Last week, New York Magazine featured a cover image that's drawing the whole world into yet another discussion about what women should do with their bodies. The image featured a silver haired woman (who looked oddly like IMF director Christine Lagarde) nude and photographed from the side, abdomen distended with child. Alongside the image, the provocative headline, "Is She Too Old For This?"
Journalists and commentators have weighed in on this question in the ensuing days. Many present their concerns about older motherhood in terms of caring deeply for the individuals considering it, offering unsolicited medical advice, and suggesting that older women who choose to be mothers are doing their future children a disservice. These are all great questions. I'm sure that older mothers have never ever heard them before, from anyone.
In the cacophony that ensued post-covergate, an important issue has gone unaddressed, especially if you are considering weighing in on the controversy: Are you too young to tell women they're too old to be mothers?
Of course, your ability to stick your nose in the business of others is your body and your choice. But often, I've found that younger people who like to tell older women that they're unfit for motherhood often haven't considered several factors, and that lack of consideration can lead to heartbreak. Telling older women what is best for them and their families is becoming more and more common nowadays; people as young as 20 are weighing in on whether women over the age of 40 should have children without really understanding what they're doing to themselves and society. If you're considering telling an older woman that she's too old to be a mother, please, consider the following factors.
1. You might be putting your health at risk. I'm no doctor, but I know this: while women in their 40's and 50's have lower bone density than their younger counterparts, they are often much more physically dangerous as they carry with them the benefit of years of experience and large, heavy purses full of hard candies. Older women considering motherhood have also undoubtedly been getting the unsolicited opinions of strangers about their choices for decades — about getting married or not getting married young, about choosing to have a career, about gaining or not gaining weight — and have thus been simmering with pent up rage. You don't want to be on the receiving end of that rage if you're under 30. You lack the dexterity and combat experience.
2. Energy. Have you considered that the reason that you're spending all this time worrying about another woman's body and another woman's family is that you're youthful and have an excessive amount of energy? How's your fitness level? Would you be less of a busybody if you be exercised more? Maybe you can take the energy that you're wasting on an activity that will do nothing but annoy a stranger and channel it into something useful, like making macrame owls, selling them to hipsters, and donating the proceeds to hospitals that help children with birth defects, since you suddenly care about the health of strangers' babies so very much.
3. Lack of wisdom. A lot of young people don't seem to understand this — and why would they? — but often, as people live their lives, they learn various things that they use in helping themselves become more fully realized adult humans who behave in non-regrettable ways. While we've all witnessed the fact that the generally elderly do not come correct to airports, in almost every other area of life that doesn't involve screens, people who have lived longer than you have gained wisdom, and arguing with them as though you're the keeper of some infinite knowledge to which they don't have access reads sort of like the freshman who gets in a philosophy debate with his tenured professor. To witness such a debate is just embarrassing.
4. Young people bossing around older women is just icky and wrong. Just as many people's visceral reaction to the pregnant elderly woman New York Magazine was one of disgust at the upending of the natural order of things, so too should be their disgust at the idea that a younger person would boss around someone older. It's almost like people's internalized hostility toward their own mothers is manifesting itself in the way they can condescendingly condemn older women who choose to be mothers! Or something!
5. You never know if you're going to find yourself putting on the ol' hypocrite hat and trying to get pregnant yourself at 42. There are some women who, at 20, know that they never want to have children. There are others who know with complete certainty that they do want to have children. And there are still others who have a bunch of shit they want to get done before they feel comfortable, mature, or financially stable enough to bring another tiny expensive human into the world, and by the time those conditions exist, they're at the tail end of their fertile years. You may be one of those people.
It's none of my business to tell people who they can and cannot judge, but these are just some worries that I've gained from years of experience. If you're young, before you decide to tell an older woman that she's too old to be a mother, please consider these five factors in determining whether or not its worth it.
Because, more than anything, I care about your health.
Image via Valeriy Velikov/Shutterstock