Thursday, 10 June 2010

Young or old? Spurtling cont.

So glad to see that the discussion is getting going. I suppose I should fill in why I think this is on my mind.

Based on what I saw in the village I come from and from where we have just moved from, it must definitely be a class thing. Of course, my estimation that everyone is older than me at toddlers is a massive generalisation but for the most part it is true. The majority of mothers I mix with are middle class and perhaps herein lies one of the answers. Compared to the vast majority of girls I went to school with in our very small working class village, when I had A in my twenties I was old and as much as I hated the latest Guardian piece on the issue, I think in some cases there is something in the assertion about misplaced ambition. Our village was a modern village, a post-war industrial one attached to an existing and dying mining community. There are no big houses, no grand estates just small houses big enough for the workers, their wives and their 2.4 kids. If you are fortunate enough to have pots of money, you live elsewhere, in a grander fashion away from the plebs. I wanted out of there the minute I could and did. I studied and worked in a whole host of different areas and could never really settle on what I wanted to do 'when I got older' (still don't). I consider myself a bit different to these other girls as I didn't have a baby the minute I left school and moved away to see more of the world but really I can't be that different to them. I haven't invested more than 7 years on any one thing and still have to find that career I want to pursue as feverishly as the older mothers reported in the papers. 

In fact, the thought of spending ten, fifteen or even twenty years doing the same thing scares me, probably more than the thought of looking after children scares Manuela, lol! I like being busy, living life at breakneck speed, ducking and diving and not really having a five or ten year plan.

I had an epiphany walking to A's school yesterday. I realised that my pace of life is influenced by my family and particularly my mother. I know my mother was relatively young by today's standards when she married my Dad and then when they had me and it's not her example that led me to having A at such a young age but how she lives her life and the pace that she set when we were younger. My mother, you see, has a degenerative condition. A genetic condition on her paternal side that will dramatically shorten her life expectancy. Her father, my Papa died when he was 55, her Aunt at 39 and so on and so forth. We have always lived with this unconscious assertion that my mother wouldn't be around in her 60's or 70's or even her 80's, the age range of the grandparents who stand with me at the school gates every day picking up kids in A's class. No one has lived very long in our family. My Dad's family have heart problems and only live into their 60's. My Nana had her first stroke at 61 and has been convinced she's dying ever since (15 years ago, by the way). My Dad has his first heart attack at the age of 47. So can I be blamed for trying to fit in as much as possible in the time that I have. Thinking along these lines, I wondered if I had ever really considered that I might have a longer life expectancy? What would I do in my 60's when my kids would be 40 and 30? and I would still be working away. I hadn't thought about it at all and obviously presume that I have decades left to pursue a career.Do these women presume that they will live into their 90's to be able to see Grandkids?



  1. Very nice and touching post, just one comment,

    "So can I be blamed for trying to fit in as much as possible in the time that I have"

    No you can't, Fran. You did nothing immoral. You hurt nobody and you've brought two wonderful kids to this world (Alfie's a legend, everybody knows that, Bella's still too young to say, but she's cute as Hell). If anyone blames you for anything, he's a twat. Just show him your two fingers and tell him to f*** off! (Sorry for the "informal" language, I'm a Latin bastard, we swear a lot)



  2. I've had a bit more time to think about this and here are my thoughts:

    1. I'm not sure I agree with framing the discussion in terms of women's 'waiting' to have children. This makes it sound like having children is a default, or a duty that we keep putting off. I can only speak for myself and, in part, for my friends, but I never get the feeling that I or most of the women I know are 'putting off' having children. We're simply getting on with our lives and, at this stage, they also happen to be childless lives. So far, having children has never even been an option for me, so I don't feel like I'm 'choosing career over children' any more than, say, I'm choosing to become a linguist over a life in the circus.

    2. As you mention in your reply to Juan, whenever we talk about women choosing career over children we seem to talk as though most older mothers were all CEOs. Most mothers have normal, sometimes poorly paid, and nowadays probably unstable jobs. So maybe many of them are not having children because they're worried that they can't afford to buy nappies, not because they can't bear the idea of losing the benefits of a high flying career.

    3. Mostly though, as Juan says, you're dammed if you do and you're dammed if you don't. If you have children too young you're a feckless teenage mother, if you wait you're a selfish cow. Maybe we should just accept that, like with anything in life, we all make different choices, for different reasons and under different circumstances, and that there are as many explanations as there are women (and that there are just as many ways of being a good mother)

    4. Where are the men in all this? Why do we always have these debates as though the fathers didn't exist? You can be ready to have children in your 20s all you like, but if a) you haven't got a partner or b) your partner isn't as ready as you are, it's not gonna make much difference, is it? And why are men never asked to justify their life choices?


Thanks for taking the time to comment!