Have you ever wondered why?
There is a concept I wholeheartedly accept, known as the Grandmother Hypothesis. Unlike most other mammals - with the exception of other highly-evolved species including whales - human females live beyond the end of their fertility. Once her own contribution to reproduction ceases, the human female moves to supporting the work of the next generation in raising their young. Given the fragile dependency of human infants compared to others, the mother needs to concentrate her efforts on the care and feeding of the newborn, almost to the exclusion of her older children. This is where the grandmothers will step in, caring for the siblings and ensuring their survival despite the dependance on the mother of the newborn.
There is still much to be looked into to prove this is the science behind our longevity but it makes a lot of sense to me. All things being equal, I can expect at least another quarter century of life. Given my genetics, I am hopeful of another two! Apart from my long list of books to read, projects to complete and experiences I want to have, there must be some point biologically to me consuming Earth's resources for twice the time I contribute to human procreation.
I only need to look to my family tree to see that grandmothers have had a very real purpose and longevity.
|My maternal great grandmother Mary Chapple with two of her daughters, the one holding the cat is my grandmother, Louisa.|
|Mary with two of her grandchildren, my Aunty Phyllis and Uncle Alan|
|Louisa with my mother and five of Aunty Phyllis's six children|
|My grandmother Louisa, with my mother and I!|
|My paternal grandparents, with five of my Aunty Dorothy's 12 children!|
|My parents, paternal grandparents and my sister and I|
|My husband's maternal grandmother with my son|
|My husband's paternal grandmother with us and our eldest daughter|
|My daughters with their paternal grandparents|
|My husband's parents with their nine grandchildren|
|My parents with my eldest daughter|
|My daughter with her daughter and her paternal grandmother|
Whatever the purpose of female elders and grandmothers, I am happy to become one and look forward to the second half of my life.