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MidAge Mom is for women who are parenting in midlife rather than celebrating the empty nest on a beach in Bali . . .

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The Real Older Mom Behind New York Magazine’s Cover Photo

New York Magazine’s recent cover is causing a stir. And for good reason: it’s a Photoshop nightmare.

The cover article is on parents over 50 having children. But the famous Vanity Fair photo of Demi Moore pregnant features the head of a woman who looks at least 65. Yikes!

But isn’t it ironic?

The cover article is called “Parents of a Certain Age: Is there anything wrong with being 53 and pregnant?”

Maybe New York Magazine should have directed that question to the woman who shot the original Demi Moore cover in 1991, portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz.

A Real 50-Plus Mom

Leibovitz had her first child at 51 and twins by a surrogate mother a few years later. The country’s most famous photographer, she is now a mom in her sixties with children in elementary school.

But she sure looks younger than the supposedly fifty-something woman on New York Magazine’s cover.

When I heard Annie Leibovitz speak a few years ago, she was thriving as a late-in-life mom. In an aside, she even noted that she got along surprisingly well with the younger mothers at the school. Family is clearly important to Leibovitz, even though she waited to start her own.

Then again, it’s probably good she didn’t have kids when she was hanging out with Mick, Keith and the rest of The Rolling Stones, right?

Let’s Do Better

Motherhood after 50 is a serious topic worth exploring. But let’s not caricature these moms and make them look older than they are. Shame on you New York Magazine for your distorted cover.

Real women are so much more interesting.

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Any thoughts on New York Magazine’s cover? On having kids after 50? Please comment here!

Want to learn more about Annie Leibovitz?

A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005 includes her portraits of well-known figures such as Nicole Kidman and Nelson Mandela. Highly personal, the book also documents Leibovitz’s relationship with writer Susan Sontag and the photographer’s extended family. Leibovitz is even featured nude and pregnant at 51 in her own echo of the Demi Moore cover .

But, of course, the head and the body match.

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Photo of Leibovitz © Marc Silber/Silberstudios.com

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9 Responses to “The Real Older Mom Behind New York Magazine’s Cover Photo”

  • Jennifer,
    Thanks for raising awareness of the ironic truth behind that story which was so intent on vilifying later life mothers with derogatory remarks. Despite the fact that she spent the last 3rd of the article discussing the positives, the damage was done by part 1 and the shocking “photoshop nightmare” cover. (You gave it the perfect name.) For more a more detailed critique, http://bit.ly/r9bMs3.
    Hats off to Annie, who’s a stunning later life mom!

  • JenniferHull:

    Thanks for your comment Angel. And to others reading here, I highly recommend checking out Angel’s critique on FlowerPowerMom.com: http://bit.ly/r9bMs3

    Angel’s critique is what got me thinking about this subject.

    The New York Magazine article is better than the pictures. The cover is horrible and there’s not a smiling parent to be found in the family portraits featured with the text! They all look grim!

    I do think the article raises some good questions about having a child over 50. Too bad a photo is worth 1,000 words!

  • Maggie:

    Thanks for giving the New York Magazine the thunk it deserves for the sensationalistic photo cover. I agree with Angel; while the overall conclusions of the article were good, I suspect few people read past the parts that confirmed their own prejudices.

  • I admire Annie Lebowitz and other late-in-life moms. It takes guts and an extraordinary amount of energy to be a mom at this point life. I’ve never had children and sometimes regret that decision but honestly can’t imagine doing it now.

  • JenniferHull:

    Oh, yes, Wendy – to have half of Annie Leibovitz’s energy!

    I think she’s a good example of why timing of children is such a personal decision. Some women really do have what it takes to raise children in their 50s and 60s.

    I had my first at 40 and second at 42 and am managing fine. But ten years later would have been a big stretch for me.

    And Maggie, you got it just right. “Sensationalistic” is exactly what that cover photo was.

  • Kiki:

    I thought the article was spot on! She references quite a few resources for older moms – which I found very helpful. I just had my first child at 42 and am always on the lookout for informative websites, books, articles, etc. She even positively mentions Angel’s website, which I made a note to check out. The author did her research and wrote a thorough article highlighting the pros and cons of deciding to start a family late in life. Someone needed to do it! If you pick up People magazine each week, there will invariably be multiple stories about older celebrities having children – but they usually leave out ALL that these people endured (not to mention the money spent) to have these children. It gives people a false sense of hope; I have to admit, I fell for it. And when I did decide to have children at 42, it wasn’t easy!

    Finally, yes, the cover was a bit much; however, there are several pictures throughout the article of REAL older moms/parents. The teacher in me totally gets the reason for the over the top cover photo. Surely you’ve all heard of using “attention grabbers” to get people interested enough to want to read your work.

  • JenniferHull:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Kiki. It’s great to have you here.

    I sure liked the article better than the picture! You’re right; she did a lot of great research. But the structure was strange. Most of the article paints a grim picture of late motherhood. Then, towards the end, she reverses course saying, “Here is why the arguments against old parents put forth by this article thus far are actually all bunk. . . ” From there she provides one of the strongest defenses of late parenting I’ve ever seen.

    Your point about celebrities is a good one. We don’t get to see how much money and angst stars in People magazine go through to have kids later. And of course all the women look gorgeous and thin after delivering. Ha!

  • Rose:

    Although well researched, the New York Magazine article puzzled me, too. The author was riding an invisible fence, quoting negative attitudes but not daring to debunk them on the spot. I also find infuriating the tendency of people, particularly in the US, to judge others when their opinion is irrelevant. Whether a person becomes a parent at 16 or 50 is their own business and marks their own life, for better or worse. And having children is a selfish act, no matter what the age of the parent. We want to love and be loved, we want to be surrounded by younger people as we age, we want to know that the end of our lives is not the end of the world. Yes, it is selfish. But it is also natural to desire a child and to have one.

    I am 50 and have a four-year-old son, conceived naturally after 16 years of marriage and natural attempts at pregnancy. Our son is tri-lingual, an artistic prodigy, he hardly ever gets sick, he is stubborn and controling and loving, and gorgeous. He loves trains and insects and airplanes and is curious about everything around him. When I was pregnant with him I had to take it easy at first but the pregnancy progressed just fine. A month before I gave birth (at almost 46) I looked 25 and felt 25, too (I can send you a photo of me two weeks before delivery to see the difference with the photo in the magazine). My doctor still cannot believe it (he was priming me for a hysterectomy before I got pregnant because of a fibroid.) But he was supportive, as were my hundreds of friends and acquaintances and family, all ecstatic to see my husband and me finally become parents.

    Our lives are different now of course. They would be more different if we were in our twenties–now we are settled, calmer, know how to handle all kinds of situations better. I don’t need as much sleep as when I was in my twenties and thirties, I laugh more, I hope more.

    Good luck to all older mothers out there, to all mothers who are redefining themselves through their children, and to you, Jennifer in your laudable attempt to provide a forum for us to exchange experiences.

  • JenniferHull:

    Rose – what a fabulous, positive story! Thanks so much for your comment. It should prove quite inspiring for other moms.

    I agree that when to have a child is a personal decision. We are all so different. Many of the midlife moms I know have tons of energy and definitely look younger than they are. Women are also living so much longer than they did before that we all need to rethink what is possible at different life stages.

    Sorting out what is right at each stage is enough of a personal challenge without criticizing others. Anyway, bravo to you and enjoy your remarkable son!

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