Babysitter Generation

My coworker friend Andrea is almost smack dab in the middle, in terms of age, in between my daughter and me. I’m 42, Andrea is 28, and my daughter is 15. The age difference between each of us is not old enough for a complete generation, but far enough apart to have significant age differences and generational outlooks and attitudes. Hence, I think of it as a “babysitter generation.”

I’m old enough to have babysat Andrea when she was little, but not quite old enough to have been her mom (unless I had been a young teen mom at 13)! She was 14 when M. was born, so she could have easily been one of M.’s babysitters when my husband and I jaunted out for date night. Right now it seems that the age gap between Andrea and M. is far greater than the age gap between Andrea and me.

In some cultures, even here in the USA, the difference between generations is 14-17 years. Thus, the babysitter generation is more like a generation in those cases. Anyhow, in the past it was probably more common to have microgenerations because people only lived until they were 40 or wasted away from consumption or typhoid. A baby boomer coworker told us that a generation used to be considered 20 years. I’ve heard that it’s 25 years now, and I wonder if that’s increasing, despite the teen birth rate.

When M. was in preschool, I was often one of the younger mothers, and I had given birth to her at 27. Several of the other parents had been in their 30s when they became parents. One of the mothers had been 53 YEARS OLD when she had her first child! Apparently she had frozen her eggs several years before. When I first had met her at the preschool, I had thought she was somebody’s grandmother. (Oops!)

When her daughter graduates high school, she’ll be seventy-one. My father passed away when he was 65- who will raise her child if her health fails?

My pioneering mom typed her dissertation when she was pregnant with me. She was 39 when she had me, and my dad was 41. In 1972, that was WEIRD. People have asked me if I was the youngest child, and I reply,”No! I’m the elder of two. And I have a little brother she had at 41!” In the Seattle area and among Hollywood stars, becoming a parent for the first time in your late thirties or early forties is no biggie.

All judgment aside, when is the ultimate age at which to have a child? When is the best time? Is it ethical to have a child when you’re past “natural” childbearing years?

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