Are Older Women Better Moms? Science Says Yes, Probably

by Sarah Cottrell
jgaunion / iStock

I have never been much of a trendy kind of gal, but when it comes to birthing my children, I’ve apparently joined a growing tribe of women who fit a specific demographic described as “advanced maternal age.” You know, us Ethels and Doloreses with our cranky old uteruses who waited until after 35 to join Club Motherhood.

Do I sound a bit jaded? Well, that shouldn’t surprise anyone given all the scary information handed over to women choosing to have kids “later” in life. We get told that we are high risk, that we’ll likely have fertility problems, that our risk of birthing children with developmental delays and abnormalities is higher than younger moms. We get diagnosed with gestational diabetes and other fun health problems more often it seems. And the final insult? People just love to point out how old we’ll be when our kids are ready to start college.

So, I was delighted to read about a new study that suggests older moms may actually have an advantage over younger moms. What is it, you ask? Wisdom — sort of.

In a study published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology, researchers found that older moms were typically better equipped for motherhood because their age gave them the advantage of emotional intelligence. In other words, since they had greater “psychological maturity,” their children tended to be behaviorally, emotionally, and socially more adjusted than kids born to younger moms.

Science can’t quite account for why this is. Sure, older mothers have a tendency to be higher educated, have had more time to develop stronger interpersonal relationships, and often make more money, but there is something to be said about simply being older. According to this study, sorting through stressful situations becomes easier because with age comes experience and that experience for older moms can mean the difference between being chill and freaking out when kids get out of control — or end up bleeding profusely.

I can see the benefit of this as I am getting older too. I waited until my 30s to start having kids. I had already finished school, done some traveling, bought a house, and settled down with my husband before we decided to stop trying to prevent a pregnancy. And now that I have two kids running around and one more on the way, I don’t find myself as stressed out as my younger mom friends.

Could it be because of my age? Maybe.

But here is the thing with all of these studies about mothers and age: Does any of it really matter? While researchers are off in their ivory academic towers asking questions about the behaviors of moms, I’m over here thinking that it would be great if we could work on making the communities around all mothers more accepting, supportive, and welcoming.

I’d love it so much if we could shift attitudes about motherhood to include things like standardized maternity and paternity leave to help families bond without breaking the bank and causing undue hardship and stress. If we could have universal healthcare that puts a premium on quality of life over the bottom line of some insurance company.

So, while I think it’s great that science finally has something positive to say about moms of advanced maternal age (because I am one, and I’m tired of feeling like my lady parts are filled with cobwebs with the way the medical community regards my age), I think it would be even better if science and policy makers could band together to make parenthood, on the whole, a more safe and supportive experience for everyone.