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Alison Figueiredo: Late to motherhood? I am just happy to have made it

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Older mum? Perhaps. I just consider myself fortunate to be married with a beautiful child in an age where modern life puts family life firmly in the background – and often throws every obstacle in the way of achieving this most basic of human dreams.

Over the weekend myself and my husband celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. The week before we celebrated the second birthday of our son.

Both beautiful, special occasions with much to be thankful for and reflect on with a profound sense of joy. None of it has been especially easily.

A marriage can easily crumble in the face of the sorts of struggles we have encountered along the way.

Then, in a quieter moment to myself I flicked open the papers and once again encountered another stinging headline chastising older mums.

I am an older mum. I married late, not out of choice but out of circumstances. I simply didn’t find a man who wanted to start a family, until my thirties.

I was then the main bread winner for a good portion of time – a financial necessity these days when my husband was earning £5 an hour in a bar.

He then had to spend significant portions of time away from home, usually overseas, to break into an industry that he felt would set the groundwork for stability.

As he succeeded our strained marriage started to fail under the burden of separation. But we turned it around, pulled it back from the edge and found enough stability to start a family only to discover that this is not so easy.

Miscarriage followed by miscarriage followed by a final soul crushing doomed pregnancy before we had our beautiful son in March 2012.

This is our very personal complex set of circumstances. But isn’t that true of people generally?

There is no one size fits all argument that can be applied to all men and women when it comes to life and the deeply personal relationships we form in order to settle down.

It is not as simple as many would have you believe in the press that huge swathes of women, under the influence of feminism, are collectively deciding to leave motherhood until later to further their own precious careers.

The complex reality is very different. Click on the best read comments on the most recent piece on older mums in the Daily Mail and this reality is laid bare.

Ordinary women who weren’t out shattering glass ceilings but who have found love and marriage late in life because they have found it hard to meet the right person – or simply haven’t found it easy meeting anyone at all and not for want of trying.

There were also women battling with very long term infertility issues.

Women who want to settle down can often find themselves getting caught out by a society that no longer places any firm value on marriage and raising children, thus making settling down harder.

Men also fall victim to this modern social thought process: that having children happens in the background to life not at the forefront, and that fatherhood is certainly not a life priority.

And a good many women, like me, will have wasted a significant portion of their best child bearing years in cohabiting relationships going nowhere.

Often when I was in my twenties women who hankered after commitment were to be jokily feared and very often scorned.

This is a cultural trend and very hard for women to grapple with and get through successfully – in biological time.

Certainly, many women will want to make something of their education and strive to be the best that they can be in their chosen fields but the same women will simultaneously want to settle down and start a family.

Some women simply ‘go to work’ and would laugh if someone described their work as a “career”.

I have no glittering career to show for late motherhood. And I certainly didn’t “have it all”.

I do however feel like I spent my twenties as Bridget Jones grappling with society’s sneering view of settling down and motherhood.

I survived to tell the tale with many scars sustained along the way.

Until society places more value on motherhood, fatherhood, on family and raising children I suspect many women (and men) will continue to find settling down and discovering parenthood comes later than they would have liked or worse, miss out on it all together.

As I write this I think of a friend of mine, very beautiful, hard working, early thirties now, desperate to settle down and have kids but for whom the latter still seems frustratingly out of reach.

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Alison Figueiredo
Alison Figueiredo cares for her son at home

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