As many women will attest, sleepless nights and no time for pampering means it often seems motherhood fast-forwards the ageing process. But according to research at Bath University it’s the number of children that’s key to how a woman’s looks are affected. Alice Smellie spoke to eight women with very different family situations about how their looks have stood the test of time. So can you tell who has no children, who has one or two and who has eight?
Suzan Clements, 58, is an author and property investor. She has a 26-year-old daughter, Alicia, and lives in Nottingham
Suzan Clements, 58, is an author and property investor. She has a 26-year-old daughter, Alicia, and lives in Nottingham.
I often get compliments about my youthful appearance but whether it’s down to lucky genes or the fact I only had one baby, it’s impossible to know. My mother had two children and she had great skin throughout her life.
I gave birth to Alicia at the age of 32 and was lucky enough to be back in my jeans after a fortnight.
Pre-pregnancy, I did lots of horse riding and ice skating, and ate very healthy food. I didn’t put on much weight — you couldn’t tell I was pregnant from behind.
Afterwards, I knew my body had lost its youthful tautness, but otherwise I felt completely normal.
Of course, I knew my baby would always come first, but I wasn’t prepared to give in to frumpiness. I just had to learn to look after myself a different way.
I did a lot of walking when she was in a buggy. She was a good sleeper so I had plenty of energy, and I was still diet-conscious and making healthy choices. I had no interest in manicures or facials.
Alicia’s father was incredibly helpful, which gave me a bit of time to myself. Having more children just didn’t happen.
I cannot see any reason to blame having children for any part of the ageing process — you just need the discipline to stick to good habits.
I had a cancer diagnosis a few years ago, and refused conventional treatment. Throughout this time I continued with my healthy lifestyle. I eat linseed oil daily, and take vitamin D3 and probiotics.
I think that sometimes women are too swift to blame having children for being overweight or losing their figures.
Rachael Cresswell 37, a full-time mum, is married to Daniel, 34, a fisheries enforcement officer. They have three sons, Jaxon, three, Noah, two, and Cole, one, and live in Devon
Rachael Cresswell 37, a full-time mum, is married to Daniel, 34, a fisheries enforcement officer. They have three sons, Jaxon, three, Noah, two, and Cole, one, and live in Devon.
Of course children age you, and the more you have, the older you feel. It’s just logic.
When I look at photos from my 20s, I see a different person. I just look so young and slim compared to the woman I am now.
The worst thing is the lack of sleep, and with three young children there’s a very high chance that someone will wake up in the middle of the night needing Calpol or reassurance.
Then you get up in the morning with dark circles and an overwhelming desire for carbohydrates. I’ve gone from a size 8-10 before I had children to a size 12.
I put it down to not having time to prepare low-calorie meals, as well as the fact that I didn’t have much time to lose weight between having my babies.
I have noticed the odd wrinkle creeping in and I do cleanse, tone and moisturise diligently — using Dermalogica products. I’m not sure children have necessarily speeded up the lines and grey hair. It’s more that I look tired, and I have developed eyebags. That’s the worst thing.
When I look at friends who have no children, they look refreshed and relaxed. But I do think children fill you with their energy and youth, so I still feel young inside. There is so much ahead to look forward to, which makes me feel younger.
Five years ago, I was the town centre manager for Torquay, and loved my job. I was very ambitious. Then I had a baby and discovered that I adore being a mother. I haven’t set foot in an office since.
The happiness I feel with my family is worth any extra wrinkle. I wouldn’t swap it for the world.
Charity worker Katy Meaney, 32, has a 14-month-old son, James. In September, she is getting married to her fiance, Nathan, 27, an account manager, with whom she lives in Wolverhampton
Charity worker Katy Meaney, 32, has a 14-month-old son, James. In September, she is getting married to her fiance, Nathan, 27, an account manager, with whom she lives in Wolverhampton.
I’m not sure how beneficial these studies are because there’s not much you can do about pregnancy or child-related ageing!
I only have one child, yet I feel far older than I did a couple of years ago. My body is less taut than it used to be, I’ve got joint pain from carrying James around and am mentally exhausted.
Then there are the effects of broken sleep on skin — mine looks dull and drained. And to think that I used to be asked for ID until I had James . . .
As well as not having time to apply make-up or blow-dry hair, a lot of my hair fell out after he was born — which saps your confidence. I was never primped to perfection, but I don’t even put on a bit of foundation and lip gloss these days, and my regular hair cut and colour and nail extensions are long gone.
It’s as much about expense as anything else. I think it’s been a year since I went to the salon.
If possible, we’d like three children, so I can only imagine that things are going to get worse.
It’s lucky that worrying about the toll that motherhood may have on my body is something I don’t have the time or energy to consider!
Siobhan Hencher, 40, a yoga teacher, is married to Michael, 44, a policeman. They have seven children aged between three and 15, and live in Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire
Siobhan Hencher, 40, a yoga teacher, is married to Michael, 44, a policeman. They have seven children aged between three and 15, and live in Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire.
People never believe it when I tell them I have seven children. I’m fortunate to look quite young for my age, and I also behave in a youthful way.
Of course, I think that thousands of sleepless nights have physically aged me — I don’t feel as sprightly as I used to, and I know I’ve the odd wrinkle and grey hair — but it doesn’t bother me too much.
At least these days, I know I’m likely to get a good night’s sleep. For the past 18 months, I haven’t been woken up at night.
The downside of the children being older now is that I have to stay up later — picking kids up from activities at 10 o’clock three nights a week, so I’m on the go for far longer.
I practise a lot of yoga and I think that really helps — it keeps me flexible, toned and destresses me, which, in turn, helps prevent the lines forming. I also run yoga classes, called Yogabellies, for mothers-to-be and post-pregnancy women, and children’s yoga, as well as doing voluntary work in the beautiful garden at the same centre where the classes are held.
When it comes to looking after myself, most nights I’m lucky if I even take off my make-up. I use Neal’s Yard Remedies skincare because I prefer natural products, and these suit my skin.
I’m the youngest of five children and my mother was one of nine. A bustling home with an open door and lots of noise is quite normal for me, so I always wanted a large family myself.
Perhaps it’s being so contented with my life that is keeping me looking youthful.
Hayley Edwardson, 45, is a lecturer in public health and health promotion. Currently studying for her PhD, she has eight children, aged between 11 and 30
Hayley Edwardson, 45, is a lecturer in public health and health promotion. Currently studying for her PhD, she has eight children, aged between 11 and 30. She is married to Jason, 45, a mechanical engineer and lives in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
If people know in advance that I’ve got eight children, they can be surprised when we finally meet.
I think there is an unflattering preconception of how a woman with eight children will look — that is frumpy and overweight. People sometimes say I look younger than my age, but I don’t have time to give my looks a thought, so it must be just luck and good genes. I became pregnant at the age of 14 and hid it from my parents until I was in labour. Having a baby so young meant I had to put my dream of being a doctor on hold.
Fortunately, I have an incredibly supportive family. Jason is my second husband, and I have three children with him.
Now I’m studying for a PhD, and don’t have the time or the inclination to dye my hair or have my nails done. I believe in letting nature take its course.
I genuinely believe having a big family has kept me young. The upside is that I have never had time to party — all of which adds to the ageing process far more than a few sleepless nights.
Yes, there has been a lot of stress — aged 12 my eldest was knocked off his bike and was on life-support for a few days. But children force you to keep going, and having a big family has never diminished my personal ambitions.
I want to show my children that you can’t let circumstances and situations define who you are.
Hannah Grist, 35, is a marketing assistant. She lives in Newport, Gwent, with her boyfriend Joe, 33
Hannah Grist, 35, is a marketing assistant. She lives in Newport, Gwent, with her boyfriend Joe, 33.
It’s ironic that as I decide I’m finally ready to consider babies, I’ve also noticed the ageing process starting to take its toll, and that’s without going through pregnancy and childbirth!
I’ve always looked quite young for my age, but at the end of last year I developed a frown line between my eyes.
Every time I looked in the mirror it looked bigger, so when my boyfriend gave me money for Christmas I spent it on Botox.
I’ve also spent £200 on microblading my eyebrows and I like to have regular lash extensions which cost £45 for a full set, as well as going to the gym regularly.
I’d like to think children wouldn’t change my habits, but I can be quite self-indulgent and wouldn’t want to stop my salon visits.
Kim Thursfield, 29, is married to Matthew, 35, a production manager at a drama school. She owns the Make Believe theatre schools in Kent, and they have two daughters, Alana, three, and seven-month-old Mila
Kim Thursfield, 29, is married to Matthew, 35, a production manager at a drama school. She owns the Make Believe theatre schools in Kent, and they have two daughters, Alana, three, and seven-month-old Mila.
I loathed pregnancy. During my last one, I suffered with a condition which causes pain in the pelvis and could barely walk for six months — I even needed a walking stick to hobble around.
After giving birth I quickly got back to normal, except for the baby weight. I’ve always been curvy, but more like a size 12, whereas now I’m a size 16.
However, there’s simply no time to pound the treadmill at the gym. I am so busy working and looking after my children.
I forget to eat and then catch up with junk food just to keep myself going. But once they’re a bit older I’m determined to stop my bad food habits, find time to go to the gym and lose the weight.
What won’t go are the wrinkles I think I’ve developed since having children. It’s down to the stress of juggling babies while trying to run a business at the same time.
I slap on Clarins night cream every night, but it’s a losing battle. As the first of my friends to have children, I notice they look far younger —with fewer wrinkles and nicer clothes and hair, while I’m in a comfy tracksuit.
At least I’ll be enjoying my second youth (wrinkles and all) just as they descend into the madness of motherhood.
Mandy Wescott, 56, works in pensions. She lives in Frome, Somerset, with her husband Tony, 57, who works in the same industry
Mandy Wescott, 56, works in pensions. She lives in Frome, Somerset, with her husband Tony, 57, who works in the same industry.
There’s no doubt children age you prematurely — I have definitely met people with children who look older than their age.
Additionally, while my husband has a few grey hairs, his sisters — both of whom have children — are almost entirely grey.
I never wanted children. My father died when I was three, and it was just me and my mother, so perhaps that’s why. Not having them means I have masses of time to exercise and look after myself. I do Zumba classes twice a week, and until recently I saw a personal trainer.
I’d say I look younger than my years — I’ve always had enough sleep — and life is on an even keel with little stress.
Work can get fraught at times, but I know I can go home and relax at the end of the day.
We’ve always worked hard, and have a nice house and car, with plenty of holidays. That’s a recipe for an anti-ageing life!
According to research at Bath University it’s the number of children that’s key to how a woman’s looks are affected