I love the fact that I am in my mid 40s with two little children. Rather than age me, my children give me the appearance of youth – people generally look a bit surprised when I tell them I have two kids under 5, not,I assume, because I look particularly young, but because most people seem to think that having children over 35 is either foolish or impossible. I lose track of the number of times I’ve heard comments like “I want to be young enough to run around after my kids when they’re older” and “its not fair on the kids” – well, by the time my two turn 18 and leave home, I’ll be a sprightly 60. I hardly think that counts as being past it. Since having my babies at 40 and 42 respectively, I’ve become the Mummy Poster Girl for many of my friends (and even strangers), who were stressing about ticking clocks and have come to me for advice. Although I know that I am very fortunate indeed to have faced no issues at all with conceiving, carrying and delivering my kids at a relatively advanced age, my thirty and forty-something friends who were feeling anxious tell me that I’m an inspiration to them.
The pressure to procreate young is particularly prevalent in India. Although things are changing in the metros, and many young people are choosing to pursue careers, marry later, and have kids when they are financially more stable, the tendency across India as a whole is still to wed in the early twenties and start popping out babies almost immediately. My Mum had me when she was 21, a fact which never ceases to amaze me. I remember celebrating her 40th birthday with her, when I’d just turned 19. On my own 40th birthday I was pregnant with my first child.
I love the fact that I was able to enjoy my twenties and thirties in a hedonistic, selfish fashion. I dwell on memories of relentlessly pursuing my career, partying like crazy, and travelling the world, before upping sticks and moving to another continent, deciding to settle in India. I cannot imagine graduating from college and jumping straight into marriage and motherhood – I needed years to discover myself, let alone get into a serious relationship and start parenting other human beings.
That journey of self-discovery has made me a contented older mother. I’m officially over partying, having hung up my clubbing shoes around the time that I started wishing I was at home curled up on the sofa rather than battling my way to the bar and shouting myself hoarse to be heard above the “din” of the music. Once an avid traveller and obsessive backpacker, I now generally prefer to be at home, or at the very least in the comfort of a decent hotel. I’m financially in a decent place – although mortgage repayments are tough, at least I’m no longer paying off student loans or an overdraft. And in spite of the naysayers, I actually have more energy than I ever did, perhaps because I don’t have time to sleep, as I’m constantly on my toes.
I’d also like to think that I’m in a better place to raise my kids to be good human beings. Most twenty-somethings are selfish and impatient, narcissistic, and eager to leave their mark on the world. As we grow older, we start to realise that life doesn’t revolve around us, and that others deserve respect. We find pleasure in simpler things, and have the patience to spend time with our little ones.
In my mind, I am very clear that I made the right choice when it came to having kids in my forties. However, many women are not lucky enough to have the freedom to take that kind of decision. Women are often given either/or scenarios and asked to choose– to choose a family or a career, to choose to procreate young or risk problem pregnancies and difficulties in conceiving, to choose between being selfless or selfish. Happily, that pressure seems to be easing slightly, thanks to the number of high profile women who are having babies in their forties (and even fifties!). The so-called risks associated with “geriatric” pregnancies (the official medical term for a pregnancy where the mother 35 or older) are reducing thanks to breakthroughs in fertility treatments. Yet many women remain paranoid, worried that they will miss out on something.
My advice to potential older mothers is: Relax. There’s no reason that you cannot be a mother later in life and there are tons of good arguments for waiting. Enjoy life, discover yourself, put some money in the bank and then ready yourself for the rollercoaster ride which is motherhood.
Originally from the UK, Heather fell in love with India when she came here for a backpacking trip in 2000. She made Mumbai her home three years later, and has been living and working here ever since, She has worked in various media companies, including ad agencies, a broadcaster and movie production company and is now Chief Talent Officer for The 120 Media Collective . She married Vivek in 2008, and is now the mother of two boys – Jake aged 4 and Noah aged 2.
Heather is still trying to master the Hindi language, although she knows all of the swear words. She loves to bake English cakes and pies, and balances an active social life with a love for hot yoga. She hates cold weather and unpunctuality drives her up the wall.
Her first novel, “Becoming Mrs. Kumar,” inspired by her experiences of living and working in India, was published in April 2013 by Random House India. Set in Mumbai, it tells of a British Expat woman’s search for love and happiness in an intense, chaotic city which is never short on excitement.