Thursday, June 18, 2009

Family Life?

Today one of my student's told me that at the age of 22-23, women are considered "old mothers". Basically, as a 24 year old, I'm already past "prime child bearing years" according to Russian doctors. This student is 29 and has a 4 year old child, so she is considered an "old mother". She was as shocked as I was. In addition to the judgment that it's a bad idea to have children in your mid-twenties, I have heard that most doctors don't believe you if you tell them you've never been pregnant before at the age of 24. Of course, I haven't ventured to double-check this girl talk, but the mere fact that this message is floating around social spheres makes me wonder ... Why is this gossip spreading?

In Europe the age women decide to get married and have children is getting older and older. I think the gossiped average is in their mid-thirties. I read a BBC article recently that asked the question, "Are women waiting too long to have children?" ... of course in Britain waiting too long means something different than in Russia, but for some reason this topic seems to be on the radar lately. When is the right age to get married and have children? My single male students, who are in their late twenties, early thirties say they feel no pressure to get married and start a family ... but the women feel different. Families are part of what make women women according to my students. The women are worried that if they wait too long they will not be beautiful enough to attract a man.

I discovered these opinions through several classes where we discussed the different expectations for men and women in Russia. After a general discussion, I split the class into two groups (they don't get to choose sides, I pick semi-randomly) to debate whether it's better to be a man or a woman in Russia. The result? In most cases, the debate swings to the side of "a man" -- especially with adults. Teenagers are able to be more creative in their arguments, but adults seem to be stuck -- maybe because they are told women at the age of 22 are "old".


  1. We discovered a similar belief in Mexico. A girl was expected to prepare herself with a marketable skill (weaving)know how to cook and be beautiful so that by 18 she could expect to be married!! Interesting how these ideas get started.

  2. wow...that's crazy, kimberly. they would be confused and disgusted by my choice not to have children at all, i'm sure.
    you know i found a wierd idea when i moved here to idaho about dogs. i told a friend that i was getting my dog fixed and she said that of couse it would be after at least one litter, that it's unhealthy for a dog to not have puppies. there is a lot of crazy in the world...i'm just not sure where it all comes from.

  3. Russians live not that long as American people and Europeans. And the health is not so good either. For women here it's hard to conceive or bear a healthy child after 30. That's why the doctors encourage women to give birth earlier.

  4. Thank you for adding a bit of Russian perspective to the comments. There definitely does seem to be some physiological logic to having children earlier, whether you are Russian, European, or American.