I’m trembling as I type. In fact my fingers are so dexterous my brain can’t keep up with the ferocity of my typing, so incredulous am I by Andrew Billen’s article in the Weekend Supplement of Saturday’s Times (5th June 2010): Motherhood It’s wasted on young women.
You can make your own mind up here: http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article7144002.ece
I’m an old bird myself these days at the ripe age of 30. I know this because my 7 year old – yes, 7! I hear you cry; I was a child-bride – often refers to the ‘olden days’ when mummy grew-up in, Heaven forbid, a household without a shower! Oh the shame of it.
And yes Mr Billen, I did passover a fledgling career as a Human Resources Officer (ironically a maternity leave contract) at just turned 23, earning a very attractive wage, because when the chips are down – or in my case the Doctor suspects Polycystic Ovaries – and talks of anything up to 2 years to conceive, well… you kind of focus on the 2 years bit and then find yourself pregnant after 1 month.
And do you know? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sadly though I’ve met too many of the Mr Billen’s of this world over the past 7 years.
“Like youth itself, motherhood is wasted on the young, whose attention is often directed elsewhere.”
Oh really? Mine hasn’t. It’s been entirely focussed on rearing my boisterous brood; Hamish, 7, Archie 4 and Laurence, 22 months. And although I’m now an old-hand at this parenting lark with precious little which phases me – except for the occasional scary moment like two weeks ago when Hamish fractured his wrist, I expect that was down to the neglectful younger mother in me actually allowing him to play on the new Trim Trail at school – it hasn’t always been that way. In fact it was the Billen-like-attitude which had my husband and I fleeing our NCT antenatal classes after only two sessions. To six sets of forty-something, first-time parents-to-be in their Cheltenham Tractors and Mercedes SLK’s, my husband and I at the tender ages of 24 and 23 respectively turning up in our clapped out Ford Ka…suffice to say the words ‘teenage mother’ spring to mind.
Not one to be perturbed I found another way to connect with my new-parent counterparts and joined the committee of my local NCT and what we had in common was the joy of having a little person in our lives. Not our age. In fact voluntary work has been such a blessing since I became a mother as it’s given me the opportunity to interact (with other mothers), achieve (raise money, support new mums) and kept me from wandering down a path of career suicide.
Because contrary to Mr Billen’s beliefs not all twenty-something mothers feel that their buggy in the hall is the roadblock in the way of [sic] mummy’s success. I’ve had several buggies, double’s even – bigger metaphorical roadblocks. And the only thing they’ve prevented me doing is occasionally stopped me from opening the front door. But maybe I’m lucky? I have an intelligent, hard-working, supportive husband who has entrusted me with the freedom to be a mother without constraint. Although, to be honest, he’d have had a hard time getting me back to work anyway because once I held Hamish – did I mention at the tender age of 23? – NO-ONE was looking after him. I wasn’t letting go. Handing him over to a childminder was tantamount to asking The Big Bad Wolf to babysit Little Red Riding Hood. It wasn’t going to happen.
But before you going thinking I’m anti-ageing parents – did you see what I did there?! – I’m not. Indeed, my own father had me at 43 and I certainly think there’s a kind of wisdom an older parent can bestow upon their child which a younger one can’t. Admittedly my mother was only 26 herself – the best of both worlds in my opinion – but my Pa has put me in touch with a generation and way of life I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced.
That said there is a knock on effect. If I had decided to wait until my late 30’s or early 40’s to have my children then I would have run the risk of them never knowing their Grampy. Another factor in my choice to have my children in my 20’s. I didn’t want to deprive my children of special childhood memories similar to my own. Sunday mornings tending to the allotment, being taught the difference between an Oak and Ash tree. My father’s knowledge is endless and his enthusiasm is infectious. How could I deprive him of grandchildren either?
And as to Mr Billen’s notion that, like his own mother, younger mother’s are neurotic – I beg to differ. Yes, my mother was neurotic, constantly obsessing over how much I’d eaten and whether I’d been to the toilet before we left the house. But I’m not. Neither was my grandmother who gave birth to my baby-boomer aunt at only 17. Perhaps it’s a generational thing? Perhaps it’s a genetic thing? I’m no psychologist, it’s not even my place to speculate but I firmly believe that our parenting tendencies have much more to do with the latter than the age we have our children. Blimey, if I had a pound for every time I heard a parent say, “I’ve always promised myself that I’m not going to treat my children the way my parent’s treated me.”
Anyway, before I rant any longer about Mr Billen’s slur on younger parents I’ll leave you with two final thoughts:
- Children are a blessing whatever age of life they come along. They are a gift to be treasured. Albeit an expensive gift. And yes, I could have had some high flying career now in Human Resources, a four bedroom house and several exotic holidays a year but I can guarantee you I wouldn’t have been happy. That biological clock would have gone tick, tick, tick and I suspect I would be rather less enthusiastic about giving up a – what I consider now – luxury lifestyle to spend it all on endless pairs of Startrite shoes and swimming lessons. And I certainly wouldn’t fancy supporting three strapping boys with capacious appetites, through university, on a pension.
- My children are an extension of me. Without them I wouldn’t be the flirty, dirty, thirty-year old I am today. They have bequeathed me love, hugs and responsibility. All of which I embrace. One day I will grow-up and get a ‘proper job’. In the meantime I’ll enjoy the freedom and creativity they’ve provided me with. It wouldn’t have even entered my head to write a book without the thinking space mind-numbingly-boring domestic chores afford me. So I might never get published. But I can have fun trying.
Rant over and out. *blows raspberry in the fashion a neglectful young mother should*
PS – if you’re wondering why it’s taken so long to respond to this article it’s because a) I didn’t get an opportunity to read the article until Sunday and b) I didn’t get the opportunity to write until now; Monday evening. Not all of us young mums sit around perming our ears and watching Britain’s Got Talent you know.
PPS – for the record I’ve never watched Britain’s Got Talent
PPPS – honest.