I've been thinking about motherhood today. Not so much individual mothers, as the experience itself. Women are waiting so much longer now to have children and I know something about the side effects of that, myself. My mother was 37 when I was born, which was nearly unheard of in the 1940s and 50s. I was called an "elderly primipara" myself when I was pregnant with my son, and I was 29.
The temptations and demands of career seem to be the reason for women having children later. We have control, now, to an extent unimaginable even fifty years ago. And so the bright young women fan out into their careers, with few distractions from the challenges of their jobs.
These young women are focused achievers, just like their male counterparts. Neither they or the young men have been required to place the needs of someone dependent ahead of their own. Or if they have done so, it hasn't been for long. It hasn't been for twenty years at a clip.
No wonder they regard parenthood as a fearful prospect. Also, an expensive one. Schools, clothes, food, doctoring--all become the main locus of expenditures. Personal indulgences shrink in number and kind. The idea of deferring personal gratification seems as disagreeable as it is novel.
I was afraid of having children, too, and as an only child, ignorant of everything involved. Married couples had children, though, and so we did. When my son was born, I felt stunned for the first few months, pulled by his daily needs to exist only in the present. How to interpret his cries? Would I ever again rest, sleep, think? And enveloping it all, breaking over every fear and worry, the most overwhelming surges of love, surely the great love of the human race, the one that keeps it all going.
This is the part of having children that the hesitant young women and men of today don't know. They don't feel this for even the closest sibling. They don't feel it for their pets. They don't even feel it for each other. It's simply more, greater, than everything else.
So, looking back on it now from the perspective of my sixties, I can see that the products of the ego, however lavish or glamorous, mean nothing in comparison to the experience of rearing/raising my child. If I had been able to do it, and refused for whatever reason, I would have missed out on the central experience of life.
A few additional words about elderly mothers. Once you manage to get pregnant, it's not your age when your child is born that matters so much, although it has an effect. Toddlers in particular take a lot of maternal energy. It's your age after that: To be nearly sixty when your oldest child graduates from college; to be seventy for the first grandchild; to absent yourselves from your grandchildren's lives by dying before they can really know you. We may live a lot longer now than people did in earlier generations, but not all of us enjoy that opportunity.
It's worth thinking about, if you have a choice.