Tuesday, December 27, 2005
The New 30
The Omegas do not partake of popular culture (aka "TV") very much. Mr. OmegaMom gets high doses of pop culture when he is out in the field--he spends the nights at hotels, and gets a TV fix then. He informs me that I'm not missing much. But even in this pop-free household, we get leakage from the greater world. So it's my understanding that "40 is the new 30"...or is it "50 is the new 30"? AARP, apparently, is touting that "60 is the new 30". The U.S. Census says that there were 50,454 centenarians in the U.S. in 2000 (one of which is my grandma), up from 37,306 in 1990. The U.S. Census is estimating that the number will double in 10 years. So we're living longer. Concurrent with this is the ever-increasing age of women to give birth. In 1970, the national average age at first birth was 22.1 years old, according to the CDC; that average age has increased to 24.9. And then there's Aleta St. James, sister to Curtis Sliwa of Guardian Angels fame. St. James gave birth to twins via donor egg/donor sperm a year ago, at age 56. Gotta admit, for a 56-year-old who just gave birth, she sure looks 30s-ish. Of course, the news (and any follow-up articles) generated the usual commentary: "selfish women who put off childbearing to further their careers"; "a mid-50s woman just doesn't have the energy"; "why didn't she just get a dog?"; "it isn't fair to the kids--she'll be in her 70s when they finish highschool". Bioethicist Arthur Caplan chimed in, and, when a 66-year-old woman gave birth via ART, he further went on to demand age limits on reproductive medicine. As a middle-aged mom myself, beginning the work on number two, I have to admit that the commentary gets to me, because it's often applied to women of my age as well. I look at OmegaDotter and realize that when she graduates from highschool, I will be 61. When DotterSecunda comes along, well, only the Kozmik All knows how old I will be when she graduates. There are definitely times when I worry about the age thing. Is it fair? Is it right? What if I take after Dad's side of the family, rather than OmegaGranny's, and kick off in my 60s rather than my 90s? On the other hand, as I have mentioned before, when I was in my 20s and early 30s, I was...well...a flibbertigibbit, a butterfly, not wildly responsible, and very commitment-phobic. To boot, as I have gotten older, I have an increased patience level for things that are the result of childish behavior (rather than the decreased patience level I have for things that are the result of boorish behavior, which is totally different). And having a baby or toddler around the house has increased my patience even more (because otherwise I'd go loony tunes on Mr. OmegaMom, and he'd be left holding the bag). So there are pluses and minuses to the "older motherhood" thang. While part of me tends to agree with Caplan and the commentators, that there's a line beyond which we should not go, another part of me looks around and sees people in their 40s and 50s being more active, more vibrant than I recall them as a child. After all, nowadays retirement villages a la Sun City emphasize the "active lifestyle" in their ads, because they're marketing to aging Baby Boomers to whom the idea of aging is anethema. There are certain inherent biological limits, 'tis true. At least St. James makes it very clear she used donor egg--many older 40s/early 50s celebrities who have had children recently are somewhat coy on the subject. But what if the hopes and promises of current aging research pan out? What if--with the help of medicine--folks can live extended lives that feature extended health and vitality? If that's the case, then the "older motherhood" problem would simply vanish into the mists.