Thursday 18 January 2018

Colette Fitzpatrick: Older mum Claire Byrne is a fine example for women who want a career and kids

Claire Byrne wears: top €450, skirt €550, both Roland Mouret at Costume. Photo Naomi Gaffey
Claire Byrne wears: top €450, skirt €550, both Roland Mouret at Costume. Photo Naomi Gaffey
RTE star Claire Byrne, on the set of Claire Byrne Live. Picture: Fergal Phillips
RTE star Claire Byrne, on the set of Claire Byrne Live. Picture: Fergal Phillips
Claire Byrne with husband Gerry Scollan on their wedding day in June last year. Photo: Conor McCabe
Colette Fitzpatrick arriving on the red carpet for the IFTA Gala Television Awards at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel, Dublin. Photo by Michael Chester
Colette Fitzpatrick. Photo: Mark Condren
Claire Byrne at the 2016 Rehab People of the Year Awards at Citywest Hotel. Picture: Robbie Reynolds
TV3 recently came under pressure after naming its new flagship show after its male presenter, despite Colette Fitzpatrick co-anchoring. Photo: Mark Condren
Claire Byrne for Weekend Magazine. Photo Naomi Gaffey
Well-played: Claire Byrne

Colette Fitzpatrick

I am delighted for my good friend and colleague Claire Byrne who is pregnant with her third baby. She's a fantastic role model for working women everywhere.

Thankfully, we live in an age when being pregnant and looking pregnant as a high-profile woman is not an aberration.

Years ago, it signalled the end, at least temporarily, for women on screen. Think about it - ever remember seeing a pregnant presenter on television decades ago?

Claire's pregnancy at 41 is something to celebrate. The number of births to older women keeps rising. Indeed, the number of women having babies in their mid-40s or older, though still relatively small, has tripled in the past 20 years.

RTE star Claire Byrne, on the set of Claire Byrne Live. Picture: Fergal Phillips
RTE star Claire Byrne, on the set of Claire Byrne Live. Picture: Fergal Phillips

Meanwhile, the number of women aged between 20 and 24 who are having their first child keeps falling.

The pushback and concern about women having babies when they're older is well documented.

I'm no medic, so am not qualified to talk about the risks of pregnancy. However, this I do know. Having a baby later in life, when you're emotionally and financially secure, when you're with Mr Right as opposed to Mr Right Now, makes sense.

Children of older mothers are incredibly loved and wanted and that has to be the most desirable start in life for any child.

TV3 recently came under pressure after naming its new flagship show after its male presenter, despite Colette Fitzpatrick co-anchoring. Photo: Mark Condren
TV3 recently came under pressure after naming its new flagship show after its male presenter, despite Colette Fitzpatrick co-anchoring. Photo: Mark Condren

Research from Sweden also shows that babies born to older mothers are associated with positive long-term outcome.

They stay in the educational system longer, are more likely to attend university and perform better on standardised tests than children born when their mother was younger.

Other research, from Michigan, shows that women who choose to start families later have made strides in meeting or have met their career goals, saved money from being in the workforce longer or increased their earning potential before having babies.

Such situations often give parents more money to invest in their children and provide a sense of security and stability.

Claire Byrne with husband Gerry Scollan on their wedding day in June last year. Photo: Conor McCabe
Claire Byrne with husband Gerry Scollan on their wedding day in June last year. Photo: Conor McCabe

Older mothers - and fathers - who are less worried about their earning potential or less stressed by their jobs tend to be more patient and can spend more time with their offspring.

But look around social media and you'll see insidious comments about being an older mother, a younger mother, a lone parent, a bottle feeder. The list goes on.

Pamela Flood, who was 45 when she had her third baby, revealed that she was abused online by women who accused her of being too old and too selfish. She told critics that if they had a problem with it, they should take it up with Mother Nature.

I wouldn't have bothered answering or engaging with online trolls. Why explain yourself to someone who abuses you anonymously or otherwise? It just feeds the Mammy Wars and is useful only for media outlets to create a bit of click bait.

It also distracts from the real issues affecting women and their children. Like affordable childcare, education and decent maternity hospitals.

Whatever your opinion is about older women having children, one thing's for sure - having kids at any age makes you older.

Online Editors

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