Apparently having a child over forty makes you foolish, selfish, ridiculous and likely to be decrepit at the school gates.
I read this in an article, which had been published about motherhood beyond your twenties. There were women commenting that there was an age limit to having a child, which shouldn’t be crossed. Women judging others for having a child after that age point, women reassuring themselves they were right to have a child young, sanctimonious in their views that older mothers were beneath them.
There’s nothing new in that argument. It’s been around for generations.
But one lone comment stood out most of all.
A woman expressing that the thought of having a ten year old at the age of 50 was a joke, she’d have no energy to look after the child, she would no longer be fun, that she couldn’t offer what a younger mother could offer to her child if she was that age, when they were ten.
When I am 50 I will have a 10 year old child.
Her words stung. Really stung.
Not because I believe there is even an ounce of truth in them, but because of the judgements women make not just of others, but of themselves.
We are taught all the time to compete with other women, even on issues such as the age at which to become a mother (and don’t even get me started on the judgements made of those who chose not to follow a child filled path in life).
Instead of supporting and encouraging another woman’s life choice, these women were beating up on one another.
When did it become OK to be so critical of another woman’s choices? When did we stop supporting, encouraging and nurturing one another’s decisions and life choices? When did we seek comfort about our own decisions by criticising and judging others for theirs?
And why do we believe at 50, we might no longer be energetic, fun, lively, interesting, engaging, life enriching?
Anyone who knows me, knows the last thing I’ll be at 50 is boring, less energetic, or less engaging.
My ten year old child will be inspired, encouraged, enriched by me.
This year alone, (in my 40s) I’ve started a new business, joined two choirs, taken up classical singing, begun a Masters degree in journalism, taught a journalism degree at university, been to Pilates several times a week… the list goes on. And I’ve managed perfectly well to be a wonderful, lively, fun mother too.
And there are many, many women like me out there. Our lives won’t suddenly become dull when we reach 40, 50, 60 or 70.
We don’t have to take any notice of ‘reports’ which say “this is the age we should stop shopping in Zara” or “you are too old to flirt at 40”. It’s all utter nonsense.
We won’t suddenly lose interest in fashion, the arts, culture, the world around us, movies, books, beauty and education because we’ve left our 20s and 30s.
We won’t suddenly decide to wear frumpy clothes and just knit tea cosies.
And yet somehow that’s the impression so many have of women outside the golden 20s.
Fashion, beauty, magazines all favour youth. And now in my 40s I see how little there is out there for women beyond their 20s but nowhere near the land of frump.
I meet professional, highly educated women in their 30s and decades beyond who feel they are overlooked because of their age. Judged on their age. Assessed as a woman, a mother, a friend, a professional, based on their age.
And what’s worse is we so often do this to ourselves.
We have listened to the views like those expressed that at 50 we will have no energy, not be fun anymore and have nothing much to offer and we start to believe it. We have learnt to judge ourselves by our age.
Now I love fashion. My friends will tell you I love clothes and styling. Just because I am in my 40s doesn’t mean I don’t want to look fabulous and keep across fashion trends. And I know women decades older than me who feel the same.
But you try finding great magazines and blogs which target women beyond 40 with really fabulous fashion advice. Let me tell you, it’s hard.
I was chatting to a beautiful styled woman in her 50s recently. “We are an age group completely forgotten about,” she said. “I want to look chic, stylish and dress well but most magazines assume I’m suffering from empty nest syndrome, am interested in bladder control and planning to retire and do my garden.”
I hear you. Many of us feel the same.
The more I look at the messages sent out to women of 40 and above the more I realise these are views we’ve learnt to accept about women, age and beauty, achievements, life stages, expectations.
And it doesn’t look good.
But I’m not having any of it.
At 50 I plan to be more energetic, inspiring and fashion conscious than ever.
I’ll never stop learning, stretching my skill set, exploring the arts, reading, exercising, taking care of mind, body and soul.
The only people we have to listen to about our age, whatever that may be, is ourselves.
Stop telling yourself the lies we are fed about our age and what’s expected of us, our role at that life stage in society. Don’t listen to it. For most of us it’s as far removed from reality as ever.
And yes in my 50s I will have a tween, and she will no doubt open my mind to new experiences, and adventures. Far from suffering empty nest syndrome and wanting to wear items from the Classic range of department stores, I will be busy with the school run, exams, friends, adventures, running my business, learning, studying, buying and wearing beautifully styled clothes, and living my life with as much verve as I always have.
I plan to be join my daughter every step of the way with as much vigour, enthusiasm and energy as I’ve always done.
Oh, and as stylishly as ever of course.