This week has seen us on the approach to 30, in more ways than one: I’m 26 weeks pregnant, so I’m sure 30 weeks will be here before I know it given how fast this trimester has gone; and I celebrated my 29th birthday, so only 1 year left to go before I turn 30. I say ‘celebrated’, but this consisted of a very quiet celebration just the 3 (or 4 if you like) of us. In previous years I’ve always organised some sort of get together with friends and family, like a tea party or pudding party or bar evening. But this year I feel like my birthday has crept up on me without me realising where time was flying to, and I’m sure the main reason is being pregnant and not having much energy to think of things other than getting through each day and week as it comes and not planning very far ahead at all. We did have a small celebration on Saturday with my parents. Maybe next year I will have more energy and organisational ability to plan a party for my 30th…. we’ll see!
This year was also the first time in my life that I worked on my birthday! Having a summer birthday meant that as a child I was always on school holidays, and quite often we were away on our family summer holiday. As an undergraduate and Masters student I also managed to escape working in a summer job on my birthday itself. Then during my PhD (when I could have taken the day off anyway) my birthday happened to fall at the weekend for the two summers. The first year I had a ‘proper’ job was 2 years ago, when I was pregnant with Andrew, but we’d booked a holiday for the week of my birthday, so I escaped yet again! Last year I was on maternity leave, and that brings us to this year. I toyed with the idea of booking a day’s annual leave, but then I thought that it might actually be interesting to experience working on my birthday for once, being as I’m not going to be working for the next few years once baby arrives and I’m a stay at home mum. I have to say that it really wasn’t a bad day at all! I had a productive morning working, and then met Tom for lunch in town where we both work. Then my work friends and I went out for cake/ice-cream treats later in the afternoon, and they presented me with some lovely gifts (chocolates, non-alcoholic wine, flowers, notecards) and a pretty card. The hardest part of the day was roasting in the office! We are on the top floor of 4, and there is very little air circulation. Being pregnant doesn’t help as I’m already warmer than usual. It was great to cool down with a nice relaxing swim after work, and then my boys and I had a quiet tea together at home. We’ve decided to go out for a family meal on Sunday, because I’d rather sit in a restaurant with the smell of food at lunchtime than in the evening when I still feel nauseous.
Although I’m approaching 30, this doesn’t seem to bother me (yet!) I guess I don’t think of my age in numbers, but rather how old (or young) I feel. When Tom and I discussed our thoughts on having children, both before and after we got married, I said that it would be amazing if we could have two by the time we were 30. Given that Tom is 6 months younger than me, it’s my age that was the limiting factor. I didn’t take it for granted that we would be able to have children as quickly as we did once we decided the time was right to start a family, but I’m very happy that in the end I’ll have reached my (what once seemed like a) dream of being a four-person family by my 30th birthday.
Since I’ve had Andrew (I was 27 when he was born), and we’ve met new parents and their children at groups, I get the feeling that I’m on the young side for being a first time mum amongst the mums that I’ve met. Of course this is a big generalisation, and there are of course mums younger than me in Cambridge, but on the whole it seems like there are quite a lot of mums older than me. As my own mum was 24 when she had me (her first child), this has got me interested in how the average age of first time mums has changed over just one generation. So I trawled through loads of birth stats on the government’s Office of National Statistics website. The latest published data I could find was for 2008 (so 3 years before Andrew was born), and the earliest published data in the same format that I could find was for 1988 (so 5 years after I was born), but this is close enough for my interest here. Below is a graph showing what I found (I love graphs, I’m such a scientist!)….
The blue line shows the average (mean) age in years of mums when they gave birth (whether that was their first, second, fifth, fifteenth etc. child). We see that it rose steadily from about 27 in 1988 to 29.5 in 2008. Then if we look at the red line – this shows the average age of mums when they gave birth to their first child – it rose steadily from about 25 in 1988 to about 27.5 in 2008. The green line shows the average age of married mums when they gave birth to their first child. Interestingly, this line starts below the blue one at about 26.5 in 1988 and then crosses the blue line to end up at just over 30 in 2008. Then, just out of interest, I plotted (in orange) the average age of dads when their baby was born (all births, so whether it was their first, second, fifth, fifteenth etc. child) – I could only find more recent data on this, from 1998 onwards. We see that generally dads have been older than mums when their children were born, over 30 years old on average since 1998.
So where do I stand in relation to the ‘average’ then? Well Andrew was my first, in 2011, when I was 27, and I was married, so I’ll look at the green line. I see that I was well below average (given that it is likely to have risen beyond 30 years since 2008, given the general trend). Even when I look at all first births, including those to mums who weren’t married (red line), I was still below average. So my anecdotal evidence of feeling pretty young as a mum around here could have some truth. I’d be even more interested to see these kind of stats just for our area, because I suspect this kind of thing might differ by area, depending on the demographics of the mums living there. It seems also that my mum was below the average age to have me at age 24 in 1983 when she was already married (imagine the green line extending downwards to 1983 at the same angle as where it starts). Interestingly, both Tom and my Dad were even further below the average age of dads when their first child was born – Tom was 27 (exactly – Andrew and he share the same birthday!) and my Dad was 25. I guess there are many reasons why people are having children later these days than in the 1980s, one of which could be that women are choosing to start in their career first and then have children. For the moment I am happy that being a mum is my career, and I will pursue other career interests in a few years time, most likely when our children are at school. For us, 27 was a great age to have a baby, but I know that every family situation is different and that there is no ‘right’ age to have a baby – what’s right for one family isn’t the same as what’s right for another.
I hope this little excursion into statistics and graphs has been interesting for you as well as for me. As I said, I love looking at numbers like this – one of the best parts of analysing results from the research project I’m working on (and others I’ve done in the past) is making attractive graphs that show the information more clearly to me than a table of numbers. If graphs aren’t your thing, I hope you’ll come back for more pregnancy news next week – I promise not to put any graphs in! 🙂