughter and her...uhhhh...mate ? Or......... the above mentioned English professor and her PALIN BINGO creator (yes! MY son!) husband?!
Very thought provoking post. All the comments are quite good and heart felt.
We had our lone chick at 36 and never regretted it. We are still the coolest parent among her friends.
One good reason however for not haing children at a later date (if ou have children already), is biological and evolutionary. Some have theorized that menopause (which men do not have) is designed so that the woman can help her daughters parent.
We are, in fact, running out of those grandmothers who have taken over the parenting duties from their druggie children. Now it is the druggie children who are grandparents and they are useless.
Special condemnation for the woman who gave up on her son when he was in 8th grade. She did this for herself and probably would have been a crappy mother in her 20s as well.
@holly

You wrote:

"I can have children in my 20's and I can be successful academically. I know because I am living it. I have young children, am 24, and am pursuing a graduate degree in nursing. I am able to juggle all of these balls, keep my sanity, pay my bills and make it work. I can have children at whatever age I please and be as successful as I want to be in my career of choice."

Those are your choices. Others have the right to make choices for themselves without your judgment. Survey the female doctors you work with (particularly those in male-dominated, difficult specialties) and ask how many them felt able to make similar choices just out of college. Nursing is a world still dominated by women and I would assume it is much more accomodating to women's isses compared to say a multi-national investment bank, engineering firm, law firm or a highly competitive medical residency program (long, grueling hours and (sometimes acute) sleep deprivation in a male-dominated atmosphere all being the common thread here). Women who have made the choice to pursue careers like this have fought and are fighting a difficult battle for gender equality in the workplace. You and I have been the beneficary of it. It is why I receive equal pay and can count on doing actual work instead of minding the phones and fetching coffee. That being said, in these grave economic times I think we all should adopt an attitude of empathy and humility. The great majority of us (including those older mothers) are doing the best we can with what we have. This economic tsunami has shown that only very few of us are insulated from falling on hard times. Congratulations on your successes, but please -- tone down the smugness. In this climate, it is particularly difficult to stomach.
This is one of the most obnoxious pieces of crap I've read here on OS in some time. I say this not only because I am a 45 year old mother of a 20 month old, but because I find it unconscionable that a person...well no, another woman, would decide to engage without any semblance of hesitation or consideration in the traditional womansport of judgmental assholishness.

When I choose to parent/how I chose to add to my family/how I choose to parent my daughter...none of those are any of your business. Who the hell are you to come all up into my ovaries and decide when and how they should be used? Did someone make you goddess of all things reproductive? The bottom line is reproductive and family building choices are no one's business other than the family involved. Why is that so hard for people to comprehend?

And yes, the absence of comment on the age of the father is again evidence of the clear sexism that inevitably occurs in this discussion. So an 80 year old father is perfectly fine as long as he has a nice trophy wife of 25, right? Guess you think fathers are less important than mothers in childrearing. Welcome to the smarmy cult of mommy. But hey, my husband is younger than I am, so maybe you'll give me a pass for being an old fart.

It would be so nice to stop hearing the drivel about older mothers being so focused on their careers that they "forgot to have babies" and the ugly characterizations of adoption as buying babies. I, for one, refused to have a baby without being married. And you know, for black women especially, marriage is not an easy thing to have happen. Over 44% of black women have never been married, compared to 24% in the white population. As a physician working with underserved minority teens, I had no intention of modeling unwed parenting to my patients when 70% of our children are born outside of marriage. I didn't FORGET to get married. I couldn't find someone to marry until my late 30s. I got married at 39. And guess what? Despite 9 IVF attempts, 2 donor egg cycles and 1 16 week loss, there was no voilà baby! There was instead a lot of heartache, painful injections and procedures, and expenses galore.

I then moved to open adoption. And my husband and I were chosen by our daughter's firstmother to raise her child. She entrusted this perfect angel to me and this 24 year old gave less than a damn about my age...her concern was my character, my heart, and the love I would give to Zara.

So your older parent friends/people you know...whatever. As a physician/epidemiologist I can say this: the plural of anecdote is not data. Zara is my world and I will never be too tired, too out of it, or too disconnected no matter my age to parent my child.
Old parents, young parents- age isn't the number that's the problem. People of all ages just need to stop breeding like rabbits for a hot minute and let the population settle. You want a baby, adopt one that needs a home. There's really nothing all that special about your genes (or mine, or anyone else's) that they just HAVE to be passed down. I know a number of adopted people who grew up to look and act like their non-biological parents, what's the difference? You want to give a kid some love, give it to one that's already born and needing it.
Bravo, Teendoc! We had our daughter via in vitro and she is the most wanted and best parented child in my family. We're not perfect, but she has bedtime stories, swimming lessons, and our full attention on the weekends.
How generous of you, Holly! What a joy it must be to always be right! You should tell us about it sometime.

Your ideas are sexist. This article is sexist. You don't have all the information. You don't know all the people involved. You're making judgments of people you do not know. There's not much more to be said about it.

I have a beautiful daughter. I'm a better mother than I would have been at 20. But, that's me.

Undoubtedly, in her lifetime, she'll run into smug people who think they have the right to judge other peoples' lives. I can only hope she handles it as well as ... Sandra no longer Miller. ;)
M. Allison, how many children have you adopted out of Social Services? Why is it my job to parent a child that likely has been through the wringer and has serious emotional problems? Why should I submit my life with it's skeletons to the kind of scrutiny adoptive parents have to bear?

I have never thought there was anything magical about my DNA, but I did want a healthy newborn. Since my husband is older and we're not wealthy, it was extremely unlikely that we would have been able to adopt a child except through Social Services. Most private agencies won't work with you if one of you is over 45 unless you are rich.
I spent the last three years working in schools. Although there are some wonderful younger parents, many, many more are clueless about things like: breakfast is good, reasonable bedtimes are good, R movies for kids are bad and the TV is not a babysitter. A lot are hardly more than babies themselves. In younger families, there is generally less income and stability. For better or worse, these kids don't get some of the "amenities" like a fixed home and music lessons that more established families offer. They seem to spent more time in daycare and move more often. With our amazing divorce rate..especially in the first years of marriage, many kids live with single parents or blended families. They are continually shuttled back and forth between homes. Grandparents often take over many of the childrearing duties. Maybe it was better back in the day when a young person could get a really well paying job right out of high school.

There are good and bad parents of every age and income. Personally, I think I did a better job of raising my kids as an older parent than if I'd been in my early 20's. Even though I'm a single parent now, I have a lot more resources to draw upon.

This is a silly column.

Then again, as we said in Kindergarten, "you get what you get and you don't pitch a fit".
Holly, I see that you conveniently disregarded the fact that EIGHTY percent of children with down's have mothers who are under 35. The fact that you choose to ignore it doesn't make that fact go away. I'm just curious as to why you are so invested in the choices of other full grown women who do not need anyone's approval or blessing as to when they choose to procreate? Jeeze.....
Social experiment, my ass.

And thanks to all the intelligent women who spoke for women making their own choices, rather than having them rammed down their throats. Isn't that what we've been fighting for for nearly a 100 years? The chance to decide for ourselves, with our partners (whoever they may be?) or alone if that is our choice, how and when to raise our children? Who really believes that a 20 year old mom is better suited than one in her 30s or early 40s just because of age? Some are, some aren't. Some women are never suited. And as one poster pointed out, women have been having kids well into their late forties for years; its just that those were often their 4th or 5th or 8th child and it often wasn't by choice but by biology and chance and lack of birth control.

I am so very heartened to see all the heartfelt posts about how we need to make our own paths. Hooray!
It would be a simpler, nicer, kinder, easier world if "genes don't matter"...but alas! they DO!

That is why I think people like the couple I have mentioned should actually be paid to have children...funny how the same folks who care so much about their dog's breed and parentage, or the lineage of their "old world roses" and "heirloom tomatoes" for example seem to think any child can and would grow up into an able to learn, not defeated by heredity adult....if only that were true!
I was pretty offended by this post. I get moreso every time I read it. The bottom line is that we each have the right to do what we think is best. I'm fast approaching your age deadline and I want a child more than anything. We did not feel ready to have a child until now and I am completely comfortable with that. I think I'll be a much better parent now than I was in my 20's. And I would have had to go through the whole fertility clinic route no matter what. It's not magic or instant and there are tons of women who can attest to that. Quite honestly, I think there are a lot of seriously irresponsible women having children in their 20's because it is deemed an appropriate age. So, when mom and dad realize they jumped into it too soon, why should a child have to suffer? The basic point is that we are all individuals and we still have the right to determine what is right for us on an individual basis. Keep your judgment out of my ovaries; I'm having an hard enough time conceiving.
By this argument, we should stop dumping kids off onto grandparents when their own parents abandon caring for them. We should be placing them with parents of a more appropriate age - aunts and uncles, cousins, or even strangers. You aren't advocating for that, are you?
No other human activity carries more weight, emotion, terror and heartbreak than child bearing. This is palpable in the comments here. So I just wanted to say that we all love our babies, no matter at what age we are blessed or how we get them.
Holly, I see that you conveniently disregarded the fact that EIGHTY percent of children with down's have mothers who are under 35. The fact that you choose to ignore it doesn't make that fact go away. I'm just curious as to why you are so invested in the choices of other full grown women who do not need anyone's approval or blessing as to when they choose to procreate? Jeeze.....
onecorgilover
January 23, 2009 04:44 PM



And how conveniently YOU ignored the FACT that compared to age 25, the Down's rate increases by over 1000% at age 40. 1000%.

I'm not trying to dictate other women's choices. Women can do whatever they want with their bodies. I really couldn't give a damn, especially in regards to procreating. I injected myself with hormones for two weeks, was put under sedation and had a needle shoved into my ovaries so another woman of "advanced maternal age" could have children. Sure I made a little bit of cash, but I was really happy when she had a baby. Very happy. So, this isn't about that. This is about women who think that they can frolick along with no thought at all to their declining egg quality, thinking, sure I'm 40, but I have all the time in the world to have children! And then "OMG I can't get pregnant!" at 45. Women want to do that, fine by me. So long as they realize that egg donors, repro. endo's, etc. are profiting off of them, as is the entire ART industry. (Of course older women aren't the only ones who suffer from infertility, but they are a big part of why the ART industry is growing.)
I appreciate what you're saying, but as someone raised by grandparents, I believe in the power of older women. I had my son at 19 and it's been a struggle to catch up and make things right. I always appreciated the patience and wisdom my Granny had with me.

It's a personal thing. There are shifting pros and cons to having kids at any age. You did a good job arguing your point.
Yeah... if my life had worked out the way I wanted, I would've had kids young, and more of 'em. I'd have a different life for sure. Now am just grateful for the blessings I have.
Great post! Wish I'd seen it sooner! So many interesting and compelling opinions and stories have already appeared in the comments section. I'd like to add my two cents since this is something that has had a profound impact on my life...but it's a bit long, so I think I'll address this on my blog -- stop by & visit if you have time!
I would think that if the trend of women having children later in life was such a disastrous social experiment there would be more data to support your contention than is given here. Your arguments are rather flimsy. What great social calamity has befallen us due to older women conceiving? I don't see any evidence that there are lots of suffering children of failing elderly parents out there.

I think odette's points are especially valid. The trends you are looking at have played out over a very short period time during which women have had reproductive control. And lifespan, health, and style and quality of life are such rapidly changing phenomena that I don't think we will ever have sufficient societal stability to nail down some sort of "ideal" or "normal" reproductive/parenting age.

I also find that the argument that success stories like that of Holly Hunter raise false hopes to be unconvincing. How many 48-year-olds do you know with newborns? People who have regular medical care and reasonable access to media (not to mention everyday family experience) know that it is rare for a woman of that age to conceive. It's like someone complaining that since Bill Gates is a billionaire, they expected to be one, too, despite the fact that they've never met a billionaire.

With respect to the argument that children of older parents have no quality experience of their grandparents, I also find that this assertion ignores other, much more relevant, social trends. People move around much more than in the past. Parents of all ages are now much more likely to live at a distance from extended family. This is the reason that my kids live away from their grandparents (and the reason that their poor, decrepit grandparents learned to use Skype on their newfangled computing machines.)

(One other funny aside on the issue of grandparents: my mother's father was 40 when she was born. He lived to be 105 and was very, very active up until about 103. Unfortunately, he was also something of an asshole. His extended life benefited few.)

Without data to support your arguments, they do come off as simple prejudice. And it is prejudice that I just don't understand. What offense is committed against you when an "older" mother gives birth?

In the interest of full disclosure, I had my first child at 38 and second at 42. Both were conceived quite easily and are in perfect health. We are more than happy with our current arrangement.
Hi,

I did not have babies early because I had two brothers who were 10 and 14 years younger than me and well knew the work and commitment taking care of small children requires. I love my brothers beyond measure but they kept me from having babies until I was 31 and 41. You are rather judgmental here as if one can find a suitable father of children by going to a particular grocery store aisle during the year one wants to procreate. It ain't that easy.

I did not find someone whom I trusted and who wanted a child with me until I as 30 and I married him in order to have children. Is it better to have children early if there is no suitable partner?

Also, I thought about the burden on my older daughter when I had a child at 41 and would have allowed the abortion my doctor recommended if something had been wrong with my youngest daughter. She was fine. My body was older and the pregnancy was painful for me but that was no reason to abort.

My ex- will be 70 and I will be 60 when my youngest daughter graduates high school and she is lucky to have a (very small) trust fund and a state supported college education paid for through graduate school should she need that. We tried to think ahead and provide for her needs so her older sister would not have that burden.

I love both my children but my youngest has been the light and love of my life the past two years. I had a very aggressive breast cancer requiring extensive treatment that might have killed most people and there were times I only got through it so I could see my youngest go to first grade. High school seemed to distant a goal.

Life is not as easy as you so judgmentally portray it. There are valid reasons women choose to procreate later -- many of those reasons make them better mothers.
Hmmmm. Did any men wade into the comments on this one? Just curious.
I read about a paragraph of it before I had to scroll down to see how other women were responding. I was heartened to read that most feel as I do.
And Sandra no longer Miller, I will gladly baby-sit your newborn for you when you run that next marathon, if you'll do the same for me!
At 39 I am healthier, happier, stronger and better equipped to mother than I was at 29. My mother just turned 70 and she still works every day and does head stands in my yoga class.

Kudos for having the stones to write such a piece for OS but it would have been nice if you responded to some of the comments.
@ holly

I really tried to give you the benefit of the doubt -- the hubris of youth and all that -- but you really come off as quite the arrogant, judgmental prat. I'll continue to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it has to do with a lack of precision with language resulting in an inability to strike the proper tone. But go back and read through your posts. You have been consistently dismissive of the other side of the argument. "Frolicking along" is just one particulary egregious example. If that's the way you describe choices you "respect", then you've got a long way to go in the maturity department or you need to express yourself more clearly.

FYI -- We live in a (basically) free market capitalist society. Some entity profiting by meeting a need and providing a lawful service is kind of the point. But that was just a red herring, wasn't it? I think something about having sold your genetic material is at the heart of your strange position. You were happy to help someone conceive who in your words "frolick[ed] along with no thought at all to [her] declining egg quality"? Not exactly the most coherent position. So, let me see, it was OK for YOU to profit, but older women should be wary of the clinics and the doctors trying to make a buck? Self-serving much? As I've said, I will continue to give you the benefit of the doubt as tone and intention are hard to communicate in this medium and we have all been guilty of incoherence at some point in time. That being said, if you are indeed the smug, self-important know-it-all your posts seem to imply you are -- don't worry, you will soon be in a position where the choices you've made will present an unseen obstacle that is difficult to surmount (it happens to us all). When that happens I hope you meet someone with exactly your belittling attitude. I'm actually fairly certain you will. The universe is funny like that.
Whoa...just read some of the comments and you've obviously touched a nerve here. I think you raise some very interesting and valid points.
My grandmother was a huge influence on my young life as well. She was strict, and not always fun, but she was a refuge for me in the rough 'n tumble world of my parents. My dad was usually away on business, my mother lonely and jealous and miserable. When my dad returned home, he would drink, my mother would rage at him, and the fights were endless.

I used to go to her place every day after school and she always took an interest in what I had learned. She expected me to be current on world events, and to play Scrabble with her. She played to win, let me tell you.

Because of the early death of my father and the protracted emotional collapse of my mother, I assumed responsibility for my brother and baby sister at the age of 10. I think that is one reason why I never had any children, and possibly why I chose a career that would have made that choice very difficult.

I have several friends who had children in their late 30s and 40s and yeah, some of them are tired, and they look a bit older than their parentless friends. But not one of them has abandoned their kids, either emotionally or physically. Those kids are loved and cherished and not at all spoiled. They have respect for their parents -- well, as much as teenagers can respect anything -- and on the surface at least, they seem happy. And nearly all of them still have grandparents.

It's all about choice, although I do question women wanting to have children into their 50s. But that's my bias speaking, and I know that there are women out there who are doing it and both they and their kids, adopted or otherwise, are doing just fine.
Women should have babies when they want to have babies. On the whole, the children of older parents are better off economically and educationally. The vast majority of kids born to women in their 40s are perfectly healthy. (I had twins at 37 and my sister had her 3rd child at 41. No fertility problems at all.) Ptth...Go ahead and have your babies at 19 if you like, but don't tell other women what to do.
My point is not to tell other women what to do, or to say that reproductive endocrinologists are "preying" on women. Quite the contrary. I agree it's very much part of our free market society. My point is this: Perpetuating the myth that women can wait to have babies into their forties and suffer no consequences because someone you know or you conceived like a champ is detrimental to women. Why? ART is expensive and it's far from 100% successful. It cost me zero dollars to get pregnant. The woman I donated my eggs to spent over 10K just to get me to where she was and for my services- plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental car, food allowance, and then the compensation. That's not even to mention the medical bills from my numerous blood tests, medications, etc., her part of the IVF, the failed IUIs, prior IVFs, tests upon tests, etc. etc. etc. And it was very possible that she could have spent all of that money (no doubt totaling well over 100K) and ended up with no baby at all. Nothing to show for the thousands and thousands of dollars spent. That's mostly why I wanted her to get pregnant so bad. I would have felt guilty if she had spent all of that money and my eggs had failed to deliver. Could this all have been avoided? Maybe, maybe not. What we do know is that older women absolutely have a higher incidence of infertility, and that younger women generally conceive easier. Given that, isn't it unethical to continue to tell women that they can just wait and wait and wait and not have any consequences? Just whenever they decide is the perfect time for them, their eggs will be on board? Whether that's 35, 40 or 45? That's not true, see? It's all well and good that we have anecdotal stories of women in their mid-40s getting pregnant without any ART and within 6 months of being off of bc, but that's not the norm. Women in their forties often have trouble conceiving, especially if it's their first baby, and if we're going to be honest with women, and allow them to make an informed choice about when to start a family, they need to know that if they wait until their 40s, they might not be able to conceive at all, or will have to conceive with some help. It's not being sexist, it's being honest. It's allowing them to make an informed choice about their reproductivity. Shouldn't women have all of the facts when making these decisions? And the facts are the genetic diseases such as Downs *does* increase with age, as does the incidence of infertility. Women should know this, and we should stop lying to women, perpetuating this myth that everyone can have babies at any age they would like and if anyone tells them otherwise, that person is ageist and sexist.
Wow. That's beyond anti-feminist--it's just wrong-headed. It's whacky times.

Look, I had my first child at 24, and had my third at 27, and there was a lot about that that worked for me. I like the way I did it. And I still have a hard time making friends with older moms sometimes who waited. We don't have a lot in common. I might roll my eyes at some of their choices.

But I'd never tell them they shouldn't have waited.

For God's sakes, have you looked around at the world lately? It's motherfucking hard to get an education, get a career started, and maintain one, without worrying about child care and diapers and whatnot. And it's expensive to have kids. Really expensive, even if you keep it on a budget and forgo the snappy stroller and the organic cotton baby sling and the Mommy and Me classes. Women who are older often have more money. There may be biological benefits to having kids younger, but there aren't many financial benefits. And, let's be real here: the population most likely to file bankruptcy is parents. Having a kid makes you more vulnerable to financial ruin than almost anything else (and lots of that bankruptcy is medical bill-related).

So, you can get all "down with women" blah blah blah, in a snarky tone, and envoke those old arguments. Great. But in the meantime, the rest of us are concerned with finding solutions that will make sure our kids have better options for maintaining a family.

And blaming an entire group of women out of hand isn't one of them.
I commented earlier today, then came back this evening to find the dialogue continuing (intensely!) -- it's good (and enlightening) to read all of these different experiences and points of view. I was hanging around with my mom at the nursing home earlier and thought of a good friend of mine who had her daughter late in life and is an incredible mother (although she does say it's annoying when people think she's the grandmother instead of the mom). I thought of how much I'd love to hear her take on this. I think she'd enjoy the dialogue.

I don't think anyone is saying older parents are crappy parents, or really wants to deprive anyone of the life-changing joy/challenge of a child, but the dynamics ARE different when you're older, and the choices become different. I had my last one at 30, but my husband was 40 at the time, and didn't want any more because he didn't want a child in high school after he'd retired. As it happened, he retired the same year the youngest graduated. I realize a lot of the time that he and I are at different stages (and that women don't really retire) and have different energies. Yeah, childbirth is a personal decision (or in my case, a personal accident) but discussing the subject of older parents and hearing all the "personal testimony," the positives AND negatives -- that's a good thing. This post and these comments have made me (ouch!) think. Thanks again.
I have resisted opening this today and now I know why. Come on Deborah - you can't be serious about this, are you? The age to have kids is whenever you want them. Being wanted and loved is what matters - not how old you are. Sure our bio-clocks are set for younger ages, but several centuries ago the life expectancy was much shorter. I think this point of yours was probably valid back then too. I appreciate the respectful tone of the comments here, and I second teendoc! I don't see you commenting (maybe I missed it) and this reminds me os someone who lobs a grenade into a crowd of people and then hides behind a tree and watches what happens. I'm not sure I understand your motive here; other than to get things going, and I definitely don't understand the Eds highlighting it.
I said to myself that I wasn't coming back to this madness, but here I am before going to bed reading the comments once more. I am so fascinated by dear Holly's comments. I really would like her to tell me who is this person or persons running around telling women that they have all the time in the world to wait and have children? I don't have friends who believe(d) that. No health care provider ever said that. The message about declining fertility was shouted from the TV, magazine articles and the gynecologists office again and again. But maybe your dear friends are a little different from mine. This really wouldn't surprise me.

So anyway, when faced with this problem of aging eggs and no partner in sight, again not because you've been too busy to find one, but because partnering after your 20s becomes increasingly difficult, what do you then do?

a) Find some random joker and get knocked up before your eggs become toast?
b) Visit a sperm bank?
c) Ask wise Holly for advice since she has all the answers?
or d) Follow your chosen path of finding committed partnership before becoming a parent, and if that takes you out of your fecund years, use ART and/or adoption as alternative means of family building.

It goes without saying that I chose option D since I didn't have wise Holly around to tell me to just get knocked up and become another black baby mama just so that I could avoid missing my fecund years.

But Holly, I've gotta tell you. Though you assume that women over 30 have no sense of the decline in fertility as they age (because we are clearly stupid and don't read, talk to our doctors or know anything about our freaking reproductive systems), the truth is that we know.
Gonna have to say you're being a "Debbie Downer" about this one.
Said with humor, of course. I am a very young mother and a very old one. I am also a very young grandmother and have 3 daughters, 2 who were born when I was 24 and 25. My third daughter, the one who pointed out that "my clock was ticking," was born two months before my 40th birthday. She is 20 now. Do the math.

For me, my childlren have kept me young, both physically and mentally. They keep me active. They make me do things and involve me in their lives, appropriately and in a way that has kept me energized, learning new things, relearning old things and ways of being. I am blessed for this interaction and friendship with my adult daughters. Now, there is that first grandbaby, he's 2, I'm a 60, but he thinks I am just a big action firgure, play toy. That's the best thing in the world! He is keeping me young and playful, imaginative, creative.

'I have gotten to learn all over again, what is is to be a baby, toddler, teenager, young adult, mom and gramma. My dedcision to have Julie when I was nearly 40, has been one of the best decisions of my life. I was able to enjoy her, watch her grow, afford the time to be involved with her more than my first two who were in day care from so young, while I raised them, mostly alone for years. The time I had later, as an older mom, was wondeful and I shared this with so many other women who were having babies in their late 30's and early 40's, after pursuing futher education and careers, who could now take quality time for themselves and their desired babies.

Well, babies at any age, when chosen, loved and nurtured, is quite OK in my book.

Will say one thing, though. It is much easier physically, to have babies in your 20ths and bounce back to your thinner shape than in your late 30's or 40's. "Aye, there's the rub!" You either have them young and broke or you have them at a time you can more fully enjoy them and devote more quality time to them. For me, it worked both ways, because I chose to have them when I did.

Wouldn't change a single thing. My later life baby has been such an incredible joy and source of pride and energy to me. She pumped me full of new life, much as I did having her.

One proud, happy, sappy mama!
From what I've observed, younger parents ARE a bit more selfish, but maybe that's not always such a bad thing. I was a late in life baby, fussed over by attentive older parents, and I always envied a bit the rough and tumble of my friends' families, where the kids weren't so front and center. I entered school, and later the workforce, always expecting on some level, I think, to be the center of attention, not a very attractive or useful trait. Just one person's story, of course, but I mention it to illustrate that we all bring our own experiences to this discussion.
PS - Thanks, seriously, for doing this post. Anytime I get to gush over my kids and grand baby is a good day! Thanks for ending mine on a high note!
:)
You can count me among those who disagree as well.

As I had stated before, I'm 37 with an 80 year old mother and 95 year old father. Yes, in many ways things were harder for me as I had parents who were so much older. My childhood, if you could call it that, was certainly different from that of other children as well. So, would I have been better off if I hadn't been born at all? I don't quite think so. I am grateful that my parents had grown up by the time I came around. There is something to be said for maturity and the stability which age provides. Yes, I did have to grow up quickly - as do many children who have young, immature parents. I became a stronger and more caring adult because of this.

Yes, it was also hard for my parents - my father kept working until about 2 weeks prior to his 79th birthday. At the same time, he stayed more active because he had a younger family and was in better shape then than most men I've known who were in their 50s and 60s. As for those older women who choose to adopt, well more power to them. I think most children would take an older, more mature parent over no parent at all or over one who is still young and focused entirely on themselves.

One last thing. I'm not the product of some fertility treatment meant to reverse the clock. My parents had SEX. It often still works that way.
Personally, teendoc, if I came upon 35 and had no partner or prospects, I would go with donor sperm or adopt. Many international programs accept single women. But that's my personal choice and is not to say that that's the choice other women should make. But for me...If I wanted a baby, and my time was coming to a close, I would get it done myself. Of course I understand if others have moral qualms about it. I guess I just think the "Kids must be born to two parents and within the bonds of marriage" thing is a little outdated. Why not get it done yourself? If you have the resource and you have the drive, why wait for someone else to get on board? Someone else may never get on board, and then what? Then you're stuck.
This observation of a cultural trend that's never been seen before has been brewing for me since Wendy Wasserstein died in 2006. She had given birth to her only child, a daughter at age 48 and then died from lymphoma 7 years later at age 55 leaving her 7 year old daughter orphaned. I've mulled on that ever since then and this essay is an outgrowth of that as well as my personal observations in the last 10 years. As I pointed out in my post: when I was growing up women often had their 4th or 5th child in their 40's, but those kids had siblings that helped raise them and parents who were experienced in parenting. And I also pointed out, I know there are exceptions to every rule.

O.S. provides a venue where I can remark on personal experience, cultural trends and others can jump on board to give their opinion as well. As "Laurel, not Lauren" pointed out, I touched a nerve and did raise some good points. And sometimes, it's not all about you.
Interesting post. I won't comment on women having babies in their 40s but men starting new families in their 50s always makes me shake my head in amazement. Part of my response is wondering how dad is going to pay for college for his child at 70+, or wrestle with his teenage son. Will he be alive to play with his grandchildren? Genetic concerns are valid for men as well.

This is not an attempt to criticise or control what others do. It's just an observation that having children late is outside the norm and has different consequences than having them in your 20s and 30s. That does not make it wrong but makes for an interesting conversation.
Enough of the social and new-age gibberish! The probability of Trisomy 21 (Down's Syndrome) increases exponentially as the age of parents increases. Anything over 40 is dangerous territory, first child or otherwise! Best example is wannabe VP Sarah Palin. She should have known the risks before traveling that road.
The career/family juggling act is rarely easily managed so have you considered that a greater and more focused commitment to parenthood may also arrive with age?
Saying "It's not all about you" to people who don't agree with you is NOT being open to discussion.

You presented a bunch of anecdotal evidence for why women in their 40s should not have child. There are not merely a couple of exceptions to your 'rule', as you put it - - there are a number of factual considerations that fly in the face of your premise.

Re: the Down's syndrome issue, sure, research has shown that women over 40 are more likely to have a child with Down's. But as you pointed out, women under 40 have far more, as they produce the most children. If the goal is to prevent Down's children, should we then limit the # of children younger women bear? I While we're at it, older men produce more children with autism spectrum disorders.

Natural life span is something like 72. So most women giving birth to children in their 40s will be alive for the entirety of that child's adolescence and young adulthood, as well as early maturity. But frankly, the fear that a child *may* be orphaned by an older parent - any parent - makes me shrug. Life is precious, and it is not less so just because we can't live its entirety surrounded by people of our preference. That's true no matter how old your parents are.
"And it's the first time in history single, older women have been allowed adopt. "

If I may, I'd like to pile-on.... man, you sound like an old codger!

What do you have against single, older women? Should we perhaps not allow them to use hair color? That's also a recent innovation that is a scourge on our society.
Deborah generally when a post generates this many responses it was written about a provocative subject which is good. However, if most of the responses are negative it is likely a result of the negative tone of the original blog. I understand that seeing so many negative responses might be upsetting but really, "It's not all about you" is not a response that addresses others' concerns. It is unlikely that Diane Keaton is going to respond. Is that who it was about? If it was about older mothers in general then they found you and responded.
Well, you didn't have me much after "hello".

Really? A negative judgement against anyone adopting a child for any reason? These are children otherwise thrown away. There is no room for that kind of attitude. Possibly, you didn't take the time to peruse and edit your own thoughts on that. Best of luck with your own, I guess.
Late to the party, but here's my two cents anyway:

Some of what you say may be true--about a physically tired middle-aged or older person embarking on the teen years of her children--but the point is that (1) it's not true for everyone, (2) it's not really for you to say (not that you can't have an opinion, just that your post rails about it in a way that almost screams for legislation against it or something), and, something no one's mentioned, (3) it's not that common. I mean, come on, talk about a straw man. Like this is some kind of rampant societal problem?

I think older and younger mothers bring different strengths to parenting. Sure, it's clear that an older mother is going to get old and die on her children sooner than their friends with younger mothers (as a rule) will lose their parents, but sheesh, there's all kinds of variables going on here, some of which may benefit the children of older parents. This reminds me of my friend who thinks gay people shouldn't adopt kids because "it's not fair to the kids." Like having to deal with society's crap about homosexuality is the only bummer for kids. Kids whose parents get divorced, fight a lot, cheat, commit crimes, drink, act stupid, lose their jobs, work at McDonald's, abuse them physically or psychologically--probably feel life's a bit unfair too. What the hell is "fair" anyway?

And the biggest irony of all: Would said offspring rather not be born at all? Are you talking about the toll on society or what? Because given the alternative, it's no contest for the child.
I'm pretty much in agreement with the original post, and for a lot of the same reasons - I've seen older mothers, and I've seen younger mothers, and sorry older mothers, but you are not doing as good a job as you claim to be doing. Your kid just reached over the back of my seat and parked his lollipop in my hair. Part of this is that women who have children later are more likely to be educated and wealthy, and in our culture, that means they think saying, "Jeremy, remember our discussion about personal space?" is an adequate response to their child kicking a stranger. I work with a lot of these kids as teenagers, and they have to be taught basic social skills that mom AND DAD didn't bother teaching them.

It's a little mind boggling to me that anyone could argue the point that people who are twenty years older are more likely to die. Especially since many of the people arguing have already watched their own parents die and should therefore have lost the childish fantasy that people live forever.

As for it not being her business, beg to differ. The welfare of children is everybody's business. I realize I'm a little jaded, but working with abused children pretty quickly disabused me of the notion that parents should be the sole arbiters of how much their children suffer. Yes, if your decisions harm your kids, other people are allowed to speak up about it.
27 is a fabulous age to have your babies.

It's also a good age to start a career, live in a city, go to law school and marry your first husband.

It's all about choices.
@allie griffith: I don't know that I have ever responded directly to another commenter on somebody else's blog, but your last comment felt appallingly broad to me. Really? The kids who reach around with lollipops are all children of older mothers? Wow. And the problematic teens you deal with are exclusively or even mostly from older parents? I find this hard to believe. In fact, I was under the impression precisely the opposite was true--that teens having teens contributed to the problems of urban culture. I don't like generalizations in any direction, so I'm not defending that last proposition, other than to throw it out there as accepted wisdom. It seems preposterous that the truth is its reverse. I'd like more information from you on your assumptions.

(I don't disagree with you, btw, that older moms die on their children sooner or that the welfare of children is everyone's business. But your smarmy characterization of older moms as relying on politically correctness to get them through the hard work of parenting strikes me as profoundly unfair and more than a little reactionary. Ftr, I don't think I qualify as an "older mom," although perhaps to you I am. I had my first at 28. Is that acceptable to you?)
I don't mean to be rude, but I find this point of view to be rude--and I wish women would back off of other women and the choices they make--to be a mom or not at what age?...isn't there enough hassle in the world already?
You make great points. Nature (biology) seems to be the real enemy here, not sexism or ageism at all. It does seem unfair to burden a fifteen year old with primary care-giving tasks-to parents before he or she is even out of adolescence. I'm gay with no children,but I witness so many of my friends who have children late in life complain about the toll it takes on their bodies. I am not passing judgment and I have given moral support to my female friends who decided to get pregnant at 44, but there is a burdensome price to be paid, and some of it will fall disproportionanately on the children
I think what you have to realize is this: A lot of women are marrying later and have no control over this. Maybe these women don't/didn't want to be a single parent and they waited. Also, I'd rather them wait until they are a bit more secure in their finances, life, etc., than to have a baby young and struggle or depend on government assistance to help them.
Biologically, it's better to have them early. Financially, it's better to have them late. Energy/stability/relationship factors, up for grabs. It's up to each couple to optimize as they see fit.

I just want to say that from a societal perspective I can't see this trend as such a terrible thing. We need to slow down the rate of population growth anyway. The best and most painless way to do that is to educate women. That way they decide of their own volition to do other things with their lives, and postpone childbearing until they can only squeeze out one or two max. Fine with me. The world doesn't need more humans, nor do I favor draconian legislation like China's in order to achieve ZPG.
I had my first kid at 25 and my second at 30. I'm in my mid 40s, and one is in her first year of college and the other is in full-blown hormonal young womanhood. I'm already exhausted. I cannot imagine doing this 20 years down the road.

More to the point, it's my kids' peers whose parents are older that are the true problems in my life. They're they unsupervised, "I can get away with anything because my parents are clueless" kids that I don't allow mine to hang out with. What good can come of half a generation of 14 year olds raising themselves?

Rated and appreciated. A good, bold, "tell it like it is" post.
I'm a little amused by some of the posts that start with "I don't mind older mothers," or even the title of this post "Stop Giving Birth Over 40," (with the added outright gaffaw of the author saying "It's not all about you). It isn't about the author either, or any of the posters who magnanimously approve or disapprove of the age or cirsumstances by which a couple or person give birth.

That's because it doesn't mean anything. You can have all the opinions you want, but they are not really worth much of anything except food for thought, because this country already had their brush with eugenics 100 years ago when the mentally disabled, minorities, and the poor were sterilized, sometimes without their knowledge. This bulls**t persisted well into the 1940's until it was put to rest forever (at least I hope so.)

So here we are in 2009, and people have the freedom to have a child whenever or however or under whatever cirsumstances they want. The only restrictions are those imposed by adoption agencies, and the clinics that perform in vitro or insemination.

So opine away. In the long run, it isn't really going to amount to much.

I think someone should post something about how most people aren't performing sex the right way. THAT should generate a lot of posts too, and would pack just as much hubris.
____________
I EDITOR’S PICK



Great job O! You have “struck through” her prima donna bubble. Can you believe she actually wrote the following lines?


“You are also burdening your offspring with your elderly self. While they may be going to college, they are on high alert as you slowly start to stroke out, get forgetful, or succumb to cancer.”

I am 59 and have a 17 year old going to college in the fall (okay, we’ve got to get that high school thing wrapped up still). Had I known I am going to “stroke out, get forgetful, or succumb to cancer” I would never have bought those damn sea monkeys at the flea market.
OOPS! wrong post!! Belongs on Odetteroulette. sorry.
My girlfriend (40 next month) has been pressing me (49 in March) to have a baby with her. I've been throwing all the logic at her, from our ages to the fact that neither of us has a pot to piss in, and what if we really are headed for a depression. But she comes from a loving family, and wants to create a family of her own with me, who she loves. Doing math, whether crunching chronological ages or worrying about finances, is not gaining me any headway in this discussion. Logic will never win when it comes to matters of the heart, and choosing to have a child is a matter of the heart...

BTW, I will say that physically I'm in a lot better shape than many of the 30ish dads I see running around town. And being around a child you love should give you some pep. There is no reason not to enjoy a robust physical existence well into your seventies and beyond, barring accident or genetic diseases.
My parents, having seen their last child graduate from college, retired and spent their late 60s trekking in the Hiimalayas, Dodging Antarctic iceberg in rubber Zodiacs. They did the Silk Road through China and Pakistan and Climbed the Andes to see Machu Pichu. Yes, they slowed down in their late 70s, but they had lots of energy in their 60s.

The generation thing isn't big. Why should another 10 years make a difference. By that logic, teen parents, close in age to their kids are the best bet.

The reason why 40+ women shouldn't have kids is the risk of chromosomal abnormalities, which hits 10% in the late 40s. But, not very many women in the their late 40s are fertile, so nature has that sorted.
Deborah,

With all due respect, you honestly think your points are revelations to anyone over 40 wanting to have kids? My wife and I are going through this now, and it is a process fraught with thought and soul-searching, not to mention tedium, physical pain and a lot of anxiety. We agreed that in our case, the time for children is definitely now; neither of us was ready for kids in our previous relationships. It's the most supremely conscious decision we've ever made.
Er, to clarify: I'm the one who's over 40. Debbie is not quite 40 yet.
What a screwed up ridiculous, do it my way or it's the highway for you thing to write. You display the limits of your imagination, Kids need loving parents and used to be brought up in multigenerational families where they had nearly as much contact with grandparents as parents. Things change. There is no guarantee that young parents will live through parenting their children. My first husband died at 38.

The only thing that really matters is good parenting, not the age of the parent. Period.
Silly argument. I was a much better mother to the babies I had in my forties than to the babies I had in my twenties. Patience, wisdom, and experience are more important than physical energy and agility.
Right on! Thanks for writing this. I know so many happy Moms who had kids in their 20's and are now enjoying life in their 40's while their kids are off to school and lives of their own. And how selfish is the comment "you should have kids when the time is right for you"? What about your own childern, do they not deserve the most energitic healthy parents and grandparents? Not to mention problems with AMA (Advanced Maternal Age) mothers and problems with older mens sperm.
I don't want to come across as mean Deb, but YOU are and idiot. It is not the age of the parent that matters, it's the quality of care. I had 2 kids in my 20's and had to work full time while they went to daycare. I am now in my 40's, married the right man and have a 16 month old who has only seen a babysitter a couple of times. Having another child later in life has been the most rewarding experience ever, and guess what? We are going to have more, if not our own then we will adopt. Stability and love are all that matters. in addition, when I was a child and teenager, had a very close relationship with my grandmother, of course there were no computers back then.
I had my kids at 24, 27, and 30. I have to say that I'm glad not be pregnant now, at 39. But I will also say that I am infinitely more patient now, and that our family is more financially stable. My husband and I have more work flexibility, and we have more friends with children who could offer us advice and support. There is a strong correlation between parental education adn income and children's "success"--and older parents are more likely to have more education and money. Plus older mothers are more likely to breastfeed, an important factor in children's health outcomes. There are disadvantages to older childbearing, but there are also significant advantages, none of which the original post takes seriously.
"I think the feminist movement does women a disservice to push the idea that women must either choose to be successful in their careers or having children before 35."--hollycomesalive

I'd like to point out that radical feminists are more likely to eschew having babies at all rather than simply putting them off.

Because in this thread, assigning roles to different groups of people is paramount.
There is no rule. One person with a couple of friends knows nothing.

I am an older parent and many of my friends are older parents. It is great. I have a lot more money than I did in my 20's. I am a lot smarter. My husband and I get along great and agree on the method of raising our child. And I find it easy to ignore parental trends. I just don't feel I need to buy into what the latest, greatest motherhood thing is.

I never had any energy - even in my 20's so I never knew what it felt like to have a lot. But having my child was like being in love - I got a lot of energy for free - nature just provided.

I only have one child. It just isn't that hard.

My mother had six and the youngest had special needs. Talk about hard. That was hard.

Really ignore all these mothers thinking they know best for the whole world. I read a lot of articles like this in the Atlantic Monthly and the New Yorker. They irritate me.

Make your own decisions.
You have a right to your argument. But it's your tone that is so offensive to those who are older. You make older people sound doddering and awful --in their 50s and 6os. That is a stereotype that I see over and over again from younger people. That is what is pissing people off, I do think. That's a holdover attitude from another century.

Had my sons in my early 20s. I tried my best, but hardly knew what I was doing. And biggest point of all, life doesn't work according to rules. Things happen. Choices are sometimes made that you wouldn't make if all were perfect.

You sound smug. That is a good thing about becoming older-- you realize that rules for things like mothering don't work. You get less smug. Each situation is different.
Poor reasoning, poorly presented. Stories of successful older parents "tend to be anecdotal"? Maybe so, but so are stories of decrepit 60-year-olds who don't know how to send e-mail and have no idea that drugs are easily obtainable. Today's 50 to 60-year-olds grew up in the '60s and '70s. Remember what those decades were like?

Disclosure: I'm the 45-year- old father of a 16-month-old son. Do I have a bit less energy for diaper-changing, feeding, late-night wakeups , and general damage control? Possibly. But I'm unquestionably a far better parent than I would have been in my 20s or even 30s.
Thought provoking post, but it sure does show a lack of compassion for those who would like to parent, but who were unable for various reasons to parent earlier in their lives. I had my first son at 31 and began trying to have a second child at age 34, but five miscarriages and two failed adoptions kept me from becoming a mother again until three weeks ago, just shy of age 42.
I've been teaching preschool in the meantime, and generally speaking , the older parents seem far more responsible and responsive to their children's needs, then the younger ones, many of whom are still living in their own parent's houses and getting help from the children's grandparents. BTW, my children's grandparents are all alive and well and have great relationships with my kids. I was the youngest child of a youngest child (born when she was 32), so didn't know my own maternal grandmother--back then people didn't live as long as they do today.
When I married my husband we were both 40. Neither one of us had married before or had produced a child outside of marriage. When well meaning family and friends would ask us if we wanted children my automatic response was "why, are you giving one away?" If the question was pressed I would do a similar version of your child rearing math. Usually by the time I got to how old we would be when it came time to fund college the discussion was dropped. We are both from large and loving families but didn't feel the urge to procreate. I work in a helping profession so get my yayas for nurturing at work or going crazy in love over my niece and nephew. My husband is a jazz musician who nutures me -along with a fledging career.
You are absolutely correct in your last paragraph re: social experimentation. We really don't know the social impact of the loss of the grandparent role in child rearing. This issue could open up a plethora of other robust conversations on the impact of women chosing her child's father out of a sperm bank book or a man hiring a surrogate.
I decided to write my own post on the subject:

http://open.salon.com/content.php?cid=92442
Pat davis: The term "Ladies" bothers you? Jeez, would you rather the author say "Listen bitches . . . " Enough with the psuedo feminist anger.


Anyhoo, regarding "older mamas", I have mixed feelings. On one hand, its not my place to judge, on the other hand I think our biology is the way it is for a reason. I'm NOT saying women over 35 SHOULDN'T have kids, I'm saying that people need to seriously consider the benefits/risks of having little ones past a certain age.

Also, I think that some have forgotten that childern do not carry the "social weight" that they used to . . . familes no longer "need" 5, 6, 7 + kids, childbearing is not a "expected lot" for women and we now have options to control conception and avoid being pupped altogether. (Amen!)

There is no "perfect" age to have kids . . . YES there are "stupid" ages to have kids (like 14 or 95)

I also wonder if "delayed motherhood" would be as common as it is, if medical technology (clomid, IVF, egg donation etc) were not available?
Wow, this post certainly generated a lot of discourse, which is good, I suppose. I'm in agreement with the dissenters, unfortunately. I found your piece to be a bit sexist and ageist, frankly.

I'm MUCH more concerned about all-too-young women having babies and not knowing what the hell they are doing.

I would say this: I think too many people (such as the famous people you mentioned) are having babies for strange, ego-based reasons - filling some void rather than genuinely WANTING a child. I see it among friends as well: it's like they are furiously racing to some natal finish line. Disturbing. Babies have become status symbols.

Anyway, I appreciate you putting your opinion out there nonetheless. I would agree that later-in-life babies have an extra burden as far as tending to their parents - something the parents don't tend to factor in to the equation.
"These stories tend to be anecdotal."

OK, the stories of successful older parents are "anecdotal", but the stories of your failed friends are somehow not anecdotal?

People are living longer lives with higher education and access to more knowledge than ever before. I believe that this equips women to be wonderful parents at almost any age.

Back in the 50's 60 was old, but in the millennium, 50 is the new 30. You actually provided some good empirical evidence of this, citing older moms such as Madonna, Geena Davis, and Holly Hunter.

Not only is this post an ageism and sexism fail (as Gregor pointed out), but also a logic fail.
The negative stories you mention. . . they make the case.
But the stories where it works are just "anecdotal?" Say what?
All you've got is anecdotes and your own opinions-- that, for example, we need to know and love the same TV shows as our children. Well now, thanks to the miracle of dvd--guess what? We can all watch *MASH* together!

Put us down as late blooming parents who are having a blast! Life is just not something you do "by the book." Love has no shelf life, and there are way too many other variables in parenting than to make too much out of this one.

Did we not just elect a brilliant, well-adjusted president-- raised by his grandparents?!
Neilpaul: How do you get around to work and such? I'm assuming you bike or take a bus since you look pretty young and are therefore in the very highest risk group for dying in a car accident.
My current husband ran marathons and competed in triathlons well into his fifties and has many friends who were running marathons after age 70. Wellness is an intentional condition.
Women can be so judgmental of other women's choices and lives. Men find lots of creative ways to be a pain in the ass, but I'm grateful that on this level, we tend to treat each other with benign neglect. Sometimes, there's lots to be said for benign neglect.
"I don't think history will judge this social experimentation kindly."

And I don't think many mothers are going to judge this article kindly. You bring up many interesting points, but your arguments are all based on a single false premise: you've confused economic necessity with social experimentation.

I'm 50 and was born when my mother was 25. This happened not because it was biologically ideal, but because it was economically possible. My father was able not only to support but actually participate in a middle-class family of four while working reasonable hours. You seem blissfully unaware that such a family is no longer remotely possible for most Americans.

Women are having children later in life not due to some whimsical "social experimentation" (gaaah - that's offensive), but because it's better to have an 18 year old whose parents are undergoing simultaneous hip replacements than a 3 year old whose mommy and daddy are on separate business trips.

In the the world in which most of us live, "have babies early" smacks of "let them eat cake."
Of course it's no one else's business, in terms of each woman's right to control her own body and reproduction. But that doesn't mean it's wrong to discuss, in a general way, when is the ideal age - if there is such a thing - to have children. It's an interesting question.

As a young woman, I decided the ideal age was 28. And I was fortunate to find and marry a man who was amenable to having a child around that time, and we were so fortunate to actually accomplish it! We went on to have two more, at age 30 and 33.

In my mind, this WAS the ideal. I was old enough to have had time to sow my wild oats, to have had a significant period of adult freedom to look back on when up to my elbows in diapers, but not such a long time that I was set in my selfish, carefree ways.

It is, of course, obvious, that 28 is not the perfect age for everyone to have a child. It does seem also, however, obvious, that 48 or 50 is pushing it. I have several friends who have had kids in their later forties, and who seem to have had a pretty hard time of it, for various reasons.

So, 16 or 17 or 18 seems pretty young, anything over mid-forties seems a little old, I'm sorry, but it does. Not to say it's not your RIGHT, or you won't be able to do a good job . . . but it seems that it will doubtless be very difficult.

Not to say it's not difficult for all parents. Of course it is.

So, is there an ideal age? I still think it's 28, but maybe that's just because it worked out so well for us. But then again, we were lucky.
You created quite an interesting dialogue with this piece! Isn't that part of what writing is about?

I lost my dad at age 54--my mom was 39 when I was born. Ah well, my parents were soooooo disfunctional, it wouldn't have mattered at what age I was conceived!
I agree with you O.C.L.. I admit there is some overkill in the numbers of kids over 40's adopt, but for women who have had no children and want one, I say rock on!
@J K Brady More than 100,000 children in the United States are in foster care waiting for permanent families. I'm sure they'd love a 40-something Mom or a 50-something or even a 60-something Mom.

Well, if we don't know anything else from your rant, you have made crystal clear how important you think fathers are.
A provocative piece, and well written. Some reasons I imagine women opt for children at an older age:

To have the opportunity to develop the wealth to support their children and themselves beforehand.

To enjoy youth without the burden of parenthood.

The fact that they are living longer, healthier lives and to create scenarios in which their maturity is fuller and more active.

As M. Chariot is bitter and childless, this is all speculation, of course.
I just came across this post and although I wished I had my daughter in my twenties , I do not reget that I had her at 32.
In my twenties I got to be selfish and be concern with my career, traveled all over the world and took my time meeting the right man. I am now happily married for 20 years and my daughter will be going to college this fall. I had her at 32 and enjoyed being a Mom because I was ready and mature at that time. Now she and I have a great relationship due to the fact that I had a good career, good marriage and did all the things I wanted to do before I had her.
I think you should have children when you are ready no matter what age.
"A Spanish woman who became the world's oldest new mother when she gave birth in 2006 to twin boys at the age of 66 has died, her family has said.

The brother of Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara told the paper Diario de Cadiz she passed away on Saturday, aged 69."

7/15/09.
Funny... I was legally a grandparent almost 3 years before I had my first biological child. Furthermore, I have 8 grandchildren who are older than my youngest child (5 of whom are younger than my youngest biological child).

Holly... My husband and I have a total of 15 children between "yours, mine and ours." Of those 15, 7 were adopted out of foster care, 2 were adopted privately and 3 were adopted following the deaths of their parents (my brother and sister-in-law).
I do have to disagree with this disgustingly biased post. I'm the product of a 16 year old single mother. I married a man who's mother was 42 when she had him.

There is nothing worse or more humiliating than being 16 years old picking up a drunk single mom who is 32 from a bar where she was trying to pick up her next "husband", because she's broke and desperately unaware of how to find an actual job for herself. This was due to leaving school early to raise babies when she was little more than a baby herself.

It was VERY strange for me at my own wedding for my 44 year old mother to meet my 71 year old mother in law. Especially when my grandmother was younger than my mother in law.

However, what I learned is that my immature, uneducated mother never actually grew or progressed emotionally much past where she was when she had me at the age of 16. My grandmother was prematurely aged past her 72 years and looked and acted 99.

My mother in law was educated (she's a surgeon), understanding, loving, non-judgmental, young, vibrant, alive, intelligent, traveled the world annually back to her home country, snow-skis with her kids, water skis better than I do. There is no possible way anyone would credit her for her real age - currently 81 (but looks and acts in her early 60s due to her young family).

Now here I am at 41, with an extremely successful global exporting business, a successful career, a great education, a long-standing, loving marriage, a gorgeous house with no mortgage, and more money than I know what to do with.

And I'm pregnant for the FIRST time. I'm 31 weeks to be precise.

My business is at the point where I will NEVER have to work again the rest of my life. This means I have the time to afford to comfortably spend all of it with my child - nurturing, loving, teaching, playing and watching. No day-care facilities for my baby. No strangers raising my child while I struggle to make rent-money at minimum wage.

I have the money to pay for anything we ever require - that includes freedom of time together. I couldn't have done this in my 20s. Amneocentesis shows no abnormalities - healthy, happy baby.

So, I challenge you to show me where an unworldly, financially unstable, emotionally immature 20-something mother can outdo this kind of full-time care, attention, affection and financial stability for a growing child from a mature parent with a more realistic, worldly viewpoint.

You can't do that. This post is a disgrace. I'm disgusted that this is an "editor's pick".
This article made me laugh, you sound so petty, immature and judgmental. Like your choices are the only right ones to make. Who are you to say what a kid will think or feel when their parent is older as they grow-up? Who are you to say a woman past X years old should just close-up shop regardless of her personal situation? 20's?? So if she doesn't find a husband by 29, then she should just give up on being a Mom. I am so grateful my parents had me in their 30's because they were mature, settled, and financially stable.

My great-aunt who grew up in the 30's had 2 kids in her early 30's. Then had 2 more, naturally, at 48 and 49. Most of my female relatives dating back to great-grandmother and great-great-cousins had kids in their 30's because they **couldn't** get pregnant in their 20's. Back then, they were considered ancient. Some of their friends were already grandmas. So this is absolutely not just a sign of the times. It might not happen in such great quantities with modern medicine, but it would STILL happen.

But I guess if you're not fertile or aren't financially stable or haven't met a partner yet then you should just give up on motherhood because having kids in your 30's and 40's is selfish.

You're a piece of work. I hope your kids don't go through the heartbreak of infertility and consequently have kids later in life.
what? I just joined open salon and happened to chance on this post. it is pretty ridiculous I have to say. to be honest, there is an age beyond which its probably too old to have kids. I agree over 50 is pushing it though this age might keep changing. and you can definitely be too young to have kids. 15? 18 even? please. But there is a wide range in between when, really, it's perfectly okay. so many women I know have conceived naturally in their early forties, and you know why? Because that's perfectly within the bounds of nature. you can be a smart, cool and super-energetic older parent. you can be a clueless twenty year old who's depressed, directionless, and none too smart. At 40 what you may or may not lose in energy (and if you're a healthy 40 year old you're not necessarily so low in energy) you more than make up for in life experience. I had my first baby at 37--and while it was tough I couldn't imagine having a baby in my twenties because I really had no desire to then. But that was just me. But forget about me--you need to watch my 68 year old mom playing and bonding with her grandchild to quickly lose the notion that all 68 year olds are at death's door. The thing about sweeping generalizations is--they end up usually making no sense at all.
Wow... Just wow! Really? I could not agree with any opinion you have offered here as you have offered them, shocking, absolutely archaic in thought and expression.
I am always the late bloomer: Definitely years late on this one but I felt the need to post a comment after reading the original article and all the comments.

Many of us are the first out of our generations in the history of man to have such an extended post adolescence period. For some one such as myself, this has been detrimental to my evolution as an individual. It took almost 20 years of therapy to heal myself from my disruptive childhood.

This is my story and only my story. I can't speak for anyone else except for myself.

My parents were both beautiful loving people. They were young parents (early 20s). My mother was prepared to be a parent but my father was not. Therefore, there was an abundance of emotional and psychological imbalance between them. Their relationship was not healthy which in turn had a powerful impact upon myself and my sisters. To this day, my older sister who is now in her mid 40s is still psychologically scarred and is struggling.

I have wanted to have a baby since my teen years. I yearned to have a baby and be a mother. But sometimes when you are busy making plans, life happens! Having to witness such an abusive relationship between my parents and having no guides or words of wisdom to go out into the world to attract the right man, I attracted all the wrong men. If you do not learn about sexuality from people who love you and are your elders, you learn it on the streets from people who do not give a damn about you. I was in a multitude of relationships with men that I thought I was in love with but in turn I allowed these men to violate me.

Once I hit my mid twenties and had finally started on a road of healing, I realized that it was going to be a very long time before I got myself into a good place to be a great parent. I started to intuitively feel that I was going to be a parent later in life. I started to preserve my body by changing my diet.

I met a man at 31 who I thought would be the love of my life. I was going to marry this man and finally have children. I also stepped up healing myself mind body and soul. The relationship eventually fell apart. I was so disappointed. It was as if we were growing apart as I dived deeper into healing myself.

Mid to late thirties, I dated three men who of course I thought finally, the one. Not so fast. I was still attracting the wrong men. It takes a long time to change psychological patterns that were set in place in your childhood.

I am now in my mid forties and still long to give birth to a child. This fall, I will start the search to become a single parent. I am extremely healthy. I preserved my body well. I am so proud of myself for the care I put into healing me. People are shocked when I tell them my age.

I look back now and am so grateful that I did not have children when I was younger. I would have been the worst parent. I would not have be able to give them what they needed. I would have continued a cycle of psychological imbalance in my family. I am also grateful that I am not connected to any of the men that I was previously involved with. Thank God for that!

I would like to thank the author of this piece for provoking such a powerful response in people. We all have our own inner voices that guide us and tell us what is right or wrong for our own lives. Some of us feed into other's opinions strongly and allow those opinions to control them. Then there are others who hear out someone's opinion and find that they strongly disagree and that propels then further into our own individual direction.

It is great to have a platform in which to share your opinion. However, when that opinion turns into dictating to others of how to live their lives that is extremely wrong. Who are you to feel that your opinion should dictate to the billions of us that live on this planet. Why do you think Hitler was detested so strongly. For every person on this earth their is a different opinion. I can understand your point of view but I don't have to accept it.
It is important to keep in mind that we can all agree to disagree and go on our own merry ways.

And the comments in regards to age. They are so ignorant, it's so hard to comprehend them. As there is racism, there is ageism. This country is obsessed with youth & beauty: HOLLYWOODISM! It's so superficial and gross. And from this has grow the most shallow and destructive mindset in our society.

And the other ignorance of this piece is the absence of the male anatomy. But maybe the author only meant to focus on the "Ladies".

To Holly the 24 year old who is probably 26 by now. Oh youth! How I remember that I thought I knew everything back then. I had all the answers in life. Enjoy living in that bubble because soon it will burst. BTW: Do you live with your parents? Who is with your children when you are tending to school and work? And where is the father of your children?

Thank you to all the strong kickass women who posted on here. ROCK ON!!! And empower your children with the fact that they have a choice that will work for them as well based on their own individual lives. When someone tells then can't that is the green light to turn that into CAN!

Oh and The Mighty FEMALE does generate new eggs throughout her adult life:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120726180259.htm
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/02/120229-women-health-ovaries-eggs-reproduction-science/