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Too old for us …

May 18, 2013

The whole issue of my age as relating to be a mother has never really bothered me, it is a miracle that I have Hope in my world and that both of us are healthy, happy and having such a wonderful time getting to know each other and day to day life runs smoothly.

I don’t think of myself as an ‘old mother’, simply as a mother, and as such I strive to be the best mother I can be. That’s it really nothing more complex just doing my best for an amazing little girl and doing all I can to ensure that she has a secure and happy life. I think that’s as much as any mother can do and generally what most mothers, old, young or inbetween aim for.

I was asked a few weeks ago to do an interview for a parenting magazine, via a writer, not just any old journalist but a very established and wonderful author. The piece wasn’t about age or parenting, but about writing, it was to feature me talking about this blog and what I do and don’t talk about and what it may mean to Hope in later life. I was one of, I think, 3 or 4 case studies.

I wanted to ‘do it’ properly as I was proud to have been asked to be involved so spent about a third of one of my precious ‘work days’ (when Hope is with her lovely child minder and I try to cram in everything from paperwork to washing to work to writing to charity work to local volunteering to thank you letters and mending broken toys or holes in clothes) … that day I set about answering all the emailed questions in as much detail as I felt was appropriate and forwarded it to the author. She was delighted and thanked me and said she’d let me know if the magazine needed photography or if they had any further questions.

A couple of days later after she’d thanked me publicly on Twitter along with a delightful and very well known TV psychologist and another case study, the writer sent me an email saying that she’d been contacted by the magazine, “to say that I can’t use your case study in my piece, as you are ‘older than the demographic’ of the magazine. They need mums aged 27-37.”  She went on to thank me again and apologise for the wasted time I’d spent.

I have no issue whatsoever with the writer, she will have had to research and interview a new case study which will have taken time, and had (as a busy mother) spent time on the piece, just as I had …  she is hugely professional, widely respected, funny and someone I admire enormously and have done radio appearances with both locally and nationally in the past year on motherhood and older mothers.
What I have huge HUGE issue with … as a Mother and with a Baby (small clue there as to the title of the magazine), that my story, which wasn’t an age related piece, wasn’t  perceived as relevant to their readership as I am seen as  too old. I bought that magazine when I was pregnant, and eagerly looked through all the top tips and articles, adverts and stories … I wish I hadn’t now.
Every interview I have done, I have been asked if I have had anyone be odd with me or respond negatively towards me due to the fact that I am an older mother … my truthful answer has always been, “no”. I did once have someone ask if I was Hope’s nanny (in South Kensington in London) and that amused me hugely, as if anyone would employ a scruffy person like me to be a nanny, but other than that, no, nothing. Hope’s godmother was asked if a present she was buying for Hope was for her “granddaughter”, which infuriated her and amused me no end (she is younger and far more beautiful and unlined than I) … but, no, no other odd experiences and certainly nothing negative. Until now.
I fully appreciate that the majority of new mothers in the UK are younger, but there are hundreds of thousands of women who have children above the age of 37 and, importantly, there are hundreds of older women who want to have children and who are pondering embarking on IVF, adoption, surrogacy, donor journeys and just perhaps, reading the odd story about an older mother who was fortunate and blessed enough to have a little girl, might just give them some hope too. The Government health advisory service in the UK, NICE, recently changed their guidelines to say that NHS trusts might consider offering free IVF to childless couples where the woman is up to aged 39, and another study said there had been a 300% increase in the number of women over 40 becoming mothers since the 1990’s.
As a mother I was deeply offended by this slight. I discussed it with other women (from ages 20 – 86) and mothers in my playgroup, with strangers and friends and the unanimous conclusion seems to be that this approach to not including ‘older mothers’ in their magazine, is an absurd idea, it makes no business sense as they are missing out of a segment of the market and it is also ageist and exclusive, and I’d go as far as to say judgemental.
It has always been the media that has tried to put an angle into the idea of older mothers (apparently career obsessives who selfishly want their bank accounts full and their life experiences over before they have children – couldn’t be more wrong in my case … I coped with death, miscarriage, difficult life circumstances and major loss of income before I was lucky enough to get pregnant and subsequently give birth to my miraculous daughter), and again, I understand that it is easy to stereotype … just as ‘young mothers’ are often and wrongly vilified as irresponsible scroungers with no morales … BUT what I didn’t expect was, for a magazine dedicated to the Mother and her Baby (are you getting the title of the publication yet?), to snub a mother with a baby because of her age. Don’t they realise this kind of behaviour is making their magazine less appealing to about 1/5 of mothers (those of us who have babies older than their demographic?). I may be wrong, and I’m not a magazine publishing expert, but I find it hard to believe that someone wouldn’t read the magazine, or would stop buying it because occasionally there was a piece in it featuring an older mother… am I ranting now? It feels a bit like it … but I really am cross…. ageist, discriminatory, shortsighted, insulting all come to mind. Don’t they realise that there are even celebrities having children into their 40s? Not just freaky weirdos like me … beautiful BBC TV presenter Kate Silverton had her daughter Clemency a month or so before Hope was born … she was 41, her journey had been long and arduous and her successful delivery was something to celebrate, I wonder if she too was excluded on account of her age.
I did wonder (generously and fleetingly), if the magazine didn’t want to include me because it believes in educating younger women about issues around fertility and how it declines after 35 and dramatically over 40, and they don’t want to raise hopes or make people feel complacently that IVF is always the fall back … but it isn’t that, it is purely that I don’t fit their demographic. I wish more of the media would raise awareness of the potential pain and angst that leaving having a child can lead to… and how fertility declines, I think that is a key message we should be spreading. Infertility is a condition that many many couples have to face.
So … it would appear that there is a gap in the market for a publication for older mothers and older mothers to be, I am also thinking that there may be a gap in the market for an intelligent magazine for mothers-to-be generally that isn’t divisive and that celebrates all motherhood. Sadly it seems that Mother and Baby isn’t that publication (ooops it slipped out) … and if the year on year increase in women having children older carries on then, perhaps there will be a gap in the market at some point where their ageist magazine (with its year on year decrease in both bought and read copies) once sat. The American ‘What To Expect?’ organisation invited me to write for them, I don’t know, but I’d imagine that they also have a much younger average readership … they are certainly more open to all mothers than this English publication.
I’ve just had a look at Mother and Baby figures, circulation has decreased dramatically over the last year (from 2011 – 2012), and their quoted demographics have over 35% of their readership as over the age of 35 (with something like 15% being over 45) … I wonder how they would feel knowing that they are not included in the publication due to their age.
They claim to be,  “the magazine that connects modern mums.We’re proud and delighted to offer our readers a trusted support network from the UK’s number one parenting brand with a 55-year heritage.This means providing practical solutions to all their parenting concerns, offering emotional reassurance from experts and other mums, and celebrating the excitement of starting a family.”
Clearly they are not into sharing all mother’s excitement at starting a family, or particularly in tune with ‘modern mums’. ONS stats now saying 1 in 5 mothers giving birth last year were older mothers, ie over 35… maybe the editor doesn’t realise their magazine is in decline and the print media industry generally needs all the support it can have. Perhaps if they featured more on older mothers they would be expanding their readership rather than loosing it.
Now, that ensures they will never feature me or ask me to write for them … and that is something that, frankly doesn’t bother me. I am happy working with mainstream national newspapers, with the Cambridge News, with the BBC and with wonderful international websites (with more than 9,900 subscribers) like Mothering in the Middle and What to Expect.
Might I suggest, that if you, or a friend of yours is pregnant that you think twice about the publication you buy … and you might like to know that Club Penguin magazine and Kerrang both outsell Mother and Baby, and that the Saga magazine circulation is almost 500,000 copies more than Mother and Baby magazine each month and something that I’d not heard of before (but we have already established that I know nothing), called Emma’s Diary has a readership / subscription of over 400,000 … they appear to be only an online publication … it is this kind of property that will be the way of the future, and not ‘modern’ magazines like Mother and Baby.
BritMums, NetMums, MumsNet … these networks are where the ‘modern mum’ hangs out, they are growing… and will leave the geriatric inflexible dinosaurs like M&P far behind.
OK, I’m climbing off my soapbox now … time to take my false teeth out, put on my slippers and have a nice up of Horlicks.
Too old…. pah.
24 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2013 7:51 am

    As an old mum myself, I still find this shocking, but true. It’s the same with many brands too though. I talk with a lot of them, and I also point out that I am usually out of their stated target range. It’s a trend for women to have children later in life. I wrote about that on my blog, shall find the link. I’m sure they will eventually catch on.

    • May 18, 2013 8:45 am

      lets hope so Susanna, thank you for your comment … woke up this morning feeling more cross than before … was at a meeting with a sponsorship agency last week and was told that the offering they were trying to sell wasn’t trendy enough as it was associated with older people … a huge enabling national event … society is ageing these people just don’t get it … and I’d never have you down as an older mother you are so fresh faced and elegant … someone else to aspire to be like!!! Thank you for BritMums : )

    • May 18, 2013 8:46 am

      interesting link … we shall enter, but do also post the link to your blog as well … thank you

  2. May 18, 2013 9:09 am

    Arghh that is ridiculous! It infuriates me too! As someone who is struggling with infertility myself I want to read real stories from moms who have been there and done that. I want the good, the bad and the ugly. And I want it from women of all ages! I’m only 30 so I fit their demographic…. And I would DEFINITELY want to read your story Ellie and that of other ‘older’ moms. You are an inspiration. And I will not be buying Mother and Baby.

    • May 20, 2013 12:48 pm

      Thank you Mel … I agree, I found it hard to find any realistic encouragement from magazines when I was pondering next steps (from about 35 onwards …) you are very kind too with your compliments … and I wish you ‘bon courage’ as they say in France on your journey x

  3. Sue Clarke permalink
    May 18, 2013 9:36 am

    Shame on that magazine, should be banned. Does motherhood stop at 37? I think not. Age has no bearing on it. I somehow think if your name began, perhaps, with an M and ended a, they would be falling over themselves for an article. Your story has been amazing, and inspirational from the start, even to this Grandma! If they don’t want to cover the whole spectrum, they should shut up and disappear into the night.

    • May 20, 2013 12:54 pm

      thank you so much Sue … so kind of you … yes I do wonder re the celeb baby angle too … I’d like to think that M&B might consider doing a section for older mothers or being brave and addressing the ‘older parent’ issue, clearly a growing area of their declining market

  4. May 18, 2013 9:38 am

    That would have infuriated me and I’d have gone nuts! It is incredibly rude of them.
    I’ve never ever bought a magazine like that, simply because why pay for it when you have online applications that are free? And bloggers Who blog about pregnancy, birth an motherhood (and fatherhood) every single damn day.
    Shame on Mother and Baby. Shame shame shame.

  5. Jane permalink
    May 18, 2013 10:02 am

    Any magazine that treats its customers as ‘a demographic’ does not deserve its readership.

    • May 20, 2013 12:56 pm

      I think alot do Jane … but I agree with the sentiment – thank you

  6. May 18, 2013 12:35 pm

    How ridiculous!! To be honest, I stopped reading most pregnancy/birth/parenting magazines as soon as I fell pregnant because they completely overlook or even “look down on” anyone who doesn’t fit the norm… if you’re not happy and glowy and “in your prime” then you’re not catered for. As someone who suffered severely throughout pregnancy with Hyperemesis and Cholestasis I hated these magazines who never faced the reality that pregnancy is not always what the media would like you to believe. And I feel like your experience confirms this analysis… we aren’t all the same, at all, so why ignore those of us who don’t fit into the “ideal”?

    We won’t be having any more kids of our own… so I don’t want to read about how you’re expected to want another, how you SHOULD want another, how you SHOULD do it in a certain time frame, how you SHOULD be a certain age etc etc. I am so sorry that you went to all that effort only to be so rudely dismissed… I’d have enjoyed reading your thoughts (had I read the magazine, of course!)

    I remember seeing you at BritMums last year with your beautiful baby daughter… you looked so happy and proud to be her mummy and it made me so happy to see that (kept meaning to come and actually say “hi” but there were just so many people to speak to it never happened!) You are a mummy… there should never be any “qualifications” added to that based on age, how you became a mummy, or anything else.

    Thank you for writing this!

    • May 20, 2013 11:37 pm

      thank you Amanda this means alot … I am happy if not necessarily glowy (though I think happy goes along way towards making you glowy) and I am sure I don’t adhere to any of the how you SHOULD be images … but, we are both healthy and happy. Hope is more socialised than many of her little friends, she eats better, she is more relaxed and whatever it is that we’re doing seems to be ok for us … say hello this year if you’re there x

  7. May 20, 2013 12:11 pm

    I’m sad to hear of the response from Mother & Baby magazine, this is a publication I have bought and read many times, but I won’t be buying it again. As a 48-year-old mum with an almost 12-year-old daughter I always wanted another child but it hasn’t happened. I am now looking into fostering and adoption, and what I need is support, not ageism from parenting magazines. They should be ashamed of themselves – they won’t be of course, at least not until their magazine circulation suffers a hit from lost readers ie those older mothers such as myself who they have now alienated with their ageist actions.

  8. May 20, 2013 6:01 pm

    Sorry it’s taken me a while to getting around to reading this, but I have to say that I was shocked at the discrimination you received. By saying that their readership has a ceiling of 37, they are shooting themselves in the foot, and also implicitly saying mothers over that age don’t count!!!!???? Great post – do you mind if I link to this post from my blog – because the issue you have raised is such an important one. And you are right – there isn’t a magazine dedicated to mothers over 35 and well beyond.

    • May 20, 2013 6:08 pm

      happy for you to link to it … and yes interesting … maybe we should talk at BritMums (or before) about ways to fill the gap … I’m going to contact M&P in due course to suggest that they think more broadly about older mums … alot of negative news going on at the moment

  9. May 20, 2013 8:08 pm

    Oh Ellie – you put it all so well. The grief that people endure before they consider themselves lucky enough to become (older) mums is something that can keep those still wading through it knowing it may well be worth it in the end – the hope can be kept alive. You may have found our future in the development of such a magazine – can’t think of anyone better for the job! Count me in.

    I am also quite shocked about this – the trend for having children later continues to rise – what are they thinking? Ageism personified.

  10. May 21, 2013 12:32 am

    As the writer and creator of a number of national/North American midlife mother entities and websites, I find this type of discourse fascinating and wholly necessary, while the concurrent societal perceptions ..(purposefully) misleading. As numbers continue to increase for new older/middle age mothers all over the world, many over-55 organizations fail to include them in their demographics; as if pretending that they don’t exist will make it so. While family models now include same-sex partners with children and or other iconoclastic family structures, societies persist in still pushing the same ideological heterosexual marriage unit with 2.4 children, one dog and a house with a white picket fence. I’m wondering when we’ll just come to terms with the fact that the Zeitgiest of the times – breakthroughs in medical technologies, relaxation of family structures and socio-economic freedoms has allowed for this newest phenomenon of midlife mothers to flourish and grow – the result of the women’s liberation movement and our courage to pursue “having it all.” We stand as a testament to choosing our own path to motherhood, in our own right-timing, and paving the way for younger generations of women to follow. No one should judge what works for us; we just need to support each other.


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