All mums are different – that’s nothing new. But there are some mums who, purely based on the age at which they had their children, tend to be seen as ‘particularly’ different. Meet two such mums – Tanya, 43, is mum to Brielle (19), Lani (16) and Brock (14) while Amanda, 49, is mum to Alex (5). We asked them both some of the big questions that come with being a ‘young mum’ vs an ‘older mum’.
Meet Amanda Collins… Meet Tanya Cooper…
Age she had her first child: 44 Age she had her first child: 24
Did she feel ready for motherhood: No way! Did she feel ready for motherhood: Definitely!
Older mum, Amanda: I had been working since I was 20 in corporate roles in Australia, India and the UK. To be honest, I was hitting a plateau in my career and was wondering to myself ‘what was next?’. I had been with my partner for three years and I had just accepted a new role as head of HR in an international travel corporation. It was during the first week at my new job when I felt a little sick. I put it down to nerves, but on day three I had a silly thought that I could be pregnant – so I picked up a pregnancy kit from the chemist on the way home. I literally froze when it came up positive… Fear, excitement and ‘oh my God, I’ve just started a new job’! Pregnancy meant a change in direction, so I was also a quite happy that I had a different focus about to happen in my life, albeit nothing that I knew anything about or was even slightly prepared for.
Young mum, Tanya: I had been working full-time in the airline industry since I was 19, so when I had Brielle at 24, I definitely felt ready. I took 12 months of maternity leave and then got back into it job sharing – I had one week on and one week off. Between myself and my partner, there were only three days a fortnight that we had my mother looking after Brielle, so it suited us perfectly. But when I had my daughter Lani 2.5 years later, it became almost impossible to juggle shift work and two kids. I stayed home for the next few years and had our son, Brock. During that time, I was project managing some townhouses we were developing, which I loved because it gave me a lot of flexibility. When I started to feel like I wanted to do something else, I looked for work that would allow me to spend school holidays with the kids. Now, I work in administration at their school. It’s not the industry that I originally dreamt of working in, but it suits us perfectly.
Older mum, Amanda: My partner and I were told a few years before that we had a less than 2 per cent chance of conceiving, so we just put the thought aside and got on with travel and our careers. Deep down neither of us really knew if we wanted to have kids, so it didn’t really worry us. It wasn’t really on my mind, as I wasn’t longing to have a child. I was driving a two-door sports car when we found out I was pregnant, so I definitely wasn’t prepared! We were told the statistics on having a child with disability, so we did ALL the tests available at the time to see if the bub was going to be affected by any gene disorders. Going through them was emotionally harrowing, but for me it was well worth it.
Young mum, Tanya: Our main reason for wanting to have kids was simply because it felt like the next step. I just felt very ready to have kids and looking back I’m so glad I had them when I did. I asked my girls whether they thought we made a good decision, or if they would do it differently, and they both said they’d prefer to have kids younger.
RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CHILDREN
Older mum, Amanda: My partner (who is 51) and I are both ‘young at heart’ people who love to be silly, so the age difference of 44 and 46 years between us and Alex is not too bad. In fact, sometimes it’s our 5-year-old who says ‘Come on guys, get serious’ when we’re kidding around, which cracks us up even more. Alex gets introduced to music and movies from the 80s, which none of his buddies at school do, and we enjoy going bike-riding, bush-walking, surfing and going on roller coasters as much as he does… We just need a little ‘rest’ after whereas he’s rearing to go again.
Young mum, Tanya: I have a really great relationship with my children, and I do think it’s because we are so close in age. In a sense, I’m able to relate to them and their friends and they genuinely like having me tag along. I feel like Dean and I grew up with our kids – we learned together and we definitely weren’t set in our ways. We were flexible.
Ed’s note: Tanya’s daughter is that Brielle Cooper of Kurrawa SLSC who is also the youngest winner of a professional ironwoman series.
Older mum, Amanda: When I did conceive with Alex, I was worried that my age would be a problem as I was somewhat unkindly labelled a ‘geriatric mother’ by the midwife staff at the hospital – apparently, it’s a term they give to ‘older mums’ and not an insult – and I was asked by the midwives why I left it so late to have a child. My partner has been asked if he was the grandparent! But the criticism that ‘you’ll be too tired’ is true for us. A five-year-old who only has his parents at home to play with is always asking for us to play, and we are sometimes just too tired after work to get on the floor with cars and Lego. It’s important for him to have a good social network of buddies for play-dates to keep him company.
Young mum, Tanya: there are definitely criticisms that come with having children young, but in our situation we didn’t experience any of them. We had both been working full-time for around five years, so we were ‘set up’ enough to start a family without it being a major issue. The only thing that we ‘missed out’ on was travelling – a lot of our friends were travelling while we were raising a family, but we’ve made an effort to do a lot of travelling in the last few years. Now that our kids are a bit older, my husband and I can go on trips of our own and not have to worry too much about them. It’s all about give and take.
Older mum, Amanda: I’d like to think that I will see Alex grow up and develop his own career and relationships before I get too old and cranky! I doubt whether I will be a great-grandmother, but I can honestly say I never focus on it. We live for the moment, the week, and we are grateful for what we have in our lives every day. I wouldn’t hesitate to encourage women in their ‘later years’ to have a child if that’s what they really wanted. Stay silly, stay healthy and raising a small person when you’re heading towards the ‘twilight years’ is a fantastic journey!
Young mum, Tanya: It wasn’t something I thought about at the time, but now I’m so glad that I’ll be able to see so much of my children’s lives. Because we’re a bit closer in age, they’re happy to hang out with us and we get to spend a lot of time with them. Plus, we’re also happy that we’ll be able to see them grow up and have children, and even maybe grandchildren, of their own. Yikes, I can’t believe how quickly it’s going!
MOTHERHOOD BY THE NUMBERS
- Around 95 per cent of primary parental leave is taken by mothers
- 35 per cent of women and 28 per cent of men have a Bachelor degree or higher
- Women comprise 46.9 per cent of all employed persons in Australia – 25.1 per cent are women working full-time and 21.8 per cent are women working part-time
- The average age of menopause is 51 years old, but menopause may occur as early as the 30s or as late as the 60s
- A woman’s fertility begins to decline gradually in her late 20s, declines more sharply around age 35, and drops sharply at age 40
- Women are born with somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 eggs. By 37, they’ll have about 25,000 left
- Every 1 minute and 43 seconds, a baby is born in Australia
- It costs around one million dollars to raise a kid from birth to 18 years
- The typical Australian woman spends 5-14 hours a week doing unpaid domestic housework
- Around one in five mothers who were employees who worked in their job while pregnant felt that they had experienced some type of discrimination in their workplace during their pregnancy
- Almost two-thirds of mums say that they’ve been shamed for their parenting skills, often by other mums