The other day, I agreed to participate in a study of women who became mothers at or around 40. Apparently, given the advances in fertility treatments and the acceptability of later motherhood, this is a demographic on the rise – one interesting enough to attract researchers.
This one, Jennie Doberne, is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Virginia and is looking at the social impact in Israel of “later motherhood.” Israel, she says, is particularly interesting because of what she calls in her research description, “pronatalism.” Or, as she puts it in her research summary, “the national pronatalist effort is eroding previous biological constraints on maternity and enabling older women to become mothers.”
In other words, what’s the impact of living in a country where the government will pay for IVF and other treatments up until the age of 45?
Even though we didn’t use fertility treatments to get pregnant, I fit into the demographic, and so I agreed to be interviewed. Which in and of itself was an odd experience: I’m so used to being on the other end of things. As a journalist, I ask the questions, not answer them.
Within minutes of Jennie’s arrival at our house for her usual one-on-one interview, my husband was throwing out answers from the kitchen – and soon asked if he could join in the conversation. When we both agreed, he nearly leapt onto the couch. He’s been as keen to start fatherhood as I was motherhood. And although he’s a year older than me, no one seems to express special interest in what it’s like to engage in “later fatherhood.”
One question stood out towards the end of the interview. Is there something different about becoming parents later? I suddenly thought of the unsolicited advice that an acquaintance who had started motherhood at 40 gave me. “Remember,” she said, “what we lack in energy, we make up for in patience.” Slowly, I’m realizing there is wisdom in her words. A full day with my seven-month-old son – if no one else happens to be around to help – can exhaust me, though I imagine a 25-year-old mom would say the same. In general, I have loads of energy. But how will I feel in five or ten years? I do think I’m more patient, and more present to the job of being a parent, than I would have been if I’d started having children at say, 28 or 30, when I was still carving out a name for myself professionally. Read more…