Professor’s new book explores motherhood

Rocking the cradle or planning the meeting, buying diapers or a graduation gown – many women are finding that these choices aren’t mutually exclusive. UH English professor Elizabeth Gregory addresses this trend in her new book, Ready: Why Women are Embracing the New Later Motherhood.

Timing is what matters when it comes to older women choosing to have a family after they’ve gotten an education and had a career.

"It takes a while for people to recognize their options. A lot of people I spoke with said they had their kids when they felt ready," said Gregory, who is also the director of Women’s Studies at UH and co-chair of the University Commission on Women.

Since 1970, the average age at which American women first give birth has risen from 21.4 to 25.2 in 2004. The average age since 2003 is 30.1 for women who are college graduates, according to statistics Gregory gathered from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Though many women are still starting early families, a growing number of women are waiting in favor of focusing solely on self-development through college, a career, traveling – anything to become ready.

"Some of the experiences they had going on at work made it desirable to wait – like learning the ropes of their business," Gregory said of the 113 new mothers age 35 and older from around the country who she interviewed in preparation for her book.

"The longer they worked earlier on, the higher their wages would be," Gregory said. "They also felt that once they were established that gave them more flexibility – clout – because they had proven themselves, so they’d be willing to take time off if they wanted to or to go part-time (when they had their first child)."

Many later mothers with careers struggle to work around jobs that don’t always offer the services or concessions their families need. In gaining more services, Gregory said, persistence is key.

"The way to accomplish this is through a combination of people that are already there (in the workplace) and people who are coming into the business world to demand and expect it," she said.

Other negative aspects of waiting to start a family can be fertility difficulties and fewer children.

Ready doesn’t promote late motherhood, Gregory said in a release. Instead, it provides a glimpse into the experiences of women who chose to have children later in life. Gregory brings her own expertise to the book, both in women’s studies and as a late mom whose gave birth to her first daughter at 39.

"I wrote this book to explore why so many women are making this choice, and what the effects are for the individual women involved, their families and the wider world," Gregory said in a forward on her book’s Web site,

"While polemics often rule the modern mommy scene, my aim here is to look at the big picture, exploring the many facets of this immense change in human behavior, from many angles."

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