MY FIRST TIME AT 40
We were lucky. Getting pregnant first time at 40 is a blessing, I know.
But getting pregnant and being pregnant was as far as I’d progressed in my thinking. Long-term family life hadn’t actually crossed my mind.
It’s not like I’m overly domesticated – I fail dismally at folding towels, can’t stack a dishwasher, cheat the laundry as best I can with wash-and-wear cycles and an ironing lady round the corner. And as for schools, demands of extended family, lateral organising skills and the fate of my own professional hopes and dreams… Can I tell you?
I’m glad I’m an optimist at heart. I’m glad my most enduring qualities are resilience and resourcefulness. Anyway, I’m glad I had children.
Having children opened a chamber of the heart I never knew existed. After my first was born my life was transformed. It was as if I was wandering into a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes commercial with endless fields of corn waving under vast blue skies with the occasional streak of white cloud.
Sure, the dirty nappies can make a day just like a chocolate milkshake, only crunchy – but for me this life is still a bonus.
I say “bonus”, because a whole lot of women like me were not really schooled in how to build a family life.
Girls who did Domestic Science were dummies. We are the children or pupils of first-wave feminists, when the message was very clear (and confusing), that women and men should be the same.
We should have high-powered professions and be able to support ourselves. That was first and foremost. Of course the true message was that women and men should have equal rights and remunerations in a just society.
But that wasn’t quite the nuanced message we received at school in the 1980s. Men and women were exactly the same, we were told. Later in time, folk like Dr John Grey made a fortune sorting out our unisex neuroses with books like Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, when we really already knew that. It all just got mixed up for a bit.
So we, the women who have children in our 40s, are a kind of social aberration with our toddlers and under-sixes and our joy and our ambivalence.
After spending 40 or so years honing one’s identity and finally feeling comfortable in your own skin, who can imagine giving any of it up for anything, or any one? But then along comes a partner. And the desire to build a family. And then, from the moment those little cells start to divide in your womb, their aim is to conquer a previously undivided attention to yourself.
So how has it turned out? At our age, motherhood is a patchwork economy – with some of us waving our 17-year-olds off on their gap year adventures, and others with kids starting their first year at kindy.
The age range in any kindy class this year at school is between five and six years. The mums, however, are between a sensible 25and kind of crazy 45. I use the words “sensible” and “crazy” absolutely on purpose. It’s not ideal to spit out your second or third child at 45 only to slip sweatingly into menopause by the time that child is walking.
Making friends in this new world is already a cross generational challenge. It’s even harder when your hormones become emotional terrorists. (Apparently. Not there yet. Just musing.)
My son’s kindy teacher is single – I tried to match her up recently with an available smart cousin of mine.
“No,” she said. “I’m just taking some time to do some work on myself. I had a break up earlier this year.”
“Get over it,” was my response. “There’s no time to lose. Get back into it.”
“No,” she repeated stubbornly. “Look. I know we’re about the same age, but…”
“We’re not,” I said. “I’m glad we look like we are. But not everyone gets to have their first at 40.”
That made her think. She’s 32, and while I know that motherhood is not possible for everyone and not desired by the rest, I think the lesson from my generation is loud and clear.
If you want to join the Mo’hood, get to it. Not everyone gets so lucky at 40.
- Farrk, I forgot to have kids! Bianca Dye on being single at 37
- I love your kids, but … Bonnie Vaughn on being the childless friend
- Wendy on shopping with her daughter, Maeve
*Libbi Gorr is an expert host, facilitator and creative development talent – making sense of life’s challenges in a sidesplitting, warm and intelligent way, be it through television, radio, print or feature film.
A law graduate from Melbourne University, and offspring from the Melbourne Comedy circuit, Libbi has presented on ABC Radio, writes for Fairfax and is in demand as a corporate speaker, MC and facilitator.