“Childcare is more pertinent to older mothers because it tends to be that our family are older as well. My mum has helped out an awful lot, but by the time I had my children, she was already in her 70s. Had I had my kids in my 20s, my husband and I probably could have relied less on formal paid childcare.”
There is little-to-no formal support from state programmes to ensure mothers like Glancy-Potter can afford childcare and return to work again. She was not able to make the numbers of keeping her job add up; the costs of childcare would have absorbed her entire salary.
But measures that make it easier for the growing population of Generation X mothers to continue working will benefit the economy, says Myra Strober, professor emerita of education and economics at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and Graduate School of Business. There is no country that has gotten the practice quite right yet.
Strober says if that mothers in particular choose to sacrifice their career, their inability to continue working has a larger impact on the national income than if younger and less experienced, lower-paid workers leave the workforce. Women aged 40 and older are generally “more educated and have positions of greater responsibility and higher earnings than younger women”.
“Making sure that experienced women in their forties can return to work and continue to be productive in the labour force is not only socially progressive,” she says, “it is also economically prudent.”
‘I get to see life all over again’
While attitudes toward working mothers in general slowly change, social assumptions about older mothers do persist. Some women who begin families in their 40s can find themselves cast in the isolating role of “older mother”.
Gewanda Parker, 49, lives with her two daughters, aged seven months and three years, in the US state of Florida. When she takes her daughters out, she is often addressed as their grandmother or aunt, while other, younger women are assumed to be mothers.