When mummy is old enough to be granny: A woman of 58 who became pregnant after fertility treatment sparked an ethical controversy; but many people become parents in middle-age or beyond. What problems do their children face, and what are the advantages?

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Two 'late babies', now grown-up, talk about how their lives have been influenced by their parents' age. And a father in his sixties defends his decision to have a ninth child at a time when his first was well into his thirties.

OUR RELATIONSHIP SEEMED PERFECT. NOW I KNOW BETTER

Crispin Taylor, 46, a film editor, lives in Leeds with his wife and 18-month-old daughter.

MY MOTHER had me when she was 43 years old after 14 years of trying, so she always saw me as a very special gift and as a result tried to make my life as pleasurable as possible.

As a child I never minded being the only one because I got so much attention from my parents. But I realise now how very solitary it was. I don't think it would have been like that if my mother had been younger but the problem was that none of her friends had babies - they were either single women, who in those days didn't have babies, or they were married and had much older children. Also, my mother gave up her job as a nurse to look after me, which meant she suddenly found herself very isolated. In those days you moved with your peer group, and if you got out of step with your peer group then it wasn't easy to find your place - there weren't the support networks that there are today.

She was a very dedicated parent and used to sit with me for hours helping me to read and write, but it was all rather claustrophobic because she was overprotective. I'd taken so long to arrive that her biggest fear was that she might lose me. That's one of the problems of being the only child of older parents - you become the most precious thing in their lives, which is fine when you're young but becomes harder later on when you leave home and realise that you'll never be as important in anyone else's eyes.

I've never coped with failure very well and I put that down to having overindulgent parents - it stamps on your ability to deal with adversity. Now, as a parent myself, I realise that one of the most important things you can teach your child is that life isn't fair and you don't automatically always get what you want.

The thing I remember most is that I always felt different and even a bit embarrassed about my parents at school open days because they seemed old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy compared with my friends' parents. Occasionaly I even remember wishing they were younger.

But there were good things, too. They were more secure financially and therefore able to do more for me than if they'd been younger. Also I guess my mother had a certain maturity. She was very aware of her own identity and of what she wanted out of life. That strength was something I always loved in her. Having said that, I know my arrival put a strain on the marriage. They'd settled into a comfortable pattern, and when I came along after 16 years it was quite disruptive. I know from my own experience as a parent that change gets more difficult as you get older.

My father didn't feature very strongly in my childhood because he was away such a lot, and then, when I was about 10, my mother developed angina, so there was always this pressure on me to stay at home and look after Mummy. I've never experienced feelings of guilt in any other relationship but with my mother it's always been there.

When I went away to college in the late Sixties, to a certain extent I broke away from her. I felt then, more than ever, that she was of a totally different generation and incapable of understanding where my interests lay. I think it was around that time that I learnt to be fairly secretive and began to compartmentalise my life into little boxes.

When I first met my wife she used to say I hadn't broken the umbilical cord and that I was still hanging on to my mother's apron strings. She realised after a remarkably short time that my mother has always had a very controlling influence over me.

For a long time I thought my relationship with my mother was perfect, but it wasn't until I started seeing a shrink in my mid-thirties that I realised it was actually a very unhealthy relationship. One thing I'm certain of now is that if she'd been younger and if I'd had brothers and sisters, it would have been far less damaging. Also, I don't think it's surprising somehow that I'm following the same pattern as my mother by having a child in my forties.

Now I find myself torn between my child and my mother. It's hard having a small baby while your mother's on the terminal skid. I visit her in a nursing home in Wales most weekends but I still feel guilty. If I don't go my mother misses out and if I do my daughter misses out. My daughter is also missing out by not having that special relationship with a grandparent.

The subject's name has been changed.

(Photograph omitted)

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