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Old mothers

Posted December. 08, 2015 09:48,   


A man and a woman are getting married in six years since they first met when they were both 20. With two daughters and one son, the couple lives a content life before turning 40 and coming into yet another godsend: a baby girl. The woman undergoes the C-section to give birth to the baby. When the labor is finished, the husband says to his wife, “I have been worried about you.” And she replies, “I have done my job. From now on, she is your responsibility.”

This is a story that one of my male friends posted on his company bulletin board five years ago. He is leading a happy life with three girls and one boy, a large family increasingly difficult to find in Korea these days. I was fascinated by his wife’s remarks, and I admired her courage to give birth to a child at the age of 40. This family being an extreme exception, the average age at which a woman gives her first childbirth in Korea has been found to be 30.7 years old, the highest in the world. Italy and Japan followed close with 30.6 and 30.4, and the U.S. lagged years behind at 28.1.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the prime time for pregnancy of a woman is in her 20s. As women get older, the possibility of conception and the quality of ovaries decrease, so pregnant women aged over 35 are categorized as old age pregnancy. As more women pursue academic accomplishment and social aspiration, an increasing number of women are getting married and giving birth at much higher ages. Another reason for this trend will be the rising cost of child-rearing and education. In fact, the number of women who gave their first childbirth before turning 30 fell from 163,000 in 2005 to 126,000 in 2011 while that of those who had their first child in their 30s increased by 36.3 percent from 207,000 to 283,000.

Halle Berry, Hollywood movie star who had her first child at 41, urged women to have babies at a younger age, saying that she would have had her child much sooner had she known all the difficulties that entail child-bearing at such an old age. Following her advice won’t be easy in Korea, however. On Monday, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family issued the 2015 Work and Family Balance Index, and the data found that when both man and woman have a job, a woman spent three hours and 14 minutes a day on housework on average while a man spent no more than 40 minutes. While a staggering 81.05 trillion won (69.4 billion dollars) has been invested in addressing low fertility rate since 2006, working mothers are still having a difficult time in juggling family and work. Will there ever be the day when society shall tell all mothers in Korea, “You have done your job. From now on, it is our responsibility.”