There is a growing trend in Luxembourg for women to have their first child later in life
The search for financial stability is prompting parents to start families later than ever.
Portuguese national “Teresa” says she never wants to go back to the way of life she had in her 20s when she lived in Lisbon. She held down a job at a bank and ran her own consulting business in the little free time she had. “I was working 16 hours a day. In 2002, there was one weekend that I didn’t work,” she recalls. While Teresa admits she enjoyed her work, Portuguese salaries were so low that she had to work long hours if she wanted some disposable income.
Teresa’s life changed in 2004 when she moved to Luxembourg with her now ex-partner and found she had more disposable income and free time. It enabled her to discover a new life outside of work: new hobbies, friends and most importantly, travel.
“From 2006 to 2015, I travelled a bit every week. Not having children gave me the flexibility to accept the new challenge work gave me, which involved travel,” she says. “I never thought seriously about kids, I wanted them, but I needed a father too.” She let life take its course, met her now husband and had her first child when she felt ready, in 2015, aged 40.
Teresa reflects a growing trend in Luxembourg among women having their first child later in life.
In 2016, the average age of a woman during her first birth was 30.4 years old, up from 28 in 2000, according to Statec. The statistics bureau credits the rise of later first births to the fact that women stay longer in higher education, the need for stable employment before starting a family, and the desire to enjoy some years together as a couple. These certainly underpin Teresa’s experience. But there are also other factors at play, such as fertility.
7 years to conceive
Italian national “Chiara” said it was a conscious decision to start a family later because of her education and career. “I was 33, that’s considered late!” But, conception complications meant it took seven years before her daughter was born, when she was 40. “We went through different phases of trying spontaneously by ourselves and being in denial about IVF,” she says. “The first time someone recommended a fertility doctor I refused. I said ‘it’s not the way I want to conceive’. That was in 2009. Things could have been very different had I started fertility treatment then.” Chiara has no regrets, and says she enjoyed what she calls the “carefree years” when she and her partner could focus on things like career and holidays. “I think it’s because of the circumstances that I’m enjoying motherhood more. We’re in a place in our careers where we can offer her things.”
Excellent medical care is available in Luxembourg to support women giving birth later in life, as is fertility treatment. But, does starting a family create new pressures for parents and their children? Teresa points out that her parents are now too old to be able to lend a hand with child rearing, which makes flexible working options and affordable childcare and other support networks all the more crucial for her to continue working. Chiara, who is in a similar situation, laments that there is still a lack of flexibility in the workplace for parents, regardless of their age.
Thinking about the future, both Teresa and Chiara said they thought about how their ages might impact their children growing up. It was for this reason that Teresa and her partner decided to have a second child, so their daughter “is not alone when we go”.