Having a child over 33? 'I'd rather have cancer'

By Vanessa Brown

Do women get "trapped" when they have children at an older age? Photo / Getty
Do women get "trapped" when they have children at an older age? Photo / Getty

When Anne* was 19, she accidentally fell pregnant with her first and only child.

As a self confessed "hater of kids", she never expected to be a mother, nor did she ever really want to be.

"Since I was a kid, I never wanted children," the now 41-year-old told news.com.au.

Despite her feelings towards children, Anne has a "very strong and loving" relationship with her son, who is now into his early 20s.

Now surrounded by "stressed friends" who have young families, Anne thinks more women should be taking her lead and having a baby before the age of 25 - especially if they want to succeed and continue climbing the career ladder.

"I think women are making a big mistake by having babies later," she said.

"They should have children younger, because I think women get trapped when they have them at an older age.

"When you have children younger, you have time to career build afterwards instead of being halfway through your career and needing six months or even a whole year off. And that time off is for your first child, what if you have two or three?"

When her son was just four months old, Anne went back to work as an Executive Assistant to a "well known CEO."

"I think because I was young, I was able to get back in to work soon after giving birth," she said.

"From that point forward I got promoted quite quickly. When you're young, the baby fits in with you more, but when you're older, you are more set in your ways.

When her son turned 10, Anne was involved in a serious car accident that resulted in a broken back. Years after the incident, her injury required a spinal fusion, which caused serious physical complications.

In 2013, Anne had to stop working fulltime, and now relies on her partner to provide the family income.

Today, many of her friends "battle" to take care of their children. Instead of wishing she was at the same stage as those around her, Anne only "pities" woman who are middle-aged and having to contend with a young family.

"I feel sorry for anyone 33 plus with babies or toddlers. Cancer is preferable," she said.

"I have friends now who have young kids at my age, and they are struggling with mortgages along with child expenses, but that's not even a consideration for me now.

"I don't envy middle-aged mothers at all. I pity them because they are trapped. They are trapped financially, physically and emotionally."

Tell women to start young

Despite her extreme standpoint on why women should become mothers at a younger age, Anne isn't alone on the idea of having children earlier in life as a way of avoiding career interruption.

American businesswoman, author and blogger Penelope Trunk, thinks older women should take it upon themselves to tell younger generations about having children while they're young.

In an article titled "Get pregnant at 25 if you want a high powered career", Mrs Trunk, who is a mother of two, advocates why women shouldn't wait until 30 to have children.

"Men who have kids are in a great position to climb the ladder, because they have wives at home. Women cannot go full speed ahead until the kids are grown up," she wrote.

"We will be taking care of kids during the very time when all the men you worked with are working harder and longer than ever before."

According to the most recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data, the average age of Australian mothers is now 30.6 years old, which is an increase of 7.5 per cent since 1991.

The proportion of mothers aged 20-24 fell from 15.2 per cent in 2002 to 13.8 per cent in 2011. The proportion of older mothers, aged 35 and over, increased from 18.1 per cent in 2002 to 22.5 per cent in 2011.

Mrs Trunk's position falls in line with Anne-Marie Slaughter, who wrote the widely acclaimed article Why women can't have it all, which was published in The Atlantic magazine in 2012.

Anne-Marie Slaughter's famed article in The Atlantic.
Anne-Marie Slaughter's famed article in The Atlantic.

In Slaughter's piece, she discusses the idea that if women want to have a huge career, they should have kids when they're 25. Then, once a woman reaches 45, her children will be grown up, and there's still time to build a big career.

Mrs Trunk agrees with her position, saying women from age 20 to 25 should focus on finding a guy to marry, and then build a career slowly during later years.

"Women who have grown children by age 45 do better at getting to the top in the workforce than all other women with kids."

British television presenter and host of Location Location Location, Kirstie Allsopp, said if she were to have a daughter, the first piece of advice she would give is to "have a baby by the time you're 27".

In an interview with The Telegraph, Allsopp admits that for many young women, and future generations, it may be unrealistic to put children before career. But the now 45-year-old argues that having them early will allow couples to concentrate on careers and education afterwards.

"We have all this time at the end. You can do your career afterwards. We have to readjust," she said.

"If everyone started having children when they were 20, they'd be free as a bird by the time they were 45. But how many 45-year-olds do you know who are bogged down?" she said.

"At the moment we are changing the natural order of things, with grandparents being much older and everyone squeezed in the middle. Don't think 'my youth should be longer'. Don't go to university because it's an 'experience'. No, it's where you're supposed to learn something! Do it when you're 50!"

The case for waiting

On the contrary, Elizabeth Gregory, author of Ready: Why women are embracing the new later motherhood, said the reason why women should wait to have children, was because those who do so [according to US Census data] had significantly higher salaries than women of the same age and with the same level of education, who had kids at an earlier stage in life.

As a mother of a now adult child, Anne thinks the biggest problem with motherhood today is the mentality that being a new parent "is the hardest job in the world".

In her words, it's "a joke" and women who feel this way are "just justifying their sad non-existence".

"I don't understand how staying at home and being a mum, who is paid by the taxpayer, is the hardest job in the world," Anne said.

"My biggest problem with stay-at-home mums is they put the blame on the child. If you want to sit at home, fine, but just admit you don't want to work. Don't pretend you being at home is for the benefit of the child, because it's not. Preschool and daycare is for the benefit. How many mums do educational stuff with their children?

"Motherhood is not a job, it's an obligation. A job is when you go and work, and parent on top of that."

*Anne's surname has not been disclosed.

- news.com.au

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