The big buzz in the world of fertility this week is not a new story – but the provocative cover art of a naked pregnant 60 plus year old woman on the cover of New York Magazine asking the question “How old is too old?” did stir the pot again about age and parenting.
The article in question is actually called “Parents of a Certain Age” by Lisa Miller and it explores whether it is okay for people to have and raise children later in life – like after menopause. The article goes on to say that people having children in their more golden years is a growing trend was not new to me. I work with countless men and women who are trying to build their family in their late forties all the way into their fifties in my fertility coaching practice.
The first thing that came to my mind was something that was actually explored in the article – which was the great number of grandparents that are responsible for raising children all over the world. So many children and their parents count on older people to keep these kids safe – and the studies that have been done around children being raised by older adults point to these kids actually being more successful in life! So what gives?
We keep going back to these old cliches, about the ability to be able to throw a great curve ball or being able to keep up with kids, our own aging bodies and the possibility of needing to care for our own aging parents. The fact is, I know lots of young parents who can’t keep up! Or the conversation goes to what is considered “natural”or “unnatural”. So much of what we are these days is not considered “natural” by some – but if we are doing it aren’t we? If we are natural being engaged in living – then doesn’t it follow that what we are doing is on some level natural? None of us, or our abilities are “super natural” – it is after all us “natural folks” using the evolved techniques such as egg donation or surrogacy to create our lives or ancient traditions such adoption to build our families. To me,newN however we decide to live our dreams is very natural!
I love this quote from the article:
“Here is why the arguments against old parents put forth by this article thus far are actually all bunk: They rest on the assertion that people above a certain externally imposed cutoff should not have children because it is not natural—and nature is a historically terrible arbiter of personal choice. American states used to legislate against interracial couples on the basis that miscegenation was “unnatural.” Some conservatives continue to fight gay marriage and gay parenthood on the grounds that homosexuality is “unnatural.” Broad-minded people see these critiques for what they are: bias and personal distaste hiding behind an idea of natural law. And yet some of these same broad-minded people still feel comfortable using chronological age to sort the suitable potential parents from the unsuitable. That’s because those judgments, and the backlash they’re fueling, are a product of ageism, the last form of prejudice acceptable in the liberal sphere. Sitting so ostentatiously on the boundary between “youth” and “age,” 50-year-olds threaten an image we hold of good parents (i.e., the handsome, glossy-haired ones depicted in the house-paint ads). By acting young when they’re supposed to be old, they cause discomfort for the people around them. Parents like Kate Garros have felt this all too acutely. “If you don’t meet people’s expectations of what a mother looks like, they can’t hack it,” she told me.
The reason people couch their objections to older parents in concern for the children is to mask their more impolitic uneasiness about the parents themselves. But those objections are hypocritical”.