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The average age of a first-time parent is rising, but being a young mum should be supported


It feels as if the championing of this capitalist, white-centric version of motherhood has coincided with a decrease in the value we place on the responsibility of parenthood as a whole.

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As birth rates continue to dramatically fall across developed countries, we have to consider the knock-on effect our social obsession with productivity has had on family planning, health and happiness.

Instead of meeting societal KPIs that value output and achievement over the human experience, we need environments that encourage parents to actually enjoy parenting, rather than having to navigate boardrooms while breastfeeding and heralding doing both at once as a win for women.

That means policies that help families first, instead of helping organisations that drive mothers back into the workforce to prop up the capitalist fever dream. Policy that doesn’t have parents dodging childcare bugs, juggling deadlines and paying for costly IVF rounds and skyrocketing childcare fees. Policy that doesn’t force parents to give up their time, energy and the vigour of youth to their workplaces only to then outsource the parenting experience a decade later to nannies, childcare and after-school programs.

Medical advancements like IVF should be lauded for allowing people to realise their dreams of starting a family, but they come with a high financial, emotional and physical price, and with success rates that can be devastatingly low.

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We need to see becoming a parent supported at all ages, not just when it’s financially or socially viable. This means better fertility education for young women and young men (who are responsible for approximately 50 per cent of fertility issues).

As I approach my 40s, I’ve watched the struggle, heartache and expense that comes with waiting too long to have children, only to discover it’s not as easy as you believed it would be when society was fearmongering about the risks of teen pregnancy.

Becoming a parent at 22 was hard, but becoming a parent at any age is hard. What I wish people considering parenthood understood is that fertility isn’t a guarantee; it’s risky and volatile and when you choose to do it matters. If I had my time over, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Odette Barry is the founder of Odette & Co, a publicist and PR mentor based in Byron Bay.

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