Sunday, March 2, 2014

Older mothers and 30 being the new 20

Once upon a time, I was a single 20-something who considered 9am to be far too early to get up on a Saturday morning, bought clothes that were dry clean/hand wash only, and thought all babies looked the same. 5am was more likely to bedtime after a night out than the start of a day. Back then, I also used to read Cosmopolitan religiously. Once, I read in Cosmo that 30 is the new 20. Of course, I didn't believe it. Why would I? 30 was oooooold. 20 was 20. Couldn't old people do maths?

I've been thinking of this again recently because I am now well in my mid-30s so trying to tell myself I'm still young in a manner in which 20-something me would have mocked. 30 is totally the new 20, so when I hit 40 it's really only 30, 50 is 40 etc until I'm 110 and get a special letter from King George to tell me how awesome I am for living so long. Assuming we're still a monarchy of course. And yes, thinking about that is far nicer than thinking about an impending tide of grey hair and wrinkles.

Thinking about the women that would have read Mothercraft though I have evidence that Cosmo has the right idea. Here's why:

I was 31 when my son was born, and the Plunket lady told me that was bang on average for women in my Wellington suburb. My antenatal group certainly reflected that, as we were all within a couple of years of each other in age. Turns out that's still on the old side by national standards, but not by much. According to Statistics NZ, the median age for women giving birth for the first time is 28, so I wasn't too old. Woo hoo! 

Women in the 1944 had their first children so much younger, as this table shows:

Age of Mother.First Births, Proportion per Cent. at each Age-group to Total First Births.
Under 206.737.558.907.336.68
20 and under 2535.8938.1640.3941.7944.08
25 and under 3035.0132.5932.7929.5431.01
30 and under 3515.6114.6813.1014.6112.48
35 and under 405.525.333.795.364.66
40 and under 451.161.590.991.341.06
45 and over0.
In fact, more women were between 20 and 24 than any other age group, and over 75% under 30. By 1940s standards, I am well and truly an old mother.I suspect on average we're also much older at doing other things too, like buying houses and getting married and the like. Of course we're also getting much higher education (my grandmother left school at 12) and not living through World Wars either. 

So the question remains: have we gained a decade? I'd like to think so. Among other reasons, as 40 approaches I'd much rather think of it as the new 30, rather than what it really is. I'd like to think that Cosmo had it right this time.

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