Ten things not to say to a news editor about being an older mother
The media led furore around older mothers has reared its head again, with headlines inferring that the 50% rise in new mothers over the age of 50 was responsible for excessive pressure across the National Health Service. The percentage increase was huge but in real terms the number of women (in the UK) giving birth into their fifth decade went up to the massive total of 154. There is generally a rise in the number of births to older parents (35 and upwards).
I was one of the 1,600 women over 45 giving birth in the UK in 2012, so to that end I must put my hand up and take partial responsibility for the terrible burden we (growing band of) ‘midlife mothers’ put on society.
I’m often approached by the media about my experiences. What issues do I face which younger mothers might not? How does it feel to be an older mother?
My response is and has consistently been the same, that I am where I am, that I’m extremely blessed to be the mother of a wonderful, exuberant and thriving 2 year old and that (in common with mothers everywhere) I’m doing the best I can for my daughter to ensure she has a happy childhood, and a safe and secure future. I’m still breastfeeding her and we have an immensely supportive network of family and friends.
Sometimes that’s OK, but often I get prodded by the journalist looking for an angle, “How did you deal with the public’s negative view of older parents?”, “How have you dealt with the nasty comments people have made?”, “Did you feel judged by the medical profession?”, “Are people rude to you when you breastfeed in public?”, “You must have had a terribly difficult pregnancy?”, “Do you have low energy levels due to your age?”, “Do you struggle to cope with the pressures of parenthood now you are older?” “How do you feel about putting such pressure on the NHS?” “Do you think you’re selfish having a child in midlife?” and so on and so forth.
I’ve had words put into my mouth and angles that simply weren’t a part of our journey invented. I also pulled out of a piece because it stated that I was distraught about the abuse I received at the hands of the NHS (which was 100% untrue, they were wonderful).
The exaggerated mainstream media response to the supposedly widespread negative view of public breastfeeding (see previous piece highlighting that it seems the case that more mothers reported a hostile response to their bottle feeding than breastfeeding), also appears to be true as regards older mothers.
I was interviewed for a (very un age specific) piece on blogging and parenting for a well known Mother and baby magazine, again, it took time, and again, the piece didn’t appear, the embarrassed journalist emailed me to say that the magazine considered that I was too old for their audience. Which seemed shortsighted in light of the published demographic of their readership.
Last week, I was approached to write a piece for one of the broadsheets on being an older mother, and encouraged to make it controversial. My view was that there was no controversy. I took 5 precious hours (when I could have been doing a million and one other things), I wrote and submitted the piece. I was thanked for it, and then I was complimented on it and told it would appear the next day, I sent photos over to accompany the piece. It still hasn’t appeared, and the editor isn’t responding to emails.
A good news story wasn’t what was wanted. Which is a shame really, as a bit of good news never did anybody any harm and often inspires or helps others.
So, to that end and to set the record straight, and because lists seem to be as popular as selfies at the moment, here are my ten tips on what not to say to the news editor when you want your piece on being an older parent to appear in the national press.
1 – I haven’t experienced any unpleasant comments about being an older mother…
but I was once asked if I was ‘the nanny’.
2 – I had my daughter when I did because that’s just how it worked out…
I’d always imagined I’d have a child in my early 30s, it didn’t happen due to a huge number of factors including miscarriage and bereavement. Having a child later in life isn’t something most women plan on doing, and they have a huge number of reasons as to why they embark on the journey to motherhood when they do. I was extremely lucky to have been able to have my daughter.
3 – I’ve not found other mothers judgemental or unfriendly
Something incredible has been the way I’ve felt that having a baby has ‘given me’ other women, I’ve relished getting to know other mothers, and have made many friends. Ultimately we all share the same issues and insecurities concerning our journeys. One of the women I become closest to when I was in the States last year has a daughter the same age as mine, and is herself 30 years younger than I am, almost to the day. She’s been harshly judged for being a very young mother.
4 – I didn’t wait to have my daughter in my late 40s because of my high flying career
Ha ha ha ha ha! and see the answer to 2 and note that I am currently a hard working self employed mother of one. As to her future financial security I am doing all I can to ensure she’s taken care of should anything happen to me (just as the other younger mothers I’ve met are).
5 – I enjoy every day as a mother, and sure I get tired from time to time, but so do all mothers of toddlers
Last night she was awake from 4.30 – 7am chatting, she’s getting to the “Why?” stage. Today I’m tired … it’s part of being a mother, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Also I don’t understand why people find spending time with a child dull in any way… but maybe that is because I’m older. 20 years ago I probably would have had more of an urge to be out and about, and less patience for singing songs about Dingle Dangle Scarecrows, but as it is I revel in every second I have with her and have no compunction about running around, kicking balls, sliding down slides and playing with her.
6 – I had a straightforward pregnancy
The main issues I faced were to do with external factors such as tripping over, being involved in a taxi accident, being exposed to shingles and it was only at the end that my own health was affected. Compared to the complexities and health issues many mothers I’ve got to know experienced, we had a great pregnancy … not even swollen ankles and no gestational diabetes or high blood pressure. I kept fit and I took great care of my diet and avoided anything that could have been perceived as a risk to the pregnancy.
7- Nobody has ever said anything nasty to me about breastfeeding in public
Quite the opposite, I’ve been offered glasses of water, pieces of cake, comfy chairs and complimented for ‘sticking with it’.
8 – Medical staff were unfailingly supportive
They were pragmatic early on as to the higher levels of risk for an older woman and were kind, supportive and encouraging throughout the pregnancy and birth. At my follow up appointment my consultant asked if I was planning another pregnancy, I asked if she thought it a good idea and she said, “there’s no reason why not”. The midwives that nursed us after the taxi incident sent a card to celebrate my daughter’s christening and made time to come and visit us when she was born.
9 – I didn’t have a child to ensure that I am looked after in my old age
She may well end up living on the opposite side of the world, who knows, that’s entirely up to her. She has her own life to lead, she has an incredible network of friends, family and Godparents to ensure she is supported in all that she does, as do I.
10 – Every woman has her own story, her own issues and her own journey as regards motherhood.
So don’t be quick to judge or generalise. My own mother was herself an older mother, and the times she spends with my daughter and I now are some of the times I value most. Had things worked out differently I’d have had a child much younger, but I am an older mother, I love my daughter and will do all I can to give her best start in life and be there for as much of her journey as we have together.
So, there you have it, our good news; older mother has child and nobody bats an eyelid shocker!