A few months ago, my four-year-old daughter pulled out her box of puzzles and asked if I’d help her put them together. “I wanna do it on the floor,” she said. So I sat down, and as I did I involuntarily emitted a grunt.
“Why did you say, ‘ugh’?” she asked me.
My first thought was to say, “What do you mean? I sat down on the floor! Doesn’t everyone grunt when they have to go from a standing position to the floor?”
No. No, they don’t.
“Well, honey, my body just wasn’t comfortable sitting down, that’s all,” I told her.
So this is one of the joys of being a 41-year-old mother to a small child.
Let me be clear. I’m in pretty good shape. I exercise, eat well, and thanks to good genes and avoiding the sun, I’ve been told I don’t look my age.
I was 36 years old, and my husband was 41, when we conceived our daughter. It had been a long road; we’d been trying for years and had experienced two difficult miscarriages and a period in which we weren’t even sure if we could conceive. She was a hard-won reward, one that has been worth every painful one of those moments and then some.
But we didn’t even start trying to conceive until I was 34. We didn’t get married until I was 33. I started everything late—or, at least, what “society” (who is society, anyway?) says is late. And now, I’m what you’d call “an older mom.”
Honestly, though, I really would not have been ready any sooner. I wasn’t even 100 percent sure I wanted to be a mom until I met my husband, in my 30s. I was never what you’d call a “kid person” (and I still am not, if I’m being honest). But once he and I found each other, I could finally see it. I finally understood why people procreated: You love this person so much that you want to make something with that love, you want to see the ultimate expression of two combining into one. You want to do the ultimate project together.
I shudder to think what would have happened if I’d married one of the boyfriends I’d had in my 20s, not only because I’d be unbelievably depressed all the time, but because parenthood is really hard, and if you can’t truly lean on that person when the going gets rough, everyone suffers. And with them, I just couldn’t.
And, so, sure, I’m old enough now that I grunt involuntarily when I sit down or stand up. I get tired a lot more quickly than I did 20 years ago. My daughter’s friends have moms who are a lot younger than me. But you know what? There are a LOT of really great things about being an older mom, which is why I wouldn’t change a thing:
1) Time for self-discovery. I took time to find my own path. When I was 21, I had two jobs—one waiting tables and another selling beepers at Airtouch Paging (I’m just now realizing how having worked with “beepers” makes me seem REALLY old). Then I took a job managing the accessories department at Stein Mart. At 25, I moved to Reno and enrolled in graduate school, and then worked part-time at a local TV station. And thanks to unbelievable support and encouragement from my husband-to-be, I quit working for others and started a writing business for myself. I am exactly where I want to be career-wise, but I had to try all that other stuff in order to find it. I was selfish then so that now, as a mom, I can focus on my daughter, and she can see me as a role model, doing exactly the thing I want to do and am best at.
2) Financial stability. I make no secret of the fact that money in this house is tight. But 10 years ago, I was living in a studio apartment with a monthly rent of $425. I had just quit my lousy $24K/year TV job and was struggling even to buy a loaf of bread now that I was self-employed. Up until that point, I’d never made any real money, which was OK, because I only had myself to worry about. At least now, my husband and I can provide for our daughter. She has her own room, she has decent clothes and certainly is not hurting for toys, thanks to generous relatives. She attends a wonderful, loving daycare. We can provide for her in ways we never could have as young parents. But because I’m also a stronger person, I also have very little difficulty saying “no.”
3) A better attitude. OK, I’m going to confess something here, and my relatives and close friends will laugh. I may regret this. But let’s just say that I have a bit of a temper. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Sagittarius, the oldest child in my family, or biologically programmed this way. But I have been known to rage. When provoked, I have said awful things, screamed, thrown things, driven in a rage-inspired tear, cried…I have not been the best at managing my emotions. Part of me thinks that young people get a pass on this. I was the kind of teenager I would never wish on anyone (God forbid my daughter turns out like me), and in my 20s I did a lot of door slamming and squealing of car brakes. But with age (and perhaps a little counseling) comes wisdom and acceptance. I don’t tend to fly off the handle these days. I am better at managing my emotions. And that makes me better as a mother.
4) Speaking of wisdom…I have some. I have perspective. I can now see the big picture whereas before I saw only the tiny brushstrokes. I can offer my daughter this wisdom, the understanding of what she’s going through and the knowledge that these bumps in the road ultimately won’t amount to misery. I can more easily see what’s worth worrying about, and what’s not. My decisions are sounder, and I have a better sense of consequences. When a friend hurts her feelings, a boy breaks her heart, or a teacher or authority figure makes a critical remark, I can tell her from experience that this too shall pass, and how to find the lessons inside those experiences. I will also know inside that this too shall pass, whereas before, I might have had to come to blows (see #3) with the person who hurt my baby.
5) Making room in our life for her, and not the other way around. When my daughter was only a few months old, my mom told me that one of the best things she and my dad ever did was decide that they would be sure that my brother and I adjusted to life in their world, rather than reinventing a life to suit us. That’s the philosophy my husband and I had silently adopted, though we’d never put it into words until then. We firmly believed then, and still do, that Olivia would get used to eating dinner at restaurants (even the non-child-friendly ones). She would adjust to attending dinner parties at our friends’ houses and conversing with adults. She would be asked to entertain herself so that Daddy or I could get some work done. Because we’re old enough to enjoy our lives as they are, to enjoy the time we spend as adults, in our careers, our daughter has beautifully fit into that life we have. We have no qualms about taking our “grown-up” time, no problems hiring babysitters so we can get away for a night every few weeks. We love traveling as an adventurous threesome, and make travel and outings with friends a permanent part of our lives. We liked our lives before…we just like it more now that she’s around.
I’d like to hear from some of you older moms out there – what do you like best about being an older mom?