Another day, another brief trawl through the news; another headline flashing a great big red warning light decrying the trend for women (note I said “women” and not “people” here, as if women alone are responsible for furthering the next generation of humans) to have children later, and admonishing us all for being hard-headed careerists/wanting an education/desperate harridans unable to keep a man, lest we forget that our fertility starts dropping off the proverbial cliff when we hit our thirties and we miss our chance at motherhood forever, as surely will be our just deserts for failing to get hitched to the first man who crossed our paths and spend the rest of our reproductive lives barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.
As, I hope, a fairly rational person, I am not going to dispute the science that clearly women’s fertility does not last forever. And in a small way I owe my own chance at motherhood to such headlines. Had I not been acutely aware of my own fading fertility, I would not have taken matters into my own hands and had a baby on my own, for what is that if not grabbing destiny by the horns and owning the situation?
I am not advocating that we all start waiting until our forties to start trying for a baby-as a single mother by choice, I know many women in a similar situation who did, who kept waiting until the window was closing, and although many were still eventually successful (albeit some with donor eggs), their road to parenthood was, in all cases, significantly more difficult than mine. However I am suggesting that we calm down a little; that we allow women (and men), armed with the relevant knowledge, to make their own choices about what is right for them. Because really, what age is the right age?
Kirstie Allsopp caused a bit of a palaver a while back when she suggested-annoyingly, in my opinion-that her advice to the hypothetical daughter she never had would be to find a nice man-by skipping university, if necessary-and settle down early, making sure to pop out a baby by 27. I’m not sure why she felt that this advice was so crucial, given that she mentioned nothing of any corresponding advice she was intending to give her actual, non-hypothetical, real-life sons, but what it did raise was the question of what age is the “right” age to have a baby.
It seems that the accepted wisdom is that it cannot be before 25, or you run the risk of looking like a teenage parent (heaven forbid!), failing to reach your potential and getting bogged down with commitment all too young, but if you wait until 35 you are a geriatric primagravida crippling the NHS with your elderly pregnancy woes and running the risk of not having a baby at all.
So that leaves an acceptable window of ten years.
Ten years in which you have to find a man and settle down, having done precisely the right amount of travelling and partying beforehand-enough to get it all out of your system, but not enough to still be having an extended adolescence into your thirties. Ten years in which you need to form a functional relationship with said man, staying together long enough that no one thinks it’s a shotgun wedding, but not so long that people start to call you “Waity Katie,” or other such derogatory terms intended to make you look like a desperate and eternally heartbroken serial monogamist in the style that the media likes to paint women such as the fabulous Jennifer Aniston, a.k.a “Poor Jen.”
If I could have done everything by the book, keeping to the timeline I had in my head, then I, like Kirstie Allsopp’s hypothetical daughter, would have met that love of my life by 27, married at 28 and then proceeded to pop out three kids in quick succession.
However, life does not always respect one’s own personal timeline.
I know many women who had babies in their teens, and are great mothers. I also know plenty who waited until their forties, and are equally great, and everything in between.
I don’t know any bad mothers.
So is there a right age? Well yes, there is. The age that is right for you is the right one. That is all.
If you think my blog is in any way, shape or form vaguely decent, please consider voting for me in the Best Writer or Comic Writer category in the Mumsnet Blog Awards. Well, a girl’s got to ask.