Here’s a link to a cover story in New York Mag this week, about the way delayer trend — women who have kids at 50 or later. Parents of a Certain Age. The article, by Lisa Miller, discusses both egg donor moms (mostly) and adoptive moms (the bigger group). And a few dads.

The piece pulls its punches a bit — beginning with a heavy dose of the yuck factor, and citing Nancy London at length arguing that biology is destiny, and 50 is too late. Then midway through it changes gears:
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.”

Too bad for those expectations, however. The scene is morphing fast.

You can find a few words of mine toward the end about older women, money and clout. Given free rein I would have gone on a length about how it’s only when women delay kids that they get the chance in the work world as it’s constructed today to finish their educations and climb the ladders at work to points where their voices can shape policy. But Miller makes many great points here – tracking a trend that a good number in her NY audience are already on board for.


3 thoughts on “New Parents @ 50+

  • September 27, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Elizabeth, it was a great moment to find we were both included in the same piece. I think that’s a first! And, I’m genuinely pleased to see that we seem to have a similar take on this article, as posted in our respective blogs today.
    One of my main concerns about this piece is how far are people actually reading? If they don’t make it past the half-way mark, they are likely to buy in to the social prejudice that the writer seems to be touting in the beginning. It almost seems as if her editor gave her one brief and she felt she had to emerge with her own agenda as well. I’ve never quite seen an article written in this fashion, changing positions right in the meat of the text.
    It was important, however, that she raised the point that ageism is the last bastion of prejudice for the liberal-minded. Lest we forget: it’s older WOMEN she’s referring to for the most part. (Isn’t that what the picture on the cover is suggesting after all?)
    What I found most intriguing is the comment that menopause might just be an “evolutionary relic” with respect to motherhood. I’ve been waiting for someone to put that concept into words. And they did. It means it’s finally entered the collective consciousness (as opposed to “un”). I’d really like to know your thoughts on this.
    Great to see you standing up for the demographic once more…yes, excellent, trustworthy and reliable childcare would answer for much. I just interviewed Access Hollywood’s Laura Saltman, who had her baby at 40+ and she is a big advocate for childcare as an empowering resource.

  • October 3, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Excellent points here and I’m glad to have found your blog as I really enjoyed your book.

    I found the article interesting but thought the abrupt about-face in the middle was really strange. It made me wonder about the editing process.

    Meanwhile, the cover photo was horrible! And isn’t it ironic? I mean, doesn’t anybody remember who shot the original Demi Moore pregnancy photo for Vanity Fair?

    Check out my post: “The Real Older Mom Behind New York Magazine’s Cover” on MidAgeMom:

    I think of Leibovitz when I need a little inspiration.

  • October 4, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Hi Jennifer,
    I love that Leibovitz self-photo – the reality of middle-aged pregnancy. Not glammed up, but totally normal. Very different from the “photo-illustration by Darrow” photoshopped with “photos [plural] by Danny Kim.”
    Happy to learn about your book – i look forward to reading it.
    cheers! eg

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