Irish mums oldest in Europe
Women wait longer to start but have bigger families
Published 02/04/2011 | 05:00
IRISH mothers are the oldest in Europe -- but they are nonetheless having more children than women anywhere else.
Mothers here are 31 on average at childbirth -- compared to just 29 in the rest of Europe. But waiting longer isn't doing them any harm in the fertility stakes.
In fact, Irish women are bucking the trend by having 2.07 babies each on average, well above the EU norm of 1.6, a new report from Eurostat reveals.
Over 60pc of mothers here are in their 30s when they give birth, compared to just 49pc of mums in Europe.
Midwife Philomena Canning said she was not surprised by the findings as bigger families were part of Irish culture, whereas having an only child remains somewhat unusual.
"A lot of the families I see, three or four children is the norm," she said yesterday.
"During the boom it seemed like people were getting these huge SUVs to carry the kids around and then they just kept going till they filled them."
Waiting longer to have children was directly linked to women getting careers going first, Ms Canning said.
And soaring property prices during the Celtic Tiger years probably led mothers to wait longer than most in order to save for a house before starting their families, she said.
The Eurostat figures also suggest that Irish women may be delaying motherhood because they put a high value on freedom in their 20s -- and they're far more likely to flee the nest than Irish men and other European women.
Just 20pc of Irish women remained at home with their parents in their late 20s, compared to 33pc of Irish men.
And while access to childcare was seen as crucial in boosting birthrates across Europe, this wasn't the case in Ireland, where far fewer children were in creches, but we still had more babies.
Traditional family values are also stronger in Ireland than elsewhere, the survey found. We're more likely to get married and less likely to get divorced -- all of which could allow more time to procreate.