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wundayatta's avatar

Is having children at an older age (thirties into forties) a feminist triumph?

Asked by wundayatta (58377 points ) December 10th, 2012

I was forty when my daughter was born. My wife was thirtynine. According to this article, we are visiting a host of ills on our kids. They were more likely to get genetic defects. We can’t run around with them. We’ll be too old to have much to do with our grandchildren.

Now, in my case, we had no choice. We’d be childless without modern fertility techniques. But many women have careers first, and then kids. Is this a good thing? What are the pros and cons?

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8 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think that a person can have babies whenever age and be feminist or unfeminist. There is pressure in the US to give birth if you are a woman but say, when compared to Russia, the age is later (late 20s). It can be a feminist act to have kids later or not to have kids at all but when you make that decision of yours a benchmark and mark your decision as feminist, it creates weird exclusions. So, what if in certain contexts, you have 3 kids by the time you’re 20 given your racial and class location and barriers to contraception or whatever – does that mean anything unfeminist? Not automatically. What if reproductive technologies, as data indicates, is a realm of white and well-off persons? What if those technologies are not ‘the norm’ for many many groups who have children early on? It doesn’t really say one thing or another because there are complicated societal patterns. It being childfree more feminist than being a stay at home mom? Not necessarily. That article is problematic, obviously. It’s part of this push against people putting something else, like careers, before kids. But it seems to a problem only when women do it, since men are supposed (in this society) to put all of that above kids, like to put a career above kids. It’s all sort of fucked-up.

Also, you can make some particular family decision and not have feminist politics, because sometimes being a feminist is about how you vote on policies for other people. So, if you have a kid in your 40s and you still think that if she’s a girl, she has to do particular things because she is a girl, that’s not really feminist.

Then you have an issue of defining feminisms. I say feminisms because, literally, there are hundreds of different feminisms (historically, theoretically and worldwide). If you define it as equality between men and women, most people do want that and I’d call them feminists but they wouldn’t call themselves that since they might define it somehow anti-men or women are better than men (I’d say that’s not feminism but I often fight with other feminists on things that I perceive to be anti-men).

geeky_mama's avatar

I have friends who have had kids directly out of High School (and they have kids who’ve graduated from college now), and friends who are in the mid-fifties with toddlers. I’ve seen it done both ways and there are pros & cons to both… but none of the pros & cons strike me as being related to Feminism necessarily.

I had my kids in my thirties…I don’t think it’s a feminist triumph, but I do think it was good timing for me, personally, because as (bad) luck would have it, I developed a health issue (tumor) that caused me to need a full hysterectomy (& thus, I’m infertile) before age 40.

What I’d consider a triumph would be if, at any age I chose to have my children, I wouldn’t be overlooked for promotion, denied pay raises that my male counterparts received (“because they have a family to support”) and that having children didn’t impact my career trajectory.

Considering NONE of those is the case—I’ll say there is no “Feminist Triumph” here.

Here’s how I decided when to have kids:
a) when I found a man who was a good co-parent and was willing to help me raise our children.
b) when we could both afford daycare (because we both continued to work).

BTW, here’s how we decided to STOP having kids:
a) when we could no longer afford daycare (because having 3 kids in daycare was over $2500/month)
b) when my boss(es) started “strategically” scheduling work trips that would force me to wean our breastfeeding children. (Happened every time. AND, they were FEMALE bosses.)

SavoirFaire's avatar

Breaking news: every decision comes with opportunity costs!

No particular action can be considered a feminist triumph or a feminist disaster absent a context. One of the things feminists are typically about, after all, is eliminating the notion that particular behaviors are gender specific. As such, they are likely to treat anything of the form “you’re a man, therefore ________” or “you’re a woman, therefore ________” with suspicion.

Note that I used the words “gender,” “man,” and “woman” rather than “sex,” “male,” and “female.” Obviously, certain things follow from being genetically male or female (though not as much as some people think, and nor should it be forgotten that genetic ambiguity exists as well).

bookish1's avatar

Sounds more like a triumph of modern medicine to me. In pre-modern societies, most humans would be nearing death by their thirties or forties (if they had even made it that far).

gailcalled's avatar

It is also much riskier for older mothers. The pregnancies have higher chances of having issues of various kinds.

An older father also raises the odds of trouble.

Statistically, women are meant to bear kids in their teens and earlier twenties.Plenty of women beat the odds, I know.

CWOTUS's avatar

I’m the oldest of five, and my mother was 32 when I was born… in 1953. I’m the first to admit that I’m pretty far from perfect, but my genetic legacy hasn’t been so bad; I have no complaints.

Mom would be tickled to learn that she was a feminist. Or ticked, one.

Unbroken's avatar

Lots of good answers here.

I never considered the two linked, here are a few of my thoughts on the matter.

The decision to have children should be about the child.

Are you mature enough and finacially secure enough to have a child? It is a huge responsibilty; timewise, fiscally, emotionally etc.

I refrained from having children because I didn’t want to take the risk that it would mature me enough to be a good parent. And I wanted to make sure I had a partner who I could envision as a good parent figure as well as someone I could get along with and make responsible decisions with together for at least the minimum 18 years. Even if the relationship itself fell apart, which I would hope to avoid.

I have had friends that have gotten pregnant young and not in the ideal circumstances they turned out to be great parents. They grew into the role. But we are all different.
Some didn’t.

I would consider it selfish just to have children to fulfill some bench mark etc.

The flip of that I suppose would be and mind you I have just heard this from males: is women refrain from having children to avoid what it does to their bodies. Maybe a few do. But if they have that opinion should they really have children?

So those are some thoughts I wanted to elaborate on in regards to this topic.

Edit:
Most doctors won’t consider tieing women’s tubes even if they have had a few children and are still young. I have heard instances where the doctor has refused after there were medical complications with the pregnancy but when the woman did become pregnanct again they advised aborting it. What is up with that?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I will bypass the feminism part, therefore, I will say this about the rest:

Pros to later parenthood:
• Better chance at being financially established.
• More wisdom hopefully equating to better temperament and decision making.
• More life experience to pass on.

Cons to later parenting:
• Less chance to be physically fit to engage the children in physical activities.
• Leaving one or all the children orphaned before they graduate.
• Having some or all your children experience the loss of a parent before 18yr..
• Higher risk of birth defects (IMO jury is still out on this one)?
• Slim to no chance at seeing your grandchildren much less having a relationship with them.
• Having children that have to explain you are not the grandparents

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