PUMPING IRONY: A Longer Wait, a Longer Life

By waiting to have children, My Lovely Wife may live longer.

vintage photo of kids
The Man of Few Words (left) and The Boss Mare, circa 1993. Worth waiting for, in more ways than one.

My Lovely Wife and I bicycled over to our favorite local bistro the other day and found ourselves surrounded by young parents and their relatively tiny offspring. We have a practiced eye for such things, so we were estimating the age of the infants and toddlers and recalling those long-ago days when we were saddled with similar, vaguely joyful baggage.

It’s a wonderful (and rather protracted) chapter in one’s life, we agreed. And having been through it, we have some genuine sympathy for the twentysomething parents trying to fend off various tabletop tragedies as they attempt to complete their meal. It’s not easy — even for young, energetic moms and dads.

There are a couple of ways to look at the timing of parenthood, it seems to me: You can get started early in marriage, taking advantage of all that youthful energy and vitality to get you through the long, sleepless nights walking the floors with a 25- to 30-pound bundle of joy (great excuse to work on your core) and get it all over with by the time you hit your early 40s. Or you can wait awhile, satisfy your youthful energies and excesses into your 30s before building your nest and raising your brood.

MLW and I took the latter approach. Our daughter, Nora (AKA The Boss Mare), was born when MLW was 31 and I was 36; Martin (AKA The Man of Few Words) came along a little less than three years afterward. Twenty-six years later, they’re both out on their own, we’re wandering around a big, quiet house, and according to a new study, by waiting as long as we did to have kids, MLW is likely to live a longer life than those women whose child-bearing years ended in their 20s.

Older Moms Live Longer

Here’s how the Los Angeles Times explained the research:

“Compared with a woman who wrapped up her childbearing by the age of 29, a woman whose last child was born after she reached the age of 33 was roughly twice as likely to survive long enough to outlive 95 percent of her female peers born in the same year. Women who bore their last child between the ages of 33 and 37 had the best shot at becoming a longevity champion. They were 2.08 times as likely to live to an exceptional age as moms who had no more children after 29. Women whose last child came after the age of 37 were 1.92 times as likely to live so long.”

There are, of course, plenty of theories about why this might be. The authors of the study suggest that it’s evolutionary: Women capable of conceiving and bearing children for a longer period of time tend to be more active and involved in family life and, as a result, more vital and healthy. I suppose that’s as likely an explanation as something having to do with hormones (which the study does not address), but I suspect an emotional and psychological component to all this, as well: Young mothers may feel they’ve lost their youth and vitality and are not able to reclaim it when the kids have all grown up and left the nest.

In any case, this is good news to me, since I’d like MLW to hang around into a robust old age, but it’s apparently also good news for TBM and TMOFW. Their mother is likely to be around to confer her sage wisdom to her grandchildren, if and when they may arrive — hopefully not before both of them are into their 30s.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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