Profiling 40-Year-Old Hopeful Moms As Clueless Yoga Bunnies Has To Stop

woman yogaSo there is a new theme in parenting-esque journalism and it’s all about the “older mom.” You know, the woman who is trying for a baby in her late 30s or 40s who has been through four years of IVF and still trying? Call her irresponsible if you want, but a few prominent publications these days are just depicting her as plain stupid — for not understanding her own fertility that is.

Msnbc’s “Fertility math? Most women flunk, survey finds” is just one of several pieces in recent months to paint conventionally attractive women with “smooth skin” and “slim” figures as idiots for wondering why they can’t conceive given their age. The narrative works the same way as despite their religious attention to their figures and health, they are stunned to discover that their ovaries haven’t quite benefited from all those Pilates:

Some of the shock is because of advances in health and beauty that allow women to look — and feel — younger, even as their reproductive systems march on.

The same argument was made recently in The New York Times, as they also blamed the popularity of older mothers like Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, and Salma Hayek for perpetuating the mythology that the 40 and over set can conceive without problems. Like msnbc, the Times held no reservations in profiling their hopeful, IVF-shackled mothers as air-headed fools who conflated the whiteness of their teeth with fertility:

With long brown hair and come-hither curves, Melissa Foss looks — and feels — fabulous at 41. “I’ve spent hours of my life and a lot of money making sure I was healthy, and that my hair was shiny, my teeth were white and my complexion clear,” said Ms. Foss, a magazine editor in New York City.

So when it came to conceiving a child with her husband, a marketing executive, Ms. Foss wasn’t at all worried. After all, she noted, those same traits of youth and beauty “are all the hallmarks of fertility.”

They also list yoga, Pilates, and “other exercise obsessions” for deluding women about their age and thus their ability to conceive. And don’t forget New York Magazine‘s complex story about older parenting which depicted a graying grandmother with a pregnant belly, the mocking text reading “Isn’t She Just Too Old For This?”[tagbox tag="older mom"]

While conceiving over 35 is an inherit risk for both mother and baby, and with fertility rates being virtually nonexistant by 40 for most women, the intention is fair. Having babies later in life is not only more difficult, it’s also considerably more dangerous. And regardless of whether you have a People magazine subscription are not, the truth is that women giving birth in their late 30s are and have been on the rise.

The two may in fact be mirroring one another considering how much celebrities influence our culture. But framing 40 and over hopeful mothers as idiots who have been more preoccupied with their hair appointments than basic biology just gives societal license to wag that finger and say that they were clearly more preoccupied with their nails drying than having kids. The infantilizing tone suggests that these silly women weren’t doing anything more with their childless time than running off to the gym. While msnbc does mention careers and education as reasons to put off childbearing (you don’t say?), the “shock” of infertility hits them all the same.

The always quip DoubleX put it succinctly when they ran the responsive headline “Where Does The New York Times Find These Women?” Furthermore, where do they find these writers who only see post-20s motherhood as an exercise of vanity?

(photo:Shutterstock)

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    • kate

      the tone may be ‘infantilizing,’ but the logic and truth is there and i dont see it as a bad thing to point out the societal trend or any of the reasons for it.
      likewise if you have biological children at a younger/biologically ideal age (mid 20s) it goes without saying that on average you’ll have to work harder for your career. the truth is its hard to win either way unless you are really creative (or rich)
      i notice this site attacks other articles pretty often and passionately but the attacks often seem to lack merit or have weak logic. well, thats simply my impression of the writing style

    • Patrice

      Well, my “exercises in vanity” were born when I was 34,36,37, and 39 (2 months short of 40). Who cares what age parents are when they have children? In my case,I got married at 29. Having children out of wedlock was not appealing to me. I had several miscarriages before #1 was born and between #3 and #4 and after #4. I realized the clock was ticking so we did noting to impede pregnancies! Celebrities didn’t influence the decision,we just wanted children. Yes,I worked and wasn’t a yoga bunny.IVF would have never been an option,given the cost. I do think that by 40,most of us as women would have to admit to ourselves that getting pregnant without medical assistance is highly unlikely. So weigh the baby vs.career decision with an eye on the fertility clock!

    • Jacq

      I laugh long and hard when people assume that they know why a woman might become a mother later in life – the narrow-minded and judgemental conclusions drawn are quite incredible. I’m nearly 37 and am weighing up whether to self-fund a round of IVF, or whether to self-fund cheaper (but less successful) IUI while we wait for another two years, for state-funded IVF. I’m nearly 37 and have been married for nearly 13 years, and yes, I’ve had a pretty decent career and am in reasonable shape. However, I waited until three years ago to start trying to get pregnant because my husband started a business and I was the sole earner in our household for a while, and then, when I was in my early 30s and the time seemed right, my husband was diagnosed with MS. Cursed with a fairly responsible nature, it seemed like ‘the right thing to do’ to wait for a year or two, to see whether he was going to be unlucky and end up badly disabled sooner, rather than later, leaving me as his full-time carer – we didn’t think that it would be wise to start a family without knowing more about what life had in store for us.

      Long story short, he remains in pretty good health and we’ve been trying to get pregnant for three years, but with no luck. And the tests reveal no reason for it, for either of us – it’s just one of those things. Yes, it isn’t easier because I’m getting older, but there’s no guarantee that we would have had a better time of it if we’d started trying sooner. I will feel absolutely honoured and delighted if I am able to have a baby, even at my advanced age, and anybody who has a problem with it can sod off!

    • Christine Page

      I understand them wanting to make the point that, no matter how young you “feel”, physically, you age at the same rate women have always aged, and fertility is reduced the older you get. Speaking as the 41 year old mother of a newborn who was conceived naturally, I didn’t delay conception because I was vain. I delayed because I am the daughter of a thrice-divorced mother, and I was wary of marriage and wanted to be responsible. I married at 33 and we immediately started trying to conceive, without success. I fell into a spiral of self-loathing, thinking if I had tried earlier, in spite of not being married, I would’ve had a child. Eight years and many doctor’s visits later, I stopped blaming myself for waiting and gave up. Two months later, I became pregnant. My only complication was some hypertension toward the end of the pregnancy. I love my son, but looking back, I wish someone would’ve told me how difficult it would be to conceive after 30. I might have made different choices and had a child as a single mother of 25 or so, eliminating years of heartache.

    • Rebecca

      I got married at 28, had my first child at 33 and my second child at – get ready for this – 44. Conceived naturally with uneventful pregnancies. Why did I seem to wait so long for the first? I was busy working as an attorney, traveling, and enjoying 5 years of living with my husband in two different countries. When my first child was born I decided to stay at home with him until he started school. Then I went back to school myself for a second time; hence my wait for the second child. Call me vain.

      I dislike when “older women” get criticized for wanting to wait to have children or space their births as they see fit. I don’t criticize my mother for starting at the age of 22 to have 5 children and not stopping until she was 40. When I hear or read about women who feel they are better because they started “early” I question their maturity and wonder if they are responsible enough to have children at all if they feel the need to discriminate due to one’s age. And as for having children at my age? I don’t regret it. I happen to have a young reproductive age so I took advantage of it and appreciate when others accept this. To the criticizers and naysayers I just say that I decided to exercise my right to wait because I was busy doing the things that a lot of women “would like to do” but were “too busy having kids”. And by the other side of the coin I never criticize or look down on women who I feel started having kids at too young an age. Older women could look at it that way, you know.

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    • Adam Mark

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