Mommyish Debate: Is It Irresponsible To Have Babies At 50+?

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In case you didn’t see the startling cover of New York Magazine today, the cover story “Parents Of A Certain Age” chronicles the parenthood of the 50+ crowd — women who have conceived, adopted, and sought out surrogates for later-in-life motherhood. While touching on the life choices of older married couples, both gay and straight, the piece primarily focuses on women and the battle against their fertility. The complex story touches on a multitude of issues including class, wealth, vitality, and in the end, what’s best for the kids.

Editorial Director Meghan Keane, Editor-in-Chief Shawna Cohen, Deputy Editor Koa Beck, and contributor Lindsay Cross all weigh in on the subject of starting a family in one’s golden years:

Lindsay Cross: For me, I can understand that it might be judged harshly because new things normally are. But I think the people who seem to be having children at an older age know what they want and are able to provide for their families. They seem to go into the situation much better prepared than lots of young people having children. I say that it’s a personal choice and if a woman chooses to have kids at 50, more power to her.

Meghan Keane: Interesting. But isn’t it so hard to not see your kids grow up and be active in their lives later on?

Shawna Cohen: I agree. I also think it would be unfair to make a blanket statement that women over age X aren’t entitled to procreate. clearly there are many factors to consider including the woman’s health, lifestyle, etc.

Koa Beck: Yes, but as these piece points out, being 50 isn’t the same for everyone anymore regarding health. There are 50 year olds who have better cholesterol than 20 year olds. Age is not a predictive factor in health anymore.

Meghan Keane: I mean, I know older men have kids but I think that’s sad for them too.

Lindsay Cross: I know what you’re saying Meghan, but people are living active and involved lives so much longer than ever before. I’m 25 and I still have very involved grandparents. My daughter has involved great-grandparents. If you have children at 50, you’re still able to be a part of your kid’s lives for a very long time.

Meghan Keane: but at 70, your health can rapidly deteriorate

Shawna Cohen: there are obviously major drawbacks to having a child so late in life – the big one being that you might not be around to see them grow up. But so long as the children are being cared for… while i don’t think there should be a mandated cut-off date for having kids – and I personally know at least a couple of women who became moms in their early 50s – i do get the jeebs hearing about this 61-year-old pregnant Brazilian woman! So even I have a bias (50s okay, 60s not) – not proud of it!

 Meghan Keane: I mean, I’m not saying it should be illegal. I just don’t think it’s the greatest idea. Also, I think adopting at 50 is totally different. I think adoption of kids who don’t have a home is great at ANY age.

Lindsay Cross: I do think it could encourage children to stop leaning on their parents later in life. I mean, a 30 year old might not feel bad moving back in with his 52 year old parents. But I have a feeling it would be different if you’re parents were 80 and you wanted to come back home.

Koa Beck: But clearly having kids later in life is a class statement. I think my biggest takeaway from this piece is the wealth needed to have kids at 50. Whether you’re doing adoption or surrogacy or IVF, it all costs a ton of money. And there is more of a stigma against women than men on this subject.

Shawna Cohen: Yes, major double standard.

Koa Beck: Gay male couples who choose to have kids via surrogate do not face nearly the societal scorn as older women. A piece about older men adopting and having babies would never snag a magazine cover.