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Keira had a big group of friends until she had a baby and she blames the ‘motherhood gap’.

Kiera Elliot-Picket was one of the first in her friendship group to have a baby. At just 27 when she fell pregnant with her son, and at the time, had a large friendship circle.

These were deep friendships. Friendships that had spanned decades. Friendships Elliot-Picket assumed would be forever.

“I was always the person to bring everyone together,” says Elliot-Picket. But her pregnancy was difficult. She couldn’t be the organiser anymore, and so the girls lost touch.

“I remember hiding from them during my horrible and sick pregnancy, hardly seeing them for the nine months.”

Then her son was born. And things got even worse.

“They met him once. During the dinner, it was joke after joke about his size, and what my life had turned into.”

Elliot-Picket spiralled into postnatal depression and began seeing a therapist who helped her put the experience into context, but she says, it still gets to her.

“It was one of the hardest, most alone times of my life. Losing those friendships — friendships that weren’t built on a drunken club-bathroom chat, I went to primary and high school, travelled with, and nurtured these women — has since made me question my self worth.

“In saying that, they also did me a massive favour.”

Elliot-Picket joined a mother’s group she describes as “a lucky blessing” that resulted in strong connections and new friendships.


While this experience was a positive one, Elliot-Picket’s relatively young age once again came into play.

Watch: Identity, motherhood & 'Getting on with it' with Phoebe Burgess. Post continues after video

Video via Mamamia.

“I was the youngest of the group of about 20, the eldest was about 40.”

But Elliot-Picket says the age disparity didn’t hinder the group’s ability to form close bonds. In fact, six years later, the now 35-year-old has maintained most of those friendships, despite relocating two hours away.

“Being the youngest of the group, I always felt, lovingly, like a little sister. The girls took time to truly understand and feel what I was going through, and I’m so grateful. It didn’t feel as though the age gap defined anything.”

The experience gave her a different perspective on friendships.

“When I moved, I didn’t know anyone and made friends with a mama that was eight years older than me. We’re still very close.


“If you can go out and meet somebody you feel you’ve got a connection with, age should be irrelevant. And when you are a mum, you automatically have a point of interest to bond, so I don’t feel age should be a contributing factor to making friends.”

Elliot-Picket’s experience isn’t unique. With women embarking on motherhood and vastly different ages, the chances of having a baby at a different time to your friends, or experiencing new motherhood with someone outside of your age group, is high.

The new motherhood gap.

In the seventies, more than 75 per cent of women had children in their early twenties, with just a small percentage embarking on first-time motherhood post-35.

These days, you’re just as likely to find a 24 year old at your local mother’s group, as you are a 39 year old. While the average age for first-time motherhood is close to 30, the window has expanded to include women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Many women are opting not to have children at all.

When I was 37, I had three children, the youngest was three. Many of my similarly-aged friends were yet to have children. Others were mid-way through their parenting journey.

This widening new motherhood age gap comes down to choice, motherhood studies sociologist, Dr Sophie Brock, tells Mamamia. The freedom to choose whether to become a mother or not, and when.

“Many women feel caught in the care/career conundrum, when the stage of their career expansion and growth coincides with the age they are presumed to be 'starting a family' and having children,” Dr Brock says.


“This conundrum can put us in a precarious position where we are trying to grapple with personal and sensitive life choices about our value, purpose, desires, and dreams for the future, while simultaneously thinking about how the infrastructure of our lives, finances, relationships, career, and levels of community support shape our decision-making in whether and when to have children.”

An increasing number of women are grappling with the question of whether they want children at all, and some are deciding the answer to that question is no.

“Bigger social, political and economic factors are also at play, considering the cost of living, housing accessibility and affordability, and the existence of government and workplace policies that support paid maternity and/or paternity leave.”

Research conducted by PhD Candidate Afrouz Shoghi, supports this.

“For a growing number of women, establishing their career and finances before having children is a choice that is being made very deliberately," Ms Shoghi tells Mamamia.

"This is partly because of the disruption that motherhood has on financial gaps and career gaps (known as the “motherhood penalty), and this disruption continues to follow mothers well into their parenting journey,” Ms Shoghi says.


The pros and cons of the motherhood age gap.

For Elliot-Pickett, having children at a different age to her friends let to the demise of those friendships. While this isn't a guarantee, it's not unusual either.

“As with any other life transition or experience — such a grief, a major career change, a change in relationship status, and more — there are ways in which such changes can fragment a friendship,” explains Dr Brock.

“Our shared understandings, interests, and the time and energy we have to invest in the relationship can change.”

Sadly, those relationships aren’t always salvageable, but if nurtured, having children of different ages can actually benefit both parties.

Listen: The First Six Weeks. Post continues after podcast.

“Moving through a life transition such as becoming a mother may be an opportunity for the friendship to evolve, grow, and become a conduit for widening understanding and shared empathy,” says Dr Brock.

A close friend with older children can be a source of comfort to a new mum — extra advice, reassurance, and an opportunity to learn from their experiences and their mistakes.

“Having connections and people in our community from different generations, and those who have different life experiences, is enriching and expansive and provides us with opportunities to be supported in different ways.”


While the end of any friendship can be devastating, new motherhood also provides an opportunity to make new friends, though the way we view those potential friendships may need to change.

“Humans will naturally seek connections with those similar to them in characteristics and in similar circumstances — similar age themselves or similar aged children — it’s called social attraction,” explains Ms Shoghi.

This is how friends are usually formed. But as the motherhood age gap widens, it might be time for new mothers to think more broadly when it comes to what really matters in friendships. In fact, it’s something all women should consider, according to Dr Brock, who says the benefits of befriending women of different ages are far-reaching.

“Our worlds can become very insular, isolated and boring if we're only surrounded by people who are the same age as us, in the same stage of life, with the same kinds of life experiences,” she says.

“We benefit from having a diverse range of people in our circles and this is supportive for our children too. If we're trying to raise our children to be open to diverse ways of thinking, difference, and learning from others' experiences that extend beyond their own perspective, then it benefits them when we practise this ourselves.”

Featured Image: Supplied.

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