Double standards are alive and well when it comes to age and parenting.
A new YouGov survey asked the public when the best age to become a parent is, and while 36 is considered “too old” for women, it’s “about right” for men, apparently.
Approaching half of men (46%) said a woman is “too old” to become a mum aged 36-40, yet almost three-quarters (71%) of guys think this age bracket is “about right” for them to become dads. Just 35% of women feel the same.
When asked to name the “ideal age” to have children, both genders agreed that 28 is ideal to become a mother, while 30 is the ideal age to become a father.
We’re siding with author and podcaster Elizabeth Day on this one...
We all know fertility declines with age, but choosing and being able to become a parent is so much more nuanced than that. Dozens of women have responded to the survey by sharing their stories of becoming parents after 36, some by choice, some by circumstance. Why is society so hell bent on judging them, when we don’t judge their partners?
For a long time, the age of 35 has been treated as a fertility cliff edge, a number thrown at women to tell us to “procreate, and procreate now,” while male partners of the same age aren’t subjected to the same narrative.
But sperm quality declines with age too, and if the stories shared prove anything, it’s that 35 is not the be-all-end-all for female fertility, either.
In fact, a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the reproductive years for women are increasing and instead of 35, we should think of 37.1 as the age where female fertility declines.
Even then, it doesn’t stop over night. A study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynaecology in 2004, found that with sex at least twice a week, 82% of 35 to 39-year-old women conceive within a year, compared with 86% of 27 to 34-year-olds. The difference isn’t statistically significant.
Every time a woman over 35 in the public eye becomes a mother, there’s debate on whether or not she’s the “right age”. Just look at the comments Naomi Campbell recently generated. But instead of using age as a stick to beat women with, isn’t it about time we supported new parents and celebrated new life?
Yes, we need information about age and fertility to help us make informed choices, but we also need lower housing costs, better childcare provision, an end to the IVF postcode lottery and pay parity, so that people have more options to become parents at the right time for them.
Surveys piling yet more pressure and stigma on women? Not so much.