A disappointing article this, which did little to dispel prejudice against older mothers, to me mainly about an overbearing sense of entitlement; I want baby so I must have, at whatever cost to myself and others, no matter that I lived apparently contentedly without one for many decades. Clearly this writer had unlimited funds at her disposal. To be fair, her journey as first time mother in her fifties has just begun, so what can she really know? Mine, to be honest, hasn’t progressed much further. But for what it’s worth, here’s the truth about what it feels like to be a mother in your fifties of an only child under five.
Mainly, it’s subtly isolating. Join the NCT, join other culturally homogenous new mothers’ groups; you’ll often find yourself, in the politest possible way, excluded. They’ll forget to tell you about informal parties meetings they just happened to arrange in your absence. When the birthday parties start your child may be dropped from the list, no matter that you invited theirs – though it’s possible they “lost” your invitation or were regretfully unable to attend for other reasons. It’s not that they dislike you, or are ganging up on you in any conscious way – it’s just that they sense you are not quite “one of us” and are secretly, slightly guiltily relieved whenever you fail to show. Secretly, they are sorry for your child; and sometimes, if you let it get to you, you start agreeing with them. That’s the biggest danger you face, probably.
Of course there are as many reasons as there are cliques why people are excluded, but age-difference is definitely one of them. In today’s fast moving world your formative passions, your cultural reference points are as good as incomprehensible and possibly a little scary to someone born a mere ten years later, let alone 20. Apart from which, at 50, you are at a completely different life-phase from parents in their twenties and thirties. You may or may not have more money; but your career by now will either be established, or long-abandoned. Either way you will be less concerned with “getting back to work”. You’re also less concerned, in my experience, with general grooming and appearance, whether personal or domestic. You worry less, and this is a big plus, about making an impression.
But it means yummy-mummy talk about fashion and interiors fails to engage you, and compliments on either whether given or received tend to fall a bit flat. As a focus in common, however, babies can take you a long way; in the meantime other mutual interests may emerge – or they may not. The situation doesn’t change much at the school gates, although it my case it’s certainly helped by the other cultural diversities present at our classroom door. It’s difficult for any group to form a decent clique; a lot of us stand around, smiling shyly or exchanging the barest platitudes. There are also several grandmothers in attendance.