We're featuring 35+ moms on our site and welcome suggestions on who to feature.
NAME: Elizabeth Gregory
MLTS: Elizabeth, what do you do?
My current research explores the effects of the trend to starting families later (at or after 35), by birth or adoption, on individuals, their families, and the wider world (www.readymoms.com), I work in an active women’s studies program (www.friendsofwomen.org) and I teach courses in modernist literature and feminist studies.
MLTS: Why did you decide to become a mom later in life? What factors precipitated this decision (or dictated it)? What made you go the adoption route, and how did you find the process/experience?
I became a mom at 39 because that’s when it made sense for me
and my husband, personally and careerwise. I got tenure at 38, and my
now-husband and I married that same year (it was a second marriage for
both of us).
Q: What do you love about your career? What is most challenging about your career? What was your motivation to write Ready? Is this your first book? Do you plan others?
ELIZABETH: Really I love most things about my work — teaching, thinking about my research projects (before this one, they’ve all been about modernist poetry), and running the women’s studies program’s curriculum and its many events (both campus- and community-centered). The most challenging aspect of my career is keeping everything going on track at once, but I’m very lucky in that I have many great co-workers.
The Ready project sprang out of the realization that, like myself and many other women I knew, huge numbers of women in the US and globally are waiting to start their families later (sometimes much later) than their mothers did — and that such a big shift had to have ripple effects for them and the wider society. Since very little in-depth research had been done on the topic, I decided to see what I could find out, both by interviewing people and by looking in national databases.
This is my third book — the other two are about poets. I do expect I’ll write some more books down the line, in both the literary and the social dynamics realms.
MLTS: What have you experienced through motherhood that has also helped you in your work or personal life?
ELIZABETH: I’ve learned to respect other people’s choices (well I did that before, but now moreso) — both because my children teach me over and over that there are all sorts of ways to do things well that I wouldn’t have thought of, and because raising kids and the many choices that involves shows me how complex and situated the world is. Where one choice makes sense for one person in one place, very different choices work for others in other situations.
MLTS: What is a typical day for you like, managing both work and home life?
ELIZABETH: Lately, my life is a bit of a race —adding in the book launch element to the regularly scheduled stuff. Basically, I spend time with my family, prepare and teach my classes, organize women’s studies events, shop for groceries — the usual. My husband keeps a similar schedule.
MLTS: How do you think being a later in life mom has affected your experiences as a parent (share both good & not so good)? Has anything about being a mom surprised you?
I think it makes me a confident mom — just because by now
I’ve learned that I have reasonable judgment, and
don’t have to be swayed by other people’s
anxieties. Not that I don’t make mistakes! But I try to keep
my kids’ whole interest in mind, and I work to be fair to
them and to others.
MLTS: Where do you turn to for support as a mom? Who is your support network and community outside of work? Anything online?
ELIZABETH: I have a great group of friends, many of whom are later moms. Lots of great colleagues. A Friends of Women’s Studies community support group. And several online groups (some focused on adoption), both local and national.
MLTS: What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a mom later in life?
ELIZABETH: Do what makes sense to you and your circumstances, recognizing that mothering later works well for many. On the other hand, some people are ready to start earlier, and some people wait beyond the capacity of their body to bear. Sometimes adoption or egg donation works for them, sometimes it doesn’t. Nothing is guaranteed AND that there are many ways to have a good life.
If you think you’ll be starting your family at or after 35, the good news is you’re likely to have lots of fun doing the hard work of parenting, with a well-developed sense of who you are, generally in better financial circumstances than you would have been earlier, and without any regrets about not being able to stay out late any more — because you’ve done that already.
MLTS: What has the response been from moms to Ready?
ELIZABETH: So far it’s been positive — especially from those who’ve read the book! There are quite a few issues in play here (to do with workplace rules and their effect on people’s family choices, the changing dynamics of finding the right partner and making a partnership work, women’s changing status within the family and in the wider world, the new respect that gay and single moms command, learning the current realities of biology and fertility technology, our longer life-spans and the new choices they offer around what to do with our time, etc, etc!) Different people focus on different issues.
MLTS: In doing your research for the book, did anything particularly surprise or impress you?
ELIZABETH: The women I spoke to impressed me most — they were amazingly thoughtful, passionate and articulate.
More broadly, I was impressed by how wide reaching are the effects of this shift in birth timing among women all over the world, when they have a choice. When women’s family lives change, so do the lives of everybody else in their families.
MLTS: What would you most hope women take away from reading the book?
ELIZABETH: That most of us make reasonable choices for our families within the context we’re given, and that we can work together to improve that context in the years to come. And that women’s education is important — for women, for their kids, and for the national talent pool (that may sound off-topic, but I think it’s integral to the later motherhood phenomenon).
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