No, It’s Not Selfish to Have a Baby Later In Life
Here’s a secret. I got nostalgic yesterday. I already have a three-year-old boy and a nine-month-old baby, but yesterday I was folding the clothes the baby had grown out of, and I just thought, “Oh, if we had another I could pass these clothes on.” However, clothes recycling is not a good enough reason to reproduce, so I decided against having another baby.
And it’s not because I’m over the hill at 42.
Brigitte Nielson — actress, model, and Sylvester Stallone’s ex — recently announced her pregnancy on Instagram. Nielson looks great in the pictures — serene, happy, healthy, and cradling her baby bump. Hashtags like “#happiness” and “#positivevibes” accompany the photos. However, because Brigitte Nielson is 54, she is being criticized in the Instagram comments.
While many of Nielson’s 103,000 followers are wishing her the best and even saying that this news provides some hope for women who are over 40 and trying for babies, many others are calling her cruel and selfish, saying that it’ll be unfair on her kids as she “won’t be there for them for long.”
I heard all of these comments, too — and I had my first son at the relatively tender age of 39. I feel for Nielson, because it is disheartening to be pregnant and vulnerable, with people telling you you should have “sorted out your life sooner and had your baby when you were younger” and that your baby will grow up enormously disadvantaged as a result of your “waiting” (which is what people told me). Personally, I didn’t “wait” to have a baby. I didn’t want children, and then I changed my mind in my 30s. Lucky for me, everything was in working order, so I became pregnant.
An ‘Unreasonably Narrow’ Time to Be Moms
But none of these comments will be news to anyone who’s given birth a bit later than most people deem “normal” — whether they were too young or too old. There seems to be an unreasonably narrow band of time where it’s acceptable for you to have a child, and this is generally your mid 20s to early 30s. Otherwise you’re considered to have done it too early “while you’re a baby yourself,” or you’ve left it too late, and will miss most of the key moments in your child’s life because you’ll be doddering about with a walking cane and buying Werther’s Originals hard candies and cat food during your weekly grocery haul.
I don’t believe it’s “selfish” to have children later in life. Some people emerge into the world full of wisdom, patience, and good humor — all the things you need to be a parent. But my youth was spent adventuring, worrying, and figuring out how the world works. We all arrive at a point in life where we feel okay with ourselves and in tune with the world around us at different times. I arrived at mine in my late 30s and early 40s — if anything, I think it’d have been selfish to have children any earlier.
And as for whether, by dint of being a bit older, we’re likely to pass before our kids are fully grown, I’m not sure that carries any weight. I am one of a long line of women who had children a bit later in life, for a variety of reasons: biology, wanting to complete studies or further their careers or, as is in my case, plain undecidedness. And none of us have suffered as a result. My mother is still knocking about, just as my grandmother did well into her 90s. My father, however, died young, when I was only 10 years old. Yet he still managed to have a very positive impact on my life. And I very much doubt these older-mom naysayers would advise young parents against conceiving on the off-chance that this happens to them.
Speaking of fathers, men don’t seem to attract the same level of criticism if they have children late. Mick Jagger, for instance, welcomed his eighth (eighth!) child in 2016, when he was 72, and compared to the comments on Brigitte Nielson’s Instagram, his media coverage was a clap on the back.
I think Nielson is going to be great mom. For a start, she has already raised four boys who are mostly grown and leading successful lives. Secondly, she is a great example of the vital, ageless ageing generation we’re seeing more and more of.
I, however, won’t be having that third baby. Not because I’m old, but because I’m tired. In fact, I am so confident that she’ll be a great mom that I’m officially inviting her over to take care of my kids and show me how it’s done.
This post was written by Robyn Wilder. For more, check out our sister site Grazia.
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