Do 40-year-olds really make better mums?

Jun 6 • Uncategorized • 914 Views • 20 Comments on Do 40-year-olds really make better mums?

In yesterday's Times there was an article by Andrew Billen in which he asserts that 40-year-old women (like his own wife) make better mums because they are calmer, they have achieved what they wanted to in work, and they are more mature. 'Motherhood is often wasted on the young, whose attention is often directed elsewhere.'

Hogwash. Personally I believe age has nothing to do with how good a mum you'll be. I know plenty of mums in their 40s who really struggled with the idea they had to put another human being first, and others who complain of being constantly knackered. And I know mums in their teens and 20s and 30s who are fantastic, natural mothers.

But I'd love to know what you think. Do 40-year-olds really make better mums, or is age just a number?

written by Liz Jarvis


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20 Responses to Do 40-year-olds really make better mums?

  1. Sue Atkins says:

    I agree with you age certainly doesn’t prepare you any better for raising children. It’s a mindset, attitude and a love for what you are doing that matters !

  2. zooarchaeologist says:

    I personally think that you are much better off if you have your kids earlier in life. I’m 35 and spend most of my time having a mid-life career crisis and worrying about what I should be doing work wise. I’m knackered from being up all night and I think a bit selfish from being used to having stuff and time which I don’t get anymore. I know plenty of 40 year olds who are doing much better than me and plenty who are doing much worse. However all the twenty year olds I know are taking it all in their stride.. and seem far more attuned to dealing with kids.

  3. Ali Davies says:

    Being a good mother isn’t about age. In the same way it isn’t about social class, religion or any other externally defined label. There will be some great young mums and some bad young mums. Same is true for older mums. It is all about WHO you are as a person not WHAT you are. Whether it is being a mother, wife, business owner or any other role in life, WHO you are is more relevant to your success in that role than anything else. I agree with Sue that mindset is one of the biggest contributing factors.

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  5. Lisa says:

    I always wanted to be a younger mother, like my own mother was (23) when I was born. I thought I would be more fun and energetic enough to have 4 children. I wanted to have more time watching them and their children growing up. However, not everything goes to plan. I didn’t meet my husband until I was 35 y/o and infertility claimed a few of those years. My two children and I have had numerous conversations about why their father and I are "the oldest parents of anyone at school;" I haven’t actually substantiated their claim, but it’s probably near enough. Am I as energetic with my adolescent children at 49 as I would have been at 35? Definitely not. Parenthood can be exhausting whether you are a working mother or a stay-at-home mother. I’m both; I work from home and do a lot of multi-tasking, but still "go back to work" at 9:00 p.m. most nights. Am I as fun or cool as a younger mother? Actually, I think I am. I do more activities with my children than my young mother did. She didn’t like getting dirty. I know that there is a shower and a washing machine at the end of every day. I sing out loud (not loudly) in the car, in stores and anywhere I hear music, embarrassing my kids as much as my Mom did. I let them "cook" in my kitchen, have 16-hour access to art and craft materials, built (OH and I, mostly him, but it was my idea!) them a tree-house and am going camping in a tent with them next month, the way my Dad took me and my brothers. Am I as pretty, as thin, as cutely dressed now? There is a resounding "NO" to that question. I can’t wear high heels, short skirts or skimpy vests anymore. I do sometimes recognize the children’s scrutiny of my skincare routine, makeup, clothing, hair, reading glasses. It’s an honest view of ageing, though I don’t feel old, but perhaps not a welcome one. So, on balance, I don’t think I am a better mother than I would have been when I was younger, but I am as good.

  6. Jude says:

    Not sure I have much to add to the above really. As a 40+ mother myself (by fate rather than by choice) I can certainly agree that physically you are much more capable in your 20’s, but emotionally? I don’t think I’d personally have been ready then, but you really can’t generalise – it’s all down to the individual person I think.

  7. New Mummy says:

    I don’t think the age you are makes you any better or worse as a mother. Me and my younger sister had our girls 8 months apart, I was 28 and she was 19 I think we are both great mums. My sister loves being at home with her daughter as I am, we both face the same daily challenges as all mothers do, our ages are irrelevant.

  8. Tracy says:

    Age has NOTHING at all to do with how good a mum you are. I was 26 when i had my 1st 30 when i had 2nd. I was ready {as i could be} to have my babies when i did. I no lots of mums younger and older than me and we all find things hard at time. But i wouldnt say any of us were better because of age. My sister had her1st at 17 2nd at 19and her 3rd at 30 she is still the same mum to all her kids the only thing that changed was the way other people acted around her.

  9. Deer Baby says:

    Don’t think it makes any difference at all – I read a similar article about older mums. How they are more likely to not get so stressed (!!) and will go down on the floor and play with their children – but might have difficulty getting up again. How patronising. I was 35 when I had my first and 42 when I had my second. Sometimes I do wish I’d done it a bit sooner like some of my friends who are now waving theirs off to college, but then I wouldn’t have done half the things I did. There’s no particular right time and for Billen to say that younger people may be less able to give children their attention is rubbish.

  10. Crystal Jigsaw says:

    What next! I’m 40 but was 30 when I had Amy and think I’ve done okay in my 30’s as a mum. Hoping I’ll do even better in my 40’s. I am calmer these days but that’s because of my personal circumstances and nothing to do with what Andrew Billen says. I’d love "one more means four" to read this!! CJ xx

  11. Sandy Calico says:

    Well said, Liz. I hate these type of articles, because, as usual, some mothers are being slagged off or pitted against each other. Age has got nothing to do with being a good mother.

  12. Linda says:

    I was 30 when I had my daughters and have often wished I had them when I was younger. I know some idiots aged 40 and some idiots aged 17. I pity any of their kids 🙂

  13. grit says:

    well i totally 150% agree! I was aged 39 when i had all three of mine. So maybe i don’t quite qualify. but you can bet i am about as perfect as an old clapped out perimenopausal mother with a dodgy womb can be. if andrew billen wasn’t already married, i might have a go there.

  14. Suzanne says:

    Lisa: hear hear. I am the same as you. I had a 6-year university stint and a lot of really crap men in my 20’s and didn’t meet Prince Charming til I was 35. Life is like that sometimes. Interesting that you mention that you’re more willing to get on the floor and play or sing with your kids. I’m the same (at 41 with a 2 year old) and I have found it odd that other (younger) mums *don’t* when I go the playgroup. It might be a personality thing… or maybe they are too self-conscious of their short skirts and heels?? (while I live in my jeans and converse trainers)

  15. Expat Mum says:

    I saw this article but couldn’t bear to read it. I mean, what’s the point? Yet another article trying to get women to pit themselves against each other. As someone who had a late baby at 41, I probably have more patience than I had with the other twp but it could be that I’m just permanently knackered. If I could go back, I would have had him closer to the other two (ie. in my 30’s) because he’s like an only child. I also regret that I’ll be so much older when he’s at college etc. etc. but as with many who have posted here, it was fate rather than choice.

  16. poppy says:

    i gave birth aged 33 and 36 and agree its not really important what age you are although I would say that older mums have done their share of "partying" therefore the sacrifice of having to give up what we do for our children is perhaps easier and we are more settled although having said that, we have less energy in general so its swings and roundabouts. this was my choice and everyone is different x

  17. Baking Mad Mama says:

    Completely agree with Sue – age has nothing to do with it. What makes you a good parent is the love you show your children and the way you treat them, in my opinion.

  18. KidsTravel2 says:

    With you on the hogwash. Being a good mum is not age dependent, and no matter what age you are you will have days when you feel zapped of energy, and days when you are on top of the world. Being a good mum is about loving your child and helping them develop. There is also the converse argument to the one put forward by Andrew Billen that being a mum in your 40s means yes, you might get your career in place and then have to give it up or put it on hold to have your family, which for some can be as frustrating as not getting a career going in the first place!

  19. Erica says:

    Absolute rubbish. This is controversial tripe to sell papers. Andrew Billen should grow up and recognise that it has nothing to do with age. I’ve met some very selfish and immature 40 year olds. It’s a cheap trick and I thought The Times were better than that. If a woman is to be a good mother then she will be so regardless of age.

  20. MummyWalker says:

    Articles that make sweeping generalisations like this annoy me. There are far too many variables that determine the kind of parent we become, age is just a tiny part of that. My friend became a mother in her teens and her second son was diagnosed with autism when she was in her early twenties. A terrible situation for a mother of any age. However with her love and dedication that boy has thrived despite his condition, so I don’t think age has very much to do with it at all. Its more about attitude and your approach to parenting from the off, as well as many other factors. I’m 30 so don’t know where I fall in this debate but I always get on the floor to play at toddler group, otherwise where’s the fun? No short skirt and heels though.


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