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Elizabeth Gregory

Elizabeth Gregory may currently be the most widely quoted academic authority on later life motherhood in the US media. But, for her, there’s more at stake than touting her own special midlife brand of maternal feminism.

She’s personally invested in a vision of the future that gives “pro-choice” a whole new meaning.

Director of the Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program, and professor of English, teaching contemporary motherhood and feminist theory at the University of Houston, Gregory (http://www NULL.elizabethgregory NULL.net/) is also author of the groundbreaking book: READY: Why Women Are Embracing the New Later Motherhood (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Ready-Women-Embracing-Later-Motherhood/dp/0465027857/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1316451427&sr=1-1) (Basic Books, 2007).

READY—which examines the “big picture” of the trend among women to start families in their late 30’s to 40’s—has garnered her media interviews (http://www NULL.elizabethgregory NULL.net/media NULL.php) with USA Today, and the New York Times “Motherlode” (http://parenting NULL.blogs NULL.nytimes NULL.com/2010/05/14/older-moms-grandparents-and-hand-me-down-highchairs/), to name a few, along with a writing gig at the Huffington Post (http://www NULL.huffingtonpost NULL.com/elizabeth-gregory).

But the real story within-the-story is that Gregory is also an “elderly primigravida”—the daunting medical term for a first-time older mother—having given birth to her biological daughter at nearly 40, and adopting a second at 48.

Naturally, like any mother with daughters to raise, she’s conscious of our most common concern—that today’s “liberated”woman stumbles through her prime, hog-tied to the unyielding cross of striving for rare and coveted “C-Level” roles, against an increasing sense of urgency to beat the biological clock.

Or worse, a working mother who must try and jam in responsibility for the management of the domestic environment in between the rungs of the unforgiving corporate ladder she climbs.

“Often, the workload does get excessive,” says Gregory, “and that’s largely because women haven’t yet moved up in sufficient numbers to change work policy.”

While businesses have evolved a “language of family friendliness,”she points out that too often, it’s “just talk.” The dilemma compels many women to delay starting families until they’ve reached a point in their career to have enough “clout” to command flexibility and a salary big enough to afford “decent childcare”.

However, the recent trend in a rise in birthrates in women over 40, supported by CDC statistics released early this year, has led some critics to predict a “pendulum” effect whereby our daughters—reconciled to the apparent evils of  parental ageing—will choose to have children sooner.

“It [the pendulum] might swing,” says Gregory, “but for rather different reasons.”

“In my experience, later moms are highly intentional when they become moms—taking good care of themselves, because they need to stick around for the long term.”

“If we see the trend reverse and people start having kids in their 20’s or early 30’s,” she continues, “I hope that it’s because we’ve made it easier to do and still keep a good job.”

Her vision encompasses a future that is new, with the ability to choose motherhood in their own time, without damaging their progress in the workplace, for women of all ages. It is our generation’s responsibility to “advocate for positive change for women and their families.”

Elizabeth Gregory practices her mission from the grass roots up. On a personal level, she’s well aware that, had she started her family earlier, there are many goals she may not have achieved, such as finishing her degree, or getting tenure.

On the down side, she admits to working a lot. “It means that I don’t take my children to the beach as much as I’d like to in a perfect world.”

“But I often work from home, so I do get to make cookies at the drop of a hat!”

Yet, it is her work that promises a better future for her girls.

Along with her blog, Domestic Product (http://www NULL.domesticproduct NULL.net/)—on the wider perspective of motherhood and family—she actively works to “make it different” for the young women at her university and in the wider world, “not to have to wait so long if they feel otherwise ready.”

“Only when enough women have a voice in policy, will things get better,” she says.

Notes for this blog:

Angel La Liberte is the founder of the website Flower Power Mom.com—The Truth About Motherhood After 40 (www.flowerpowermom.com), a regular blog featuring commentary, real mom stories and expert advice about motherhood after 40. She regularly campaigns for more supportive attitudes towards women having children in midlife and more awareness on the realities (social and physical) of being a later life mother.

Angel also hosts “A Child After 40”, an online community to empower all women on the journey of motherhood after 40. She gave birth to her children at 41 and 44 after conceiving naturally.

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3 Responses to Why We’re Ready For Change

  1. Heather (http://ultimateoutcasts NULL.com) says:

    I really connected with message about younger women. I am hearing several deciding to forgo college or higher professional achievements because they do not see an opportunity later to have families. This is worriesome and will take women backwards.

    I appreciate the academic approach to this issue, but if any changes are going to take place for moms today, we should be looking at launching media and cultural campaigns. Policy with will follow.

    Consider gay and lesbian issues — people got talking about it and in 10 short years major policy changes are underway. Moms need to get creative and controversial if anyone is going to pay attention to what we are saying.

  2. Marcia (http://www NULL.womenscoachingcenter NULL.com) says:

    I began having my children at 23 but quite honestly, I don’t advocate it. I tell my own children to get to know themselves first. But I also had a lengthy round of secondary infertility when I tried to conceive my second in my late 20’s —my kids turned out to be nearly 8 years apart. I feel for the women who are sandwiched between motherhood, menopause and aging parents. This is extremely challenging and should be considered for those considering mothering in their 40’s. But motherhood is challenging whenever you do it and trying to fit in everything you want to do and accomplish is a feat. As a coach I advocate making the best choices for yourself at any given moment and feeling free enough to make changes if and when something isn’t working.

  3. Nina says:

    The time is here. We mothers over 40 need not only share stories or make our case on to why we waited to have children, or why we decided to add to our already settled families.
    The majority of us are exactly where we want to be. Professionals, financially secure, centered in our life, we know what we want and where we are heading. Ready to start or add to our family.
    Our voice will and is on a daily basis being heard. The day is near for parades and political debates and policies in the medical care. Already as we spek many too many insurances are getting in on the Reproductive Fertility boom..and those who do not will loose out.
    Stronger day by day.

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