Older women 'too selfish to be mums'

Published Monday, 04 March 2013
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A journalist has taken to the This Morning sofa to defend controversial comments she made about older women being "too selfish" to be good mums - including a personal confession that she refuses to take her toddler swimming in case it ruins her pedicure.

Older women 'too selfish to be mums'
Journalist Jackie Brown and psychologist Laverne Antrobus on This Morning. (© Ken McKay)

Jackie Brown had her baby girl at 43 and, three years on, she admits to being a "neglectful" mother.

"I am too tired, too distracted by my career, and too set in my ways to meet her constant demands for my time and attention," she said, writing for the Daily Mail last week.

"She has to plead with me to get me to do those activities children love, such as painting and colouring, with her.

"I still think more about what I'm doing than what I need to do with her -- and I'm convinced this is because of my age. I've grown used to things being a certain way."

If I ever get home early from work, I prefer having a couple of glasses of wine than getting too hands-on with Charlotte's bedtime routine.

Jackie Brown

Speaking to This Morning's Phillip and Holly, Jackie explained that she had always been career-driven and that, while she had later in life decided she did want to be a mum, she had trouble adjusting.

"I had her because I thought: 'Oh, I don't want to miss out on being a mum.' So, yes, I did have her for selfish reasons," she said, adding that her daughter's needs hadn't really come first.

"I didn't have a lack of interest in her being fed and watered and looked after. I've chosen a good nursery that would look after her - someone else to look after her. She was never in any danger.

"But, yes, in terms of spending time with her and in terms of the nurturing and wanting to make the most of her ... I wasn't doing that."

According to Jackie, she has felt extremely guilty and she understands the reaction in the press and from members of the public to her article - particularly in response to the remarks about preferring a glass of wine or reading a newspaper to spending time with her little girl.

"I think I thought: 'Well, I deserve this glass of wine or I deserve this because I've worked hard ...' It all became a bit of a vicious circle," she said.

But she explained her reasons for writing the article, stating that it was in response to the news about IVF being made available to women up to the age of 42.

"My first reaction when I heard that on the news was: 'Well, I was an older mum - I haven't been brilliant at it.' And so I put it out there and I gave examples of how I hadn't been good and how Charlotte was missing out," Jackie said.

While Jackie's personal admissions may have caused controversy, she does want to change her approach and has given up a more demanding job in favour of freelancing in order to try to get the balance between her work and home life right.

"Charlotte's spending less time at nursery - not being the first there and last out," she said.

"I've had such a good response from her since I've changed, hugs and kisses and her telling people: 'Mummy's not working in the office anymore ...'"

The response has been a bit more than I expected - a bit more about selfishness. But I have also had others mums who said: 'Oh, I agree to a point' or that it's an honest piece.

Jackie Brown

According to psychologist Laverne Antrobus, Jackie's situation is more common than people would be brave enough to admit.

"People can have these feeling at different times - this conflict of the move from being a single person, even if you're in a relationship, to having to accommodate a very young baby," she said.

But when Phillip asked if it was worse for an older mother trying to accommodate a child in her life, Laverne wasn't so sure.

"I think possibly if you're older, you've become more set in your ways," she said.

"But I read the piece (Jackie's article) and I was thinking I'm sure there are some parents who are saying: 'Oh, I wouldn't want to admit it, but actually there are some evenings I don't want to get involved in bedtimes.'

"But I think that's quite ordinary. It's whether or not you stay in that position. It's staying in that position that becomes potentially damaging for your child."

And for Jackie, she has now reached a turning point and hopes that her daughter won't remember the early years when her mum wasn't so involved in her care.

"It's what happens next that's important," she said.

© UTV News
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