Mothers come in all shapes and ages, and have different experiences in motherhood. With all this talk of the infamous biological clock, health complications and the best age to have a child, we spoke to two mothers – Emma Shazleen (21), who is expecting her second baby and Li-Hsian Choo (42), mother of two-year-old twins – to get their insights on having children at two ends of the baby-having spectrum.
Why did you choose to have kids at your age?
Emma: My studies went a little off balance when my Dad passed away around a month or two before my SPM examination in 2011. I nearly lost hope – who doesn’t when their parent passes on, right? But I regained my strength when I remembered all the advice he had given me, and that he always said never give up in what I want to do the most. And, being the youngest among my siblings, I was daddy’s little girl. So when he passed, I needed to fill up the space I felt in my heart once again and learn to be independent, because I had always been so dependent on others. So it was after that that I decided to get married and have a child. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Li-Hsian: I didn’t deliberately choose to have kids at my age really. It was just that I didn’t meet my husband till later in life. After we got married, we took a couple of years to adjust to and enjoy married life together. So, although we always knew we wanted children, by the time we decided to try, I was already in my late 30s. I was 40 the year our twins arrived – what some people would call a “midlife mom”.
What are the advantages or disadvantages of your choice?
Emma: One main advantage is being able to live independently with my own little family. My husband fully supports my dreams and ambitions and lets me achieve them. I have a wonderful son (soon to be two) who’s a bright kid and it’s such a joy watching him grow into an amazing person.
But I’d say not having a maid of my own or babysitter to look after is a disadvantage. I normally leave him at my Mum’s house when I go for events that don’t allow children to be present. People also say mothers my age aren’t mature enough and can’t take care of a child because we have the mind of a child ourselves. I admit sometimes I do act childish (emotional, really) but most of the time, a mother’s nature always overcomes her childish acts.
Li-Hsian: As an older mum, I had very few regrets going into motherhood. I have had (and am still having) a rich and full life with so many wonderful experiences through higher education and an interesting career as well as various personal growth and self-discovery opportunities. When my children came, I felt I was ready to dedicate my time to them.
As I am not struggling with my career, I’m happy to put their needs first and simply enjoy their childhood because I’ve had so long to prioritise my own needs. I think my children do benefit from me being an older and more self-aware mum. Even research backs me up on this. Apparently, I may also live longer (provided my children don’t wear me out first).
At this point in our lives, my husband and I enjoy a stable relationship (and financially too). We can afford to hire help and even indulge in some little luxuries now and then. Having the resources to get support and take a welcome break when we need it really helps us better endure the long marathon that is parenthood.
What are the main things you should consider before deciding to have kids, especially at your age?
Emma: Think it through, if you can handle it or not – taking care of a child 24/7 is not an easy task, especially if you’re juggling your studies and other responsibilities. Don’t jump into things if you aren’t ready to give any commitment or put in the effort to take care of another human being and putting their needs first in front of yours.
Li-Hsian: You are a generally happy person and have a reasonably healthy lifestyle – so that you will be emotionally and physically ready to embrace motherhood. Only then will you be truly able to enjoy the experience. You need to be adaptable. Having a baby is an adjustment for anyone at any age. However, having a baby in your 40s – when you are very independent and used to a certain lifestyle – might be more jarring than having a baby in your 20s or 30s. You will need to be mentally prepared to face any pre- and post-natal issues that could come with older pregnancies. Make sure you have a good support system of family and friends.
What your advice to mothers who decide to follow in your footsteps?
Emma: Think wisely before you really commit; marriage isn’t puppy love, where you break up if you feel like breaking up just because your partner or you made a mistake, then get back together in a continuous cycle. Marriage is a once in a lifetime commitment. You keep on fighting and never give up, especially if you have children. Also, it really is a challenge taking care of a child, let alone two; but if you’re sure this is the right path for you, then go for it! Motherhood is a calling and a blessing. I never regretted my decision, and I’m loving my life right now.
Li-Hsian: If you want a child, are emotionally and financially ready to have one, I would say “don’t think too much and just go for it.” If anyone asks you “Why would you want a baby at your age?”… just tell them: “For the same reasons that anyone would want a baby at any age.” Becoming a mum has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
Image Credit: Emma & Li-Hsian.