Delaying Motherhood: Circumstance or Choice?

Women choosing later life motherhood are hardly big news anymore. Today, the fastest growing population of new mothers is women over 40.

It’s also hard to miss the fact that this trend has stirred up controversy.

Critics of older mothers assert that having a child past the age of 40 is self-a self- centered act. This assumes that women who delay motherhood make a conscious choice. But I believe the issue is more complex.



Fantasy Collides With Reality

As a child of the sixties and seventies, the message drummed into my own wee little head was that I could be “anything” when I grew up. “Follow your dreams”, they said. Don’t depend on a man for happiness or security. Be a career woman and everything else will fall into place.

The trouble is, things don’t always go according to plan. Eventually the myth of superwoman collides with real life. We wake up and find ourselves approaching 30 –with career firmly in place and no prospect of marriage in sight.

Where Is He?

Prolonged education also molds our reality. College campuses are ripe with eligible partners, always within arm’s reach. We’re lulled into thinking that finding a match will always be this easy.

My mother did warn me: “You’d better find someone before you graduate. It won’t be so easy once you’re out of school”. But I shrugged off her advice. After all, what did she know about dating? Mom was married at 19, a new mother by 22.

Unhappily married, I might add. (Yet another argument for waiting).

But mom was right: life beyond the ivory tower was a whole new ball game. A girl had to go “looking” for Mr. Right. The pressure was on, and the male gender could smell desperation from a mile away.

Time after time, I hear older moms recount their struggles with finding a suitable partner. While some decide to go ahead and become single moms, most prefer to be married (or at least partnered) first.

Even when they do find a partner, many women remain focused on career until they feel established and financially secure — two more factors later moms may consider essential for good parenting.


Maybe I Don’t Want Kids!

Delaying motherhood in favor of career is a common scenario; less common is the attitude that children might not be such a good idea in the first place. Not now, not later, possibly not ever.

Reasons for foregoing parenthood vary. Some cite economic issues, while others simply favor a child-free lifestyle. In my case leaving home at age 16 brought my childhood to an abrupt end. Delaying adult responsibilities meant I could “play” a little longer. Besides I wasn’t so sure I’d make good parenting material.

Ultimately. I didn’t choose parenthood. It chose ME with a surprise pregnancy at 45. Had I not become pregnant I would never have known for sure whether motherhood was the right choice. Sure, I’d had my yearnings but never the kind of certainty other women had. Of course, I fell in love with my baby boy soon after he arrived. (More accurately, soon after post partum depression ended). Then came regrets that I hadn’t started sooner. Adam was, literally my last “good egg” and hot flashes came fast and furious within a year of his birth.

I’m sure I’m not alone. I know there are other women who have a change of heart later in life and even more who wish they hadn’t waited.

And of course there are “later moms” who find themselves pregnant long after they were told it would be next to impossible to conceive. Do we make the “selfish” choice of keeping the baby or do we think about “what’s best for the child” and terminate our pregnancy?

So are the majority of older moms selfish women who put their own needs ahead of the childs? Admittedly some are. But the vast majority don’t grow up thinking, “hey, wouldn’t it be funny if I put off having kids then pop one out at the last minute?” We arrive at later motherhood through a series of choices and circumstances. Like I said,  life doesn’t always turn out like you planned. And even the best plans…well, you get the picture.

4 Responses to Delaying Motherhood: Circumstance or Choice?

  1. Stacy Wagner October 25, 2012 at 5:15 am #

    Here I sit today in front of my computer reading whatever I can find on being pregnant in my forties (44). I am currently eight months happily pregnant, naturally. A comment from a Grandmother in a painting class today left me questioning my decision again. As I have entered the forty something mother to be category every day in the real world as I do my normal routine, I can’t help but think “Am I being judged for being the age I am and pregnant?” Most of the time however I feel great, just the usual symptoms of pregnancy that most women experience, sore boobs, sore back, emotions that catapult me into extreme sadness to elated joy, etc. I dwell often on the thoughts of aging and do the math daily on our sons age and his mothers age, and will I be able to handle it as I head rapidly towards fifty. Your website was a great find as there are so many opinions on pregnancy in your forties. I was never with who I thought would be a worthy father until this point in my life. My husband and I spent the past year trying to become pregnant. Once we relaxed and let nature take it’s course here we are today one month away from delivering a healthy baby boy. I have never been one to follow a traditional course in life and I guess this is another decision that leaves me on a different road. I am glad to have found this website, for today I doubted by decision about later childbirth. Now this evening after combing the internet I can feel more confident and can get on with the last minute details of preparing for the new life entering our home November 29th. Thank you…

    • Dr. Carolyn Schweitzer October 25, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

      Welcome Stacy, I’m so glad you found me!

      I look forward to hearing more about your little guy once he arrives. And I’m here to answer any questions and offer support. Maybe when you’re ready, you can share your story in our “Featured Moms” section. Your success in conceiving at 44 offers hope to other women trying to get pregnant in their forties.

      And don’t worry, I still “do the math” all the time. But like most older moms I work hard at staying fit and healthy. You conceived naturally and are having a routine pregnancy, so my guess is that you’re a “young” 44. Pay no attention to Grandma.

      Best Wishes,

      Carolyn

  2. Angel LaLiberte October 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    HI Dr Carolyn:
    I can so completely identify with the sentiments of your post.
    Women are receiving such mixed messages about delaying pregnancy until later, often until after 40.
    Any woman who did not grasp the opportunity to become educated and have a career in the 70′s and 80′s was frowned upon. Now, we’re frowned upon for “selfishly” choosing to delay motherhood. Like the old M. Munroe film: “Something’s got to give”.
    I admire you for joining in with the growing number of women who feel compelled to educate and advocate for the rising population of women having children later.
    I hope you don’t mind me mentioning that http://www.mommyinthemiddle.com blogs will soon also be featured in the new http://www.AChildAfter40.com free online mag launching later in November! :) We are so delighted to have you on board!
    Keep up the great blog! Looking forward to working together to spread the word?

  3. Auth November 19, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    Well if I could go back I would tell myself that it’s ok to leave the past beinhd because moving forward will be so much better!! It all works out in the end and if people were meant to be in my life they will be.That what I thought was love is nothing like the love I will have for my child/children. It’s ok to think that I will do the absolute best job I can but it’s also ok if I don’t I’m not perfect.What a great post!! Thanks