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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Is 50 too old to become a mother?

M&S did not comment on whether Ms Wade-Gery was pregnant, adopting or using a surrogate. There was to be no rummaging around in her knicker drawer.

Laura Wade-Gery, Marks & Spencer’s most senior female executive, chose the company’s AGM to let her colleagues know she was planning to take some maternity leave.

Nothing strange there. Except maybe that the rules of the London Stock Exchange demand that investors are told if senior directors will be away from their desks for more than three weeks. Bang goes keeping your pregnancy quiet if you plan to rise up the corporate ladder.

“Woman To Take Maternity Leave” is no shocker. “Women to have baby at 50” is. It is Wade-Gery ‘s first child.

Lingerie retailer M&S did not comment on whether Ms Wade-Gery was pregnant, adopting or using a surrogate. There was to be no rummaging around in her knicker drawer.

“Laura and her husband are looking forward to welcoming a child into their family,” a company spokesperson said.

Wade-Gery’s second husband, Simon Roberts, is 67. Yes 67. The tabloids are letting that sleeping dog lie, though. Men can father children willy, nilly for as long as they like, it seems.

Yet it is not all books with big letters and afternoon naps for older fathers. In May, a researcher at Vienna University found: “someone born to a father of 22 is already 5 to 10 per cent more attractive than a 40-year-old father and the difference grows with the age gap”.

So, men are responsible for the ugly gene. At least that’s one thing women can’t be blamed for.

From September 1st, Wade-Gery will take four months off to care for her first child.

Apparently “surprise rippled through the City” at the news, proving that the City really is a boys’ club.

The real surprise for any baby producer is that Wade-Gery is only taking four months out of the office. Surely M&S maternity leave is not just maternity leave, it is “M&S maternity leave”….

Some people are thrilled for Wade-Gerry.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, who worked with Laura Wade-Gery at Tesco and was appointed a life peer in 2013, said she was chuffed for her former colleague. “I’m delighted at her news, which I know fulfils her deepest wishes.”

“In becoming a mother at 50, Wade-Gery is flouting the speculation, pressure and judgment that are brought down on any woman who dares act outside the prescribed template,” journalist Bidisha wrote in the Guardian.

“I wonder what women’s lives would look like if we unhitched ourselves from the approved timetable and followed our inner desires rather than conventional expectations. I bet many women with the means would spend their 20s, 30s and most of their 40s studying, travelling, working, partying, pursuing cultural passions or personal success or artistic talents, before having kids in their late 40s, with or without a partner.”

That’s one opinion.

Anyone who spent their early 20s hauling buggies and children on to ill-equipped buses, might well see the merits in “partying and pursuing cultural passions” rather than watching endless episodes of Mighty Morphin’s Power Rangers.

There are many ways of living a life, though.

Women’s fertility remains the same but reproductive technology is moving on and the choices some women make are getting closer to men’s choices.

Some of us will feel that at 50, we don’t have the energy for a new baby. Others will have waited and be ready to give a child what they need. We are all different - and, after all, men have been doing it for ages.

As Laura Wade-Gery said earlier this year: “I can’t say that it’s been easy. But I think most of the stuff in life that is easy is not worth doing.”

HAVE your say… Is 50 too old to have a baby?


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