First time parents at 70 and 72-years-old

by Abby O'Reilly // 1 January 2009, 18:09

Having written on this subject before I realise that it can be contentious. However, without being deliberately polemical I think the subject of age and childbirth is still worthy of debate. So I’m offering this opening paragraph as my rationale for writing this piece. Firstly, this has not been written with ageist intent, or to suggest that the reproductive choices of all women should be policed. However, while I understand that women should not be seen as mere vessels for the gestation of babies; that we should have access to the privileges and choices that science has made available to us, in some instances I believe that the relative quality of life of the resultant children should be taken into account and prioritised. While we, as individuals, can make our own choices, when such stories are put into the public forum with the consent of the parties involved I feel that they can legitimately be debated. I do, of course, believe in the pursuit of women's rights, but I also believe that feminism can only be most effective when it incorporates an element of self-reflection and analysis. This is, as always, my opinion as an independent blogger only, and not that of The F Word as a body.

According to this article on November 28 2008 Rajo Devi, age 70, gave birth to her first child, Naveen Lohan, following IVF treatment in Haryana, India. Devi married Bala Ram, 72, in 1954, and while they longed for a child they were unable to conceive. Ram was encouraged to take a second wife by Devi’s family in the form of her younger sister, in the hope that a child would result, but this union was likewise fruitless. Having sought medical tests, Devi and Bala were assured that they were not infertile, and the reasons why they couldn’t conceive were unknown.

This year Devi and Ram received fertility treatment at a medical centre in India using a donor egg and Bala’s sperm. The identity of the egg donor remains anonymous. Fears surrounding Devi’s health during pregnancy (reportedly because of her age) meant that medical professionals were keen to limit the possibility of her conceiving twins because she wouldn’t have carried them to term. Devi, who underwent the menopause over twenty years ago, became pregnant in April this year following the second round of treatment. She gave birth to a 3lb baby girl (two months prematurely) following a single embryo transfer procedure.

The average life expectancy at birth in India (according to the United Nations) is 64.7 years. This means that it is highly unlikely Ram and Devi will live to see their daughter grow up, or even mature past infancy. I can understand that they were desperate for a child. I can also understand that culturally they felt it necessary to produce offspring in order to validate and elevate their status in their community. However, further to this and Devi’s proclamation that they had “longed for a child all these years and now are very happy to have one in the twilight years of our life," their newborn daughter is not enough. They are hoping that further fertility treatment will lead to the conception and birth of a son. Besides confirming the idea championed in some areas of the World that a daughter is a disappointment, it is likely that Devi will also be well into her 70s by the time a son is born through further fertility treatment.

In the UK couples are having children at an older age. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in 2007 1,091 women over 45 gave birth, compared to just 540 in the same demographic in 1995. I have no figures outlining the percentage of natural conceptions set against IVF conceptions, and considering that we are living longer in the UK and taking care of ourselves, this is a reasonable age to want to have a child. Parents are concerned about financial security, and the vast majority of people do not feel they are in a position to support a child until they are older. However, what about when this age creeps up to 60/65 (which it will do)?

No matter how healthy we are, there are limits to what we can do physically as we get older, and conscientious living can only extend our lives so far. That science has enabled women to have more control over reproduction is only a good thing. I also appreciate that the health of women can vary quite significantly, and that the physical well-being of two women of the same age can be remarkably different. However, considering that this is not the first instance of a woman past the age of 65 conceiving and giving birth through fertility treatment, would it be sensible to introduce an upper age limit preventing any woman (regardless of wealth or circumstances) above a certain age from being allowed access to fertility treatment? Specifically, should those women who have experienced the menopause (with the exception of those who have gone through the menopause prematurely or have, for medical reasons such as the need for a hysterectomy, had their reproductive abilities suspended before they would have naturally expired), be denied fertility treatment, especially when it requires a donor egg and sperm to be a success?

I am genuinely interested in varying opinions on this topic because, try as I might, I cannot personal see any reason why a post-menopausal woman would be encouraged to have a baby past the age of 55 (at the absolute latest). Today I asked my 70-year-old grandmother if she would consider having a baby now. She looked at me as if I was crazy and said absolutely not. The reason she gave was that she didn’t think it would be fair on the child and that she gets tired more easily than she did when she was younger. I think she is fairly typical of a lot of 70-year-olds. The case of Devi and Ram, to me, centralises arguments regarding the rationale behind procreation. Was this a pursuit motivated by the desire for a child who they could look after and know as an adult as well as a baby, or rather by their determination to ensure the posessions that they have accumulated throughout their lives remains the property of a blood relative? I understand that as human beings we (mostly) have an innate desire to pass on our genetic material, but doesn't there come a time when we should abandon parental aspirations and accept that it just wasn't meant to be?

Comments From You

tomhulley // Posted 01 January 2009 at 19:27

i follow you, abby, but perhaps too cautious? is any criticism of this event ageist? or sexist?
the actions of this couple are selfish and ridiculous
how this makes less of someone on the grounds of age or less of a woman in terms of reproductive rights is beyond me.
maybe children have a right to young parents ... I think 30 is too old!!! now that is controversial...

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 01 January 2009 at 20:02

Hiya Tom, thanks so much for your comment. I was cautious when writing this piece simply because the last time I wrote on this topic discussions were obfuscated and derailed by speculation surrounding my personal intentions and integrity. I thought perhaps this approach may prevent the same thing from happening again. I do completely agree with you - this couple are incredibly selfish. I did originally include a paragraph outlining my personal thoughts regarding age and chilbirth but removed it.

The women in my family were predominantly 19/20 when they had their first babies, and then 25 at the most when they completed their families. The same can be said of the vast majority of my schoolfriends. At university a lot of my friends had parents the same age as my grandparents and older. I found that generally, the ways in which I, and my schoolfriends, relate to our parents, and the relationships we have with our parents, are entirely different to the friends of mine from university whose mum's and dad's were considerably older. This may not be typical of all families, but was visible enough for me to conclude that I have been fortunate to have much younger parents. While my university friends were born into finanically secure families (in comparison to my parents and school friends' parents who were comparably very very poor when we were born), I have always felt that I was very lucky to have younger parents and that material posessions would have in no way compensated for that. I didn't grow up thinking about what I wanted and what I could have, and I don't think that, unless they have been conditioned to do so, children do.

People wait until they are older because they often believe that they can provide more for their children by doing so, but the vast majority of children don't store importance in having posessions and so this is irrelevant. Personally, I don't think that I want children, but I always thought when I was growing up that if I did, I would have one by 26 at the absolute latest. I just turned 25 so I won't. From a personal perspective, I completely agree with your last remark as I wouldn't have a baby at 30 years of age as I do think that children have a right to young parents. As I say, I don't think I would past 26. That's not because 30 is old, but rather because I would worry the generational gap may be too large to forge a close relationship with my offspring - or a relationship reminiscent of that I have with my parents. I was quite encouraged by your remark as I have held this belief for a very long time, but thought it was too controversial to air - although I suppose I have a right to set personal limits, and that is mine.

Janis // Posted 01 January 2009 at 20:23

Children are born to parents who abuse them, genitally mutilate them, abandon them, feed them junk food, smoke in the houses they live in, treat girl children as worthless, take no measures to protect the planet they live on, who die when their children are little - often through no fault of their own, and an endless list of things parents shouldn't do.

The age of the woman - why is it our place to judge? Perhaps there is an extended and caring family, maybe our view of the nuclear family isn't the best paradigm, who knows?

And perhaps, just perhaps, there are benefits from much older parents that we can't even imagine, that science will determine only when this becomes not a unique event.

One thing that we may be able to glimpse about the science of the future is that one day, 70 will not be seen to be old, people of that age will be as active and healthy as people currently are at 30.

depresso // Posted 01 January 2009 at 20:24

I seem to recall an article you wrote last year regarding a similar subject, Abby. If you don't think parents should conceive after 55, I suggest you don't, and refrain from judging others for choosing to do so themselves. The child in question may have 20+ years with parents who love them and will be totally and utterly devoted to them, there are more than enough children who don't. Perhaps adoption could have been an option, but I don't know the couple or their motivations in going through IVF (which I understand isn't a barrel of laughs) and having their own child, but I know that if I got post-menopausal and still wished to have a child, I would not want to be written off as a loving parent merely because of the years I have lived.

Additionally, what about younger people who are terminally ill, and choose to have children? Are they equally 'selfish'?

Ruth // Posted 01 January 2009 at 21:47

Abby and Tom, it depends on whether you believe that the "generation gap" (in my view, a social construct with no essential validity) outweighs common personality traits/interests etc. Not to mention the view/experience that some people are simply not mature enough to bring up children whilst just out of their own teens - it's not primarily about money, though it certainly helps. This is in part of course down to our society and its extension of adolescence, but is a factor nonetheless.

The idea that a 30 year old mother and a 70 year old one are comparable is, I submit, stretching a point beyond which it can bear - the real issue in the latter case is the greatly increased risk of being orphaned.

I'm glad you have a good relationship with your parents, but if we are being anectdotal, I know many offspring of older parents with good relationships (and will hold my hand up and point to my son and his father, a 43 year age gap) and those of younger ones with bad. Taken in aggregate, I suspect there would be little direct correlation, and other factors would prove more relevant.

Lauren O // Posted 01 January 2009 at 22:32

It's probably a bad idea for 70-year-olds to have children, for the reasons you've listed. They'll probably die soon, and they're probably less physically able to care for a baby at their age.

But that doesn't mean we should "ntroduce an upper age limit preventing any woman...above a certain age from being allowed access to fertility treatment." We can disapprove of a choice without making our opinion into law.

Jess McCabe // Posted 01 January 2009 at 23:20

Personally, I find the idea of some kind of enforcable age restrictions sort of creepy.

It might not be the best idea in the world for an older person to become a parent, but it doesn't seem to me that there are so many 70+ year olds trying to conceive that it needs anyone to come in and ban it.

And, really, wouldn't it be a very dangerous door to open? Do we need to open up a new precedent for government control of women's bodies and reproductive rights?

MB // Posted 01 January 2009 at 23:46

30 is too old to have a baby? Total tosh. I had my first baby at 18, second at 24 and my third at 30. Generation gap? what generation gap? I'm equally close to all of my children as are they between themselves even though as you can see there is a 12 year cap between the oldest and the youngest. Sorry Abby but you do seem to have age issues demonstrated by this post and your previous one.

In addition.

"That's not because 30 is old, but rather because I would worry the generational gap may be too large to forge a close relationship with my offspring - or a relationship reminiscent of that I have with my parents."

Why does your experience need to be 'reminiscent' of your parents. We are all free to play our own game you know, that's what being an adult and free of parental influence is all about. Being a parent is not about recreating familiar childhood memories and dynamics because you are not your parents and your children are not you reincarnated.

I'd better stop now.

Hazel // Posted 02 January 2009 at 01:25

I can only echo "total tosh" regarding the remarks at being "old" parents at 30.

Lind // Posted 02 January 2009 at 01:58

This article presumes a demand for IVF among 60+ women which simply isn't apparent yet (if it will be at all) so the idea of setting an upper age limit on the practice seems premature at best. If such demand does grow, I agree with Janis's point that it will be in a context in which our conceptions of age are vastly different. Also, like Jess, I'm leery of government interference in reproductive rights, whatever my personal feelings about this case and others like it.

I completely respect your right to set your own limits wrt to having a baby, but I must protest the general notion that 30 is too old. My mum had me at 30 and I wouldn't say there is more of a generation gap between us than that between some of my friends and their younger parents. In fact, my anecdotal experience tells me that age is barely a factor in parent-child relationships. My view is that children have a right to love, support, caring etc. and that age does not determine whether a parent is more or less capable of providing these things.

Anne Onne // Posted 02 January 2009 at 03:08

I find this a complicated issue, so I want to first point out that I don't judge you, Abby, or believe your integrity the less for this opinion, whether I agree on the whole or not. I don't believe other commenters who are against this have the worst intentions (though obviously not all who hold a similar opinion have the same reasons).

For me, there are two very conflicting arguments at heart of this:

One: Physically, it does get harder to raise children with age. Bearing in mind many of our preferences are cultural (many women have their first children in their thirties when fifty years ago this would have seemed madness, and they would have seemed past it), there is a real physical effect that age has, both on our ability to become pregnant and carry to term, and on giving birth.

Then there's looking after the child: older parents may be more mature than younger ones, but they probably have less tolerance in other ways. When talking to women who've had children when young and then when older, I find they point out that they were not only physically finding it harder to keep up with a baby when older, but also more stressed, less patient and able to be flexible than when they were younger. Biologically, we probably haven't evolved to cope with babies in our later years, and doing so could be a real stress.

Also, what about the child, and their chance to live with their parents? How will they cope if their parent dies when they are young? This is a concern because it is not pleasant to be orphaned.

However, there's another side. The side that tells me 'what are the arguments against, and do they chime with arguments you know to be discriminatory?'. Here, we are quick to judge and wonder 'Why on Earth would someone do that, when I wouldn't.'

Also, that many children suffer from less than 'perfect' circumstances. This is used to deny the legitimacy of a same-sex parent family, or a single parent family.* Many children lose one or both parents through all sorts of circumstances. Many children have disabled parents, or end up as carers of their parents. Disabled people get pressured to not have children because people are afraid that they just aren't up to it and will ruin the childrens' lives.

Couldn't we work on ensuring that children born to older parents, children who care for their parents, whose parents are disabled or ill, or dealing with a problem, children in all backgrounds where they may be at risk, get support where it is needed? That there are adequate provisions made for them if the worst happens? That way, the children are cared for, and we don't limit some womens' rights to choose because we feel uncomfortable. Like with abortions, or teenage parents or whatever people demonise, I feel the answer to our misgivings is not to limit choice, but try to support people so that choices come with less problems and more support. This needn't be a life-destroying thing for the children, especially if we don't let it be.

I'd mention that many children get abused by parents of all ages, too. there isn't any guarantee that a young parent will be able to look after you, will live to see you grow, or won't make your life a wreck.

Children often get raised by grandparents as well. I don't know if it happens as much in the UK, but in cultures where the extended family play a role, they may do the majority of parenting if the parents both work (this has been the case in examples in my family). We let grandparents look after children, so for me it feels wrong to say that my mother can look after my theoretical child should I die, but that a woman her age can't adopt one or have one of her own.

As for the physical risks, they are the woman's to bear. We believe that for abortions, and much as though I have reservations, I have to class this in that category. I don't think I'd do it. But then again, I don't think rules should be based on what I want in my life.

My end belief is this: my gut instinct is that many women would struggle to raise children when they are older. That there isn't a good reason to wait until someone has deteriorated physically, when the demands are so great. However, I have always tried to err on the side of freedom of individual choice where feel unsure, and where the rhetoric against mirrors many anti-feminist talking points. I'm not implying that everyone here or elsewhere who disagrees is antifeminist or malicious (though there are some with those intentions), merely that for me, unless I can't persuade myself that an action would not be disctiminatory, that I should be allowed to make a risk assessment for someone else, I would rather give someone the choice than not.

Yes, choices come with mistakes and problems, but I feel uncomfortable laying down a blanket rule saying X people can't do Y' when it does not affect me, and many people live that reality.

I can't see a compromise to this, and I don't blame anyone for taking the other side. I just hope we can discuss this well enough to draw out some ideas we haven't thought of before, and find new ways to look at it.

* Here, I'm not referring to the health of the parents, or that two healthy single sex parents are the same as one of advanced years, but making a parallel to how the language of arguments against both are used.

I don't believe that all examples I've used are the same, so don't require lots of replies pointing ou the differences.
I merely want to point out that where there is a difference, we need to work on using rhetoric that isn't steeped in discriminatory language. If we can't find ways of explaining it withour relying on problematic ideas, maybe we're not seeing something, maybe we're blinded by privilege or being discriminatory.

Relatively few older women are trying to become parents, so this isn't a huge trend, and whilst I don't believe it should be seen as a great option because it has serious drawbacks, I'd prefer to work on giving these mothers support if they need it, and supporting all families where children need support, and work to help all those in abusive situations.

Sara Pulis // Posted 02 January 2009 at 03:37

If we are to start saying that there ought to be certain age limits for having children, where does the argument stop? Plenty of grandparents and other older adults are the legal guardians of their much-younger relatives. If the age of a caretaker is such a factor in child-rearing, ought this practice be stopped as well?

Ruth Moss // Posted 02 January 2009 at 08:25

Yes, at thirty-one (had my baby a week after my 30th birthday) I am destined not to have a close relationship with my son, who is currently sitting on my lap as I type. I'm thinking about number two in a few years' time, when I'm about thirty four or thirty five. I'll be a distant figure to her/him.

Don't get me wrong, of course 70/72 seems a tad on the old side, simply for life expectancy reasons. But instigating a cut-off point? Who gets to decide? Someone who thinks 30 is a bit too old?

As for older people not being able to look after young children - well, seeing as we're being anecdotal, I work outside the home while my mother-in-law (fantastic relationship with her son who she had at 37 btw) looks after my son. She is 67 and is more than capable of looking after him and running around after him. Actually the only difference between her and me in the energy stakes is that she uses a buggy rather than a sling.

As for people waiting until they're older so they can give their children more stuff - I waited until I was older so I could get all the drug-taking, drinking and partying out of my system - not actually being flippant here!! Also, being older meant more savings - which meant I could afford to be out of work for nine months. Some people are incredibly mature at 26. Some people are incredibly mature at 16. I wasn't.

And let's just say you decided you wanted a baby at 26 and then it took you four years to conceive?

Amity // Posted 02 January 2009 at 09:52

So teenage pregnancy is to be avoided at all costs because that is too young but 30 is too old. That leaves our 20s in which to produce all of our desired children, not to mention (ideally) completing higher education, job training and climbing the career ladder high enough to secure a salary that makes us financially independent from both the State and our partners since no one likes a scrounger or a long-term stay-at-home mum. With maternal support being so poor in this country, both socially and governmentally, how in the world can one expect to have achieved all of this in one short decade, one which our culture tells us we should be spending footloose and fancy-free, not 'chained' to the iron ball of domesticity?

Talk about confusing messages, particularly from purported feminists.

polly styrene // Posted 02 January 2009 at 10:50

This isn't a question of the "generation gap" so much as whether it's responsible to have a child when you are likely to die or be in poor health for most of its life. I agree with Abby simply because I was the youngest child of older parents and I had the experience of both having a succession of life threatening serious illnesses from the age of about 10 onwards.

This isn't necessarily a matter of age, but it's more likely. Stating you're a lot more likely to die/be seriously ill in the near future when you're 70 isn't ageist - it's a statement of fact. There are already far too many children whose lives are blighted by being carers for their parents, rather than the other way around.

And two wrongs don't make a right. The fact that there are younger parents who abuse their children is neither here nor there. All children have a right to a good quality of life. It's one thing for a child to be conceived naturally by older people,( I believe the oldest 'natural ' mothers are in their late fifties) but another to allow the situation to be deliberately engineered by reproductive technology.

kat // Posted 02 January 2009 at 10:58

This makes me furious. I don't care if I appear ageist, people of an advanced age should not have children! I apply that to men equally (although it happens naturally often). Sperm quality deteriorates as a man ages, not to mention the pure selfishness of creating a child in the sure knowledge that you will, if you manage to make their teens at all, be probably infirm and require lots of care. Grr.
We have foster carers on our books who are in their 70s. They are great grandparents, and their daughter is also a foster carer. They are incredible people who provide love, support and parenting to troubled teenagers (doubly amazing as they only take 16+) Plenty of GPs end up fostering/adopting their own grandchildren very well. There is no reason why people can't parent well at an older age but they should not be parenting their own babies. Especially as I get the feeling that this case is about status (trying for a boy) rather than parenting.
I don't care if people think me judgemental - I only consider the children's needs not the parents' wants - and this is wrong.

kat // Posted 02 January 2009 at 11:03

I just spotted your comment about not wanting to have a baby past 26 - does that mean you are deciding never to have children, because at 25, you are too old? Madness! I just had my first at 28 and am much better equipped to look after him than I was at 21, or even 25, when I had my first pregnancy (miscarriage - nature doesn't usually follow our rules)
If you limit yourself because you are wqorried about being too old to bond with your children you will be making a big mistake.

Jane // Posted 02 January 2009 at 11:11

I can't believe what I've read here, especially Abby's comments in reply to Tom.

Fine, Abby, have a baby now (if you're lucky enough to conceive easily) or don't have one at all when you judge your uterus to have grown too ancient and dusty. Stop judging other people's choices. And I really hope for your sake that if you do decide to have a baby, that you conceive easily and don't have to endure years of emotionally heart-rending infertility (and yes, this can happen to women in their 20s too).

By the way, since we're sharing personal experience, I had a child early and a child late and I have an equally close relationship with both of them.

I'm glad Abby was encouraged by Tom's discriminatory remark and hence felt supported to share her own discriminatory and offensive views, but suspect she will find he is in a minority with his nonsensical views.

Shazbat // Posted 02 January 2009 at 11:22

I'm quite surprised that this subject has come up again, as I remember Abby's previous post on this. There doesn't seem to be much new material in this piece, except a different woman at the heart of it.
So:
Older people shouldn't have kids, as they might die, and won't have the energy to look after them properly. It's selfish and wrong, and must be stopped immediately, with the only quibble left as to what age we can morally prevent a woman from reproducing, as Maude forbid we prevent similarly aged men from reproducing - it simply wouldn't be practical! Those men, always spreading their seed.
There are so many problems with this piece that I simply won't go into all of them. Most of them are already covered above, so I will add my own anecdata. My father is now 71, and had me, his oldest, at 47. Is this too old? He's also disabled, so was never going to be the runaround-dad type. My mum was 34, and met my dad 2 ears before having me, and another 3 years after me for my sister. Is this too old? All I know is that people were forever mistaking my dad for my grandad, and laughing at how ridiculously youthful my mum is. She has enough energy for 5, and swims every day in the sea. If you told anyone who knows her that she doesn't have enough energy, they would laugh in your face.
I worry about my dad a lot. He's old, he's disabled, and he's not in his prime any more. But my sister and I are both in our twenties now, and know many many people our age who lost their (much younger) parents a long time ago. I dread it, but I accept it. And I have had many blessings from having older parents. They have more life experience - my dad is always coming out with something like 'Did I ever tell you about the time I was banned from Cuba?', which neither my sister or I will have heard before. My mum ran a post-grad department at a busy London hospital before I was born, had plenty of boyfriends, and always impressed upon me the importance of living my own life and not worrying too much about social conventions, as these usually make no sense.
Finally, both my mum and my dad, who as well as being absolutely ancient is from an Irish Catholic family, adore my girlfriend, and have pretty much adopted her.
They have taught me to respect all people, regardless of background, origin or religion, and that I must always remember my privilege. One of those privileges is older parents.

aimee // Posted 02 January 2009 at 11:27

I've had to have a sit down and a think about this and i'm actually inclined to agree with you, Abby. When this child is 10, her parents are going to be 80+ years old. How are they going to be able to... well... do anything for her? If they DO reproduce and have a boy, and we're considering this in a cultural context aswell, remember, it's quite likely that the young girl will end up doing the bulk of the caring for the child. I think it is selfish because these people simply cannot provide for their offspring. I think it's selfish in the same way that I would consider a 20 year old selfish who was, let's say, in a situation where she could not prvide for her child and had no intention of providing for her child, but then obtained IVF anyway, despite the fact that she never intended to work or care for, or adequately educate her child. It's not, I think, about age, it's about intention. Perhaps, if this were the future and life expectancy was 100 years + , but it's not and the fact remains that this couple are likely to die soon and leave a young, vulnerable child with no parents. How is that fair? I really don't think it is.
However, an enforcable age limit is a horrible thought.

Kez // Posted 02 January 2009 at 11:59

Aimee - the likelihood of a 20 year old obtaining IVF on the NHS is very small indeed, especially in the circumstances you describe. This myth of easy IVF availability on the NHS for all and sundry is just that.... a myth.

I'm not sure why you felt the need to bring IVF into it, to be honest. There are many 20 year olds out there having babies they can't provide for without the assistance of IVF. Are they selfish too, or just the ones who need medical intervention?

Kez // Posted 02 January 2009 at 12:05

I've just noticed that your Top 10 Feminist Moments includes improved access to IVF for lesbians and single women. Which is great. (As long as they're under 30, presumably, if Abby has anything to do with it.) But I'm not sure why Abby's age discrimination is somehow OK where discrimination against lesbians and single women isn't. There are plenty of people out there who would, and indeed do, argue that having a baby without a man on the scene is equally "selfish".

I'm so sick of feeling the need to justify myself and my life choices on this so-called feminist forum.

Anna // Posted 02 January 2009 at 12:06

I do think they're too old. Whilst an enforcable age limit would be draconian and completely in contravention of my support for a woman's reproductive choices, I also believe a child is a privilege, not a right. I think it's absolutely ridiculous they've had a child this late; they are the age of my (older set of) grandparents; I just don't think it's right. They're very unlikely to see their child reach adolescence, let alone adulthood; not to mention the plethora of problems that come with age.

JenniferRuth // Posted 02 January 2009 at 12:07

Wow - I do tend to agree that having a child at 70 is probably a bit off since you might not be around to take care of them. But 30 is too late? Sorry...what?

My mother is 20 years older than her eldest child and 37 years older than her youngest child. She is 32 years older than me. My father is even older. And my relationship with them is fantastic, as is their relationship with my four siblings.

You say -

"That's not because 30 is old, but rather because I would worry the generational gap may be too large to forge a close relationship with my offspring"

- I am assuming that you just mean this personally and it can't be applied to anyone else?

Also, you say -

"the last time I wrote on this topic discussions were obfuscated and derailed by speculation surrounding my personal intentions and integrity."

- last time people has some legitimate concerns with the language you used. We all come under criticism sometimes, but I think it is worthy that we all examine our privilege. I don't think any of us can say we have never said anything sexist/racists/ageist/etc. It isn't a derailment to examine the issues of ageism when talking about the topic of elderly pregnancy.

LottieElle // Posted 02 January 2009 at 12:07

I have no idea how you can compare a 30 year old having a child and a 70 year old - how can 27 years of age be okay and then three years later 'too' old for a child? My mother had my sister at 27, me at 30 and my brother at 31 - would she really have been a 'better mum' if she had had us 5 years earlier? I'm a bit wary of the fact that people could have children at 70; but I agree with Ruth Moss's opinion, maturity is as much about the person themselves rather than age (I'm 17 and like to think I'm pretty mature ). I agree with Amity's comment as well, I'm quite confused on all the messages in this article.

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 02 January 2009 at 12:15

Kez - I didn't say someone of 30 is too old to have a child just that, personally, I wouldn't. Or at present I don't think I would. You have misrepresented what I wrote in the comments section. I am entitled to have my own opinion, as is everyone else, and write a comment that reflects my own personal beliefs. This piece is not ageist as you suggest. I am sorry that you feel the need to justify yourself, but that is not something for which I am responsible.

maggie // Posted 02 January 2009 at 12:18

This subject only ever comes up when a woman has a baby post menopause. It's never discussed when an elderly man has conceived. Presumably because it's assumed that women will do the caring of a young baby.

And as for post 30 being too old to conceive - what poppycock. Children are not your playmates, best friends etc. I don't understand the phrase 'generation gap'. Was this coined during the sixties?

Cara // Posted 02 January 2009 at 12:36

Having thought about this...I agree that having kids at 70 plus is wrong, for the reasons people have already given...it is a fact that people in their 70s don't have the energy levels or patience to raise a child (actually bringing it up is different from looking after it for a while), and more importantly, are likely to leave the girl an orphan before she's in her teens.
Saying that 30 is too old to be a parent is just ridiculous, though, again, for the reasons many other commenters have articulated well.
There is a huge difference, I think, between parents having a child in, say, their 40s or 50s, and their 70s. That's 20 years.
I don't think parents being 'healthy and active' is a prerequisite, i.e. I don't think it's 'selfish' for someone with a disability or chronic health condition to reproduce, as long as they have thought about the issues and know they can successfully raise a child; the emotional energy to raise a child is more important than physical limitations. As Shazbat pointed out, parents with physical disabilities can still have other things to offer.

Also, as someone pointed out, the nuclear family is a modern phenomenon...historically in most societies parents have had support from people such as the grandparents, other relatives, friends, the community in general...a kid whose mum or dad can't run around and play sports with them can find someone else who can.

I don't think this is black and white, and individuals vary; for example, my mum had me (her oldest) at an ancient 30, is now 57 and having been to a school reunion, she commented that you'd think 20 years separated people who were actually the same age! (and going back to the 'generation gap' thing, I don't feel that at all; my mum is a very youthful 57).
Similarly, some people are mature enough to care for a child in their 20s and some aren't (and some still aren't at 40!). It comes down to the individual. For that reason, I don't think setting an age limit is a good idea...I *do* think doctors should think very carefully about giving fertility treatment to people over say 60, but it should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
While I don't want to be judgemental, there is a point at which you have to consider the child's welfare. There is a balancing act between the rights of (potential) children and parents.

LauraR // Posted 02 January 2009 at 13:37

I am unsure why views such as those portrayed by Abby are permitted on here. The F word claims not to allow any 'sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, classist or ablist comments'. Why is ageism acceptable? More to the point, why is it deemed to be acceptable to slag off those who choose to be mothers? I have seen this time and again on this so-called feminist website.

My first child was born when I was 30 and my second when I was 37. For the record, Abby, I made the decision not to have children before the age of 30 and I will be advising my daughters to do the same. This is for the very good reason that parenthood is incredibly challenging, physically and mentally, which until you have been a parent you cannot possibly begin to imagine. Nor should you try and impose your views on what is right and wrong about parenthood on those who have chosen this path.

Your views display a breathtaking lack of maturity and empathy which, whilst I'm not going to condemn anybody for that, I do not think should be permitted on this site.

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 02 January 2009 at 14:14

Laura, my post was not ageist. I find it incredible how easily some people take recourse to accusations of racism, homphobia, sexism and ageism when they read something they don't agree with, despite their claims being unfounded. Thanks for sharing your personal experience of motherhood. What I find interesting, however, is that while criticising me you state that you will actively discourage your daughter from having a child before 30. Are you not, then, discriminating against younger mothers, by suggesting that before the age of 30 a woman is neither emotionally, mentally or physically capable before this age? You correlate age with capability, and yet when I suggest that an elderly woman may not be able to cope with the rigours of motherhood you accuse me of lacking empathy. Can you see the irony? And for the record, Laura, I wasn't imposing my views on anyone. It was a discussion. What I find interesting is that in your eagerness to label me immature you actually fail to address the issues outlined in the main piece. Do you have an opinion on whether or not a woman of 70 should be permitted fertility treatement to have a child? or were you just preoccupied with personally insulting me?

Kez // Posted 02 January 2009 at 14:35

Abby, I'm going to step away from this in a minute as I'm finding it quite upsetting. No, you're not responsible for my feelings, but it's hard not to feel a need to justify yourself when someone makes a sweeping statement like "I do think that children have a right to young parents" - I think it's a fairly automatic response to something like that, which implicitly attacks older parents, to try to combat it with your own experience (stressing that being over 30 does not stop you from being a good parent), and others on this thread have done the same.

I'm glad you had a good relationship with your own parents, but to suggest this is down to age, and that a close relationship with older parents is therefore impossible or much less likely, does not follow.

As far as the "generation gap" is concerned, well, of course there's a generation gap, if that's what you want to call it, between parents and children! They're your children, and by definition the next generation. I've yet to meet a 16 year old who saw their parents as the same generation as them, or would think that desirable... that's what sisters, brothers and friends are for.

However, on reflection, I believe Abby's views are typical of some young women who can't imagine ever getting older and who believe their lives are certain to work out according to plan, so I don't find her comments too unusual. I'm disappointed to see The F Word giving space to it, though.

Cara - with regard to welfare of the child, it is a requirement (at least under UK law) that this is taken into consideration before carrying out any fertility treatment.

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 02 January 2009 at 14:46

Kez - I just commented on the basis of my own experiences, as everyone else has done on this thread. I'm not going to reply at length to what you have said because, firstly, you're not going to read it, and secondly I don't wish to become further embroiled. Nobody's life works out according to plan, and considering that you know nothing at all about me personally it's pretty unfair to make such unfounded assumptions. Why you think this I do not know. For various reasons, I am also acutely aware of the fact I will get older. Everyone does. Surely that's not big deal.

tomhulley // Posted 02 January 2009 at 15:04

No wish to tell people what to do.

My comment was simply an opinion. I say to friends things like 'Top Gear is mostly sexist drivel' -is this discriminatory?

I tell my son (aged 40) that he is too old to be obsessed with footie -is this ageist?

For many years I have supported women's right to choose and argued for people being left to live the lives they want -but I don't have to agree with all their choices.

Supporting people includes responding openly and honestly and sometimes not impartially. Saying that something is wrong is not necessarily discriminatory. Mistreating people is always discriminatory.

Treating a child as a possession is mistreatment in my view and 'wanting a son' sounds like wanting an object rather than a person.

All opinion risks being discriminatory because it selects one idea against another. Maybe we should discourage discriminatory practices instead of suppressing opinion -dangerous though it can be.

Aimee // Posted 02 January 2009 at 16:14

"Aimee - the likelihood of a 20 year old obtaining IVF on the NHS is very small indeed, especially in the circumstances you describe. This myth of easy IVF availability on the NHS for all and sundry is just that.... a myth."

I know it's unlikely, similarly, it's unlikely that a 70 year old would be able to get IVF. I was just trying to put it into context.

Aimee // Posted 02 January 2009 at 16:20

"I'm not sure why you felt the need to bring IVF into it, to be honest. There are many 20 year olds out there having babies they can't provide for without the assistance of IVF. Are they selfish too, or just the ones who need medical intervention?"

Yes. I only used to example of IVF because I think there's a difference between people who accidentally become pregnant in not so desirable circumstances and decide to make the best of it to people who deliberately choose to have children they are unable and often unwilling to provide for. I was simply trying to avoid blaming women for not being in a position to bring up their children properly. What I mean is that I think that someone who actively chooses to have a child at 70 is selfish because they knowingly cannot provide what that child needs. I don't think this is ageist because I think it's true of all people who knowingly bring children into the world who they do not intend to look after. I think with a 70 year old there is a practical certainty that the child's needs are not going to be fulfilled. I don't want to go around saying who should and shouldn't have children, but as Abby said, this is a discussion about our opinions. I think that in a so called friendly feminist space, everyone's opinions should be respected and considered. Even if they're not agreed with, it's very easy to resort to petty name calling, just because an issue is contravertial. I don't think it's fair to say anyone is being ageist because they hold a personal opinion that 70+ is not a very good age to be having children.

Aimee // Posted 02 January 2009 at 16:32

Tom - I agree with you. This couple are treating their child as a right, as opposed to a priviledge. I think this entire discussion boils down to the exact role of a parent and what that entails. I think, personally that it involves being able to interact with your children, being able to play with your children, and intending to be their for your child as long as possible. If I was 70 I would be quite aware that another 20 years would be perhaps pushing the limits of optimism, therefore I would not, by default intend to be there for my child as long as possible. Without making assumptions, because I know a lot of elderly people are extremely active and lead very varied and interesting lives, but many do not. It's not ageist to say that most 70 year olds are not physically able to exert themselves as well as say, a 25 or 30 year old. Being a parent is hard work. It involves a lot of physical and emotional exertion. Whether or not this couple intend to put in that amount of effort is irrelevant because chances are they simply won't be able to, and I consider that a form of neglect.

Jess McCabe // Posted 02 January 2009 at 16:45

Just spotted the thing about 30 being 'too old' to be a parent - sorry, Abby, but I strongly disagree with this, and I also think there's enough media pressure trying to shame women who have children over 30, without adding to it.

30 is hardly an unusual age to have a child. Each individual comes with their own life experiences - I'm not sure that one age is 'better' than any other, and certainly I don't think it's a conclusion it's possible to draw just from your own experience - because we only have one experience of growing up in one family, with its own circumstances. Someone else could have a negative experience of growing up with young parents.

I'd also point out that my mother died when I was 14 - she had me when she was 28. (And incidentally, there were some very physical things we couldn't do because she was still affected by an illness she'd had as a teenager - should she not have had me because of that?) My aunt parented me after she'd died - but she also passed away a few years ago. My grandmother, who was 60 the year I was born, is still going strong! It's not possible to predict what's going to happen in life so easily, you see!

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 02 January 2009 at 17:26

Hi Jess, I wasn't saying 30 is too old, just that personally I have always thought that if I had a child I wouldn't past that age. I always thought if I did have a child (as a girl growing up) that I wouldn't past 26. My views are probably coloured by my own experiences - the vast majority of women in my family had their first child at 19/20 and completed their families by the time they were my age. Personally, I don't know if I will want children at some point in the future, and I am perfectly amenable to the fact that my viewpoints may change. I didn't intend that as a blanket statement that any woman 30+ shouldn't have children. In the original post I believe I even state with regards to women being well into their forties, that this is still a reasonable age at which to have a child, and, at the end of the day we each have jurisdiction over our own actions so it's up to the individual. But I can have personal beliefs by which I live my life. I do believe it is questionable whether women over 60 should be allowed access to fertility treatment (which was why I wrote the post), but only as a point for discussion.

Amity // Posted 02 January 2009 at 18:23

Just a comment on the remarks saying that elderly parents wouldn't be able to provide what the child needs: surely there is more to parenting than being able to give horsey rides, kick a football in the park and provide 'security' in the form of material possessions? Here's silly me thinking that it was love and being wanted that matter most.

No one knows when they are going to die, or at what age their children will be left parentless. Parents can die in a car accident together tomorrow or live to 100. We just don't know when we're going to leave this world and to live life based on statistical life expectancy just seems preposterous and very sad.

Another aspect to parenting and age that I'm surprised no one has mentioned is how many grandparents in this country essentially ARE parents by default of being the caregivers for their grandchildren while their children are at work. Why is it okay to expect Grandma and Grandpa to look after Johnny and Susie from 8am to 6pm but it would be too much for their fragile sensibilities and frail phyisicalities if they were the parents themselves?

If my husband and I were to die while our children were still young I would want them to be raised by our parents, not our siblings or someone younger just because they have time on their side. There's a lot to be said for experience and love.

lisa // Posted 02 January 2009 at 18:34

Abby's article is fair comment and I think some comments do not accurately reflect what she in fact wrote.

Not only does the article sensitively raise the question whether the child's interests are best served by having both parents in their 70s, it also raises the question (as is often the case for me) of the ethics of IVF in the first place.

Do people really have a 'right' to have a child ? Is fertility treatment 'necessary medical intervention' ? If so, for whose benefit ? Are the risks fully explained to participants - including the increased risk of ovarian cancer within 10 - 15 years time - hardly ideal for the resulting child to have a mother battling cancer and perhaps losing when they're only 10 ?

I am suspicious of gynaecology at the best of times (given its appalling track record !) and the fertility industry (the're not doing this for free - even on the NHS it's yet another 'career' for the boys in white coats) seems to me to be too similar to the plastic surgery industry to be swallowed uncritically.

Cath Elliott // Posted 02 January 2009 at 20:59

LauraR - "For the record, Abby, I made the decision not to have children before the age of 30 and I will be advising my daughters to do the same. This is for the very good reason that parenthood is incredibly challenging, physically and mentally, which until you have been a parent you cannot possibly begin to imagine."

As someone who had 4 children before the age of 30 I find your comment just as ageist as any suggestion (and I don't think Abby did suggest it, she simply stated a personal preference to have children before 30) ) that 30 is too old to have kids. Yes, parenthood is incredibly challenging both physically and mentally, but who's to say that a 22 year old (the age at which I chose to have my first) isn't up to the job?

Personally I'll be advising my daughters to have children if and when they feel ready for it, without setting some random and totally arbitrary upper or lower age limit on themselves.

LauraR // Posted 02 January 2009 at 22:27

@ Cath Elliott

I didn't suggest that a 22-year-old (or, indeed, anyone younger than 30) wouldn't be up to the job. I just want my daughters to live a little before they begin rearing children. That will be my advice to them, anyhow. That is not to say that I think anybody else is wrong or misguided to have children younger, nor that anybody younger than 30 is incapable of doing so - that is not what I think at all.

@ Abby - I do not discriminate against younger mothers, my point is that until a person has experienced motherhood for themselves they do not, cannot, begin to imagine what it is like, not even for one minute, not even if they have nieces/nephews and/or childcare experience etc. I did not say that a younger woman shouldn't have children - on the contrary, I think you will find I champion most mothers, irrespective of their age or status. My point was, in a nutshell, that whilst you are of course entitled to your opinions, you lack the empathy which you may otherwise have if you were a mother.

You misquote me when you say I will 'actively discourage' my daughters from having children before the age of 30 - I actually said I will ADVISE them not to have children too young, that is all - but that is something which personally I feel I am obliged to do, as their mother, not something which I am saying is necessarily correct, or which I think should be applied to the rest of the world's inhabitants, do you see the difference?

I just wonder why you have such a bee in your bonnet about the age of mothers, particularly as you are not a mother yourself and even confess (very naively, if you don't mind my saying) that you are not now going to have a child because you have reached the age of 26. Women face enough prejudice in this world, particularly those over the age of - I dunno, what is it these days - 35? 40? 50? - whatever - without being confronted with those prejudices on a feminist website!

I am sorry you think I came on here simply to insult you - that wasn't the case at all - but I do think that it helps to remember not to be too judgemental until you have walked a mile in someone else's shoes.

Ali // Posted 02 January 2009 at 23:30

I think that the decision by this couple in their seventies to have children is unwise but I would not be in favour of a blanket ban on reproduction (assisted or otherwise) after a certain age - it seems like a slippery slope.

I do think that Abby is entitled to her opinion, and that she has become a bit of a target on this comments section because she has touched a few raw nerves - talking about other peoples' parenting can be a very thorny issue, whether you have your own children or not.

I had my daughter at 29, and I hope to have my second child by the time I'm 32 - I have no problem with Abby's opinions - I am happy to agree to differ because I feel sure that I will do my best by my daughter, which is all I can do.

I think that Abby's reference to the right of a child to have young parents may have resulted in a few people who have had children later than Abby's preferred time frame feeling defensive.

I can see why, in a away, as this right to young parents idea does seem to imply that to have children later than 25 or 30 infringes the rights of children, which in turn implies [to me] that having children past 25 or 30 is a kind of abuse.

No one likes to feel that someone thinks that they are abusing their children. Maybe this is partially responsible for all this bile. Maybe not...

I don't think that's what Abby was saying, but even if she was, so what? It doesn't make it true does it?

I don't mean to be flippant exactly, but what if she did think that I had my baby too late, at 29, and that my relationship with her will not be at optiimum closeness? She's wrong, she's right - we'll never know. It doesn't matter to me in the great scheme of things. I read blogs and sites like this because other peoples' opinions interest me, and they don't have to be the same as mine for me to be interesting.

Why pick each other to pieces in the name of feminism?

Seriously?

I don't get it.

Shea // Posted 03 January 2009 at 09:35

Its a can of worms Abby -don't touch it!

I'm tempted to suggest this isn't about the age limit of men or women, but overwhelmingly about the rights and the welfare of any resulting child, whether conceived naturally or otherwise. We have a skewed perception of children as a "right" of ours. They aren't. We are lucky if we are blessed with them (if we want them), but otherwise there is no right to have a child, adopted or otherwise. They are not commodities after all.

If we can foresee serious problems as with the case of a 70 year old (health, mortality etc) then I would question the ethics of a doctor providing IVF to a 70 year old. (Pity the woman going through IVF at 70!) There is a reason the menopause exists- to my mind at least, to relieve the burden on women of being constantly mindful about contraceptives and to just enjoy some sex! There is a point at which the female body abandons the idea of child bearing and that should be respected.

Its slightly off topic, but the whole issue of IVF concerns me. I think on the one hand great, it has opened up a new avenues of choice for many people, but it has also created a huge burden ----primarily on women. I read recently about a Sheikh in the middle east, who was infertile but none the less refused to accept this fact and put three of his wives through 7 cycles of IVF! Its horrendous. We don't even know the long term implications of using such strong hormonal drugs.

There also a serious lack of attention to male fertility in the media at large (picking up on Maggie's point)- some 40% of the problems relating to fertility are because of a man's sperm quality (sorry can't remember where I found that figure). But overwhelmingly the message is that women's bodies are at fault where couples have problems conceiving, this simply isn't the truth. There is also a "body clock" for men , with their fertility declining after age thirty and repeated studies have shown that the offspring of men in their forties and above have a decreased life expectancy and higher incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Its something to bear in mind.

I don't want to criticise this piece as I thought it was quite restrained and unfortunately I'm given to passing judgement on people which is unfair and necessary, but this idea of the 70 year old mother strikes me as very similar to the mythical multi abortion woman (you know the one- the feckless, reckless woman who can't be bothered with contraceptives and so has multiple abortions, just because you know they're so much fun!) wheeled out by pro-lifers to restrict choice.I think these case make the headlines because they are so rare. I seriously doubt we are in any danger of an epidemic of 70 year old mothers any time soon. I asked my own post menopausal mother whether she would consider having another child (having always wanted a little sister) and she collapsed in hysterical laughter! Oh well! :-)

But overall I'm in basic agreement with no arbitrary age limits generally. I'm rapidly approaching 30 and the idea of a child terrifies me.

Jan // Posted 03 January 2009 at 10:01

I think Ali's right about why this has touched a nerve. Abby keeps saying she is only expressing her personal preference, but had that been the case, I don't think most people would have had a problem - it was her saying she believes children have a right to young parents which, unsurprisingly, got people riled. This seemed to be mainly based on her own experience in her own family, which is hardly a yardstick by which to make such a sweeping statement.

Abby admits that her statements are controversial, which is why she didn't air them in her original post, but waited until someone (Tom) gave her the encouragement to do so by agreeing with her. ("I was quite encouraged by your remark as I have held this belief for a very long time, but thought it was too controversial to air.") I think her original decision was the right one, as her rather extreme personal views on 26 being too old to have a baby are irrelevant to the matter. However if she believes they are both relevant and not contentious (as her remarks since have indicated) she should have had the courage of her convictions to state her position initially and not wait until someone else posted to agree with her to reveal her true position on the matter.

One last thing, lots of 25 year olds don't want children. Lots of 30 and 35 year olds feel differently... I'll be interested to see if Abby's views change in 5 or 10 years time. Maybe they won't. But it's very easy to make these sweeping statements about what's "right" when you've never really been faced with the situation. Many people aren't in a position to have babies in their early 20s, even if they want to - they don't have a partner, or aren't financially in a good situation. There are loads of valid reasons why women wait longer, it doesn't mean their children are somehow disadvantaged.

Jan // Posted 03 January 2009 at 11:53

Yeah, I agree with Shea - these cases make the headlines purely because they are so incredibly rare.

I don't have a problem with IVF - I had it (paid for privately - I wasn't eligible for it on the NHS, as I was 38 at the time, thus "too old"), and I was fully informed about the risks and chances of success. In the UK at least it is surrounded by quite strict regulations.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 03 January 2009 at 13:34

It's also worth considering that people in their seventies today would not have had the choice of IVF in the past. That bit of technology is relatively new, and if you are suddenly offered the answer to something you dreamed of your whole life, then it might be difficult to resist. It's not really the same as people choosing to put off having children into their seventies, because they never got to make that choice.

Plus many seventy-year olds are not that frail or crippled- my gran still goes to aerobics and climbs mountains- which I probably don't have the fitness to do now. She also watches my aunt's six children everyday while she works. Three out of four of my great grandparents lived into their nineties and all four of my grand-parents are still alive. It becomes increasingly difficult to put an age on what people are able to do.

Plus in india, extended families are still predominant so there is a fair chance that this child will be brought up in a larger family group- we already know that this man has a younger wife (where is she now?). Perhaps, the couple feel that their child will have adequate familial support in the future. So, who are we to judge what is best for them or their child?

LauraR // Posted 03 January 2009 at 18:53

@ Jan and Feminist Avatar - yes, you make some very good points.

I have a problem with restricting any other person's right to have a child. I may, personally, not feel it is the best start in the world for a child to be born to a 70-year-old, but I also, personally, feel the 20-year-old woman who I see in the street smacking her 2-year-old across the head is not an exemplary example of motherhood.

I don't think it's right that people who have abused previous children can go on to have others. It quite often makes my blood boil that the rights of parents outweigh those of their children. The fact that children are routinely abused around the world by the adults supposed to be caring for them makes me physically sick.

We can do what we can, for example, helping out at children's charities, fostering, adoption etc but we can't be there to protect the millions of faceless children whose suffering we never get to hear of. And if we start restricting a person's right to reproduce due to, say, their age, or their lack of income, or their drug habit, where will it all end? It's the beginning of a very slippery slope.

Lizzie // Posted 07 January 2009 at 23:27

One issue I don't see being raised here is balancing the welfare of the child against the welfare of an older parent. I'm 39.5 and have failed to conceive for the past six years. Never thought I'd "wait" until 40 to have a child, but here I am, still trying, and I find myself thinking struggling with the fact that when the child is in her twenties, just getting started as an adult, I will be in my 60s, just beginning to face retirement. And my partner, who is 18 years older than I am, will be in his 80s. Much as I want a child, it's beginning to seem unfair to all of us - - even if strictly from a financial point of view. How will we ever save enough to simultaneously put a child through college, support a father in elder retirement, and prepare a mother for impending retirement? This makes me sad, but I am trying to face facts.

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