Thursday, November 08, 2007


I just don't get where the UK is going... I know this probably sounds a bit contradictory, given I am just a few weeks short of 40 myself, and am 8 months pregnant, but I think that taking that as what we should all be striving for is quite crazy. I defintely felt in my 20s in the UK that it was wholly unacceptable for someone with a university education to strive to become a mother before 30 at the very earliest. At 30 you were considered an overly maternal weirdo but it was just about ok, though the subtext was always that you should wait till 35 to 40 to start a family.
This is madness.
I had Marcel at 29, and Lots just 4 weeks before I turned 32. I felt it was just about right. I had had time for uni, time to backpack round Europe till my heart was content, time to work a bit and buy my first flat and I was young enough to cope with the sleepless nights, working full time for years on end on broken sleep.
I had Léon just before I turned 38. The pregnancy was harder. My hips hurt more, I was tireder, everything just a little slower. This time round the same is true. I lie awake in pain from my hips night after night and feel exhausted trying to work a 21 hour week.
What I am trying to say is that I have tried pregnancy at 30 and at 40 and your body is definitely better suited to it at 30. You conceive quicker too. You have fewer complications, fewer miscarriages. You give birth to babies who in general stand a much better chance of still having grandparents into their young adulthood. Why is this so frowned upon here? Why am I less of a woman if I put babies before career? I've tried both and I know for sure which is the more important job. Ironically, over my years in industry I have watched a succession of real career women work hard till their late 30s, try to squeeze in a late baby and then realize that is what they preferred all along. And those are the lucky ones - the ones who didn't leave it too late. More and more in the UK with stagnant wages but ever-rising nursery costs people turn to their parents for childcare but how does that work? It is bad enough with this generation, our 20-something parents are becoming grandparents mid-60s and yet many are expecting those 60-somethings to babysit 7 hours a day for up to 5 years per grandchild, but imagine our kids also wait to 40 - will I be expected to babysit Léon's or the new baby's kids daily from 80-85, if I am alive and not yet senile? Crazy! But if costs keep rising there will be no alternative. Currently you generally need two salaries to pay a mortgage, and yet each child costs you £600-£700 a month in nursery fees for 4 years minimum. I calculated once that I had laid out £60K on childcare by the time Charlotte started school at 5. Something needs to change.
I firmly believe we should stop pressurizing women to wait. I'd happily have started having kids around 26 but felt society would frown on me for squandering my education if I did. I think my kids are happier for knowing their grandparents and hope my grandchildren will too. I am not saying never have a kid at 40. If you only meet Mr Right at 40, of course have a kid at 40 but if you marry Mr Right at 25, why wait 15 years for nothing? It is just wrong.

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