I was 39 when I gave birth to Harper, medically classifying me as a mother of “advanced maternal age”. It is so nice of the medical community to not just call me “old”. Since then I’ve had more than one woman ask me if I have regretted having children later in life. I find this to be such an odd question because it somehow implies that I chose to have children this late in life. Although I’m sure there are many women who actually “chose”, I did not. My late motherhood is a product of the natural progression of my life (marriage at 30 + infertility issues + one miscarriage). As I watch my high school friends send their children to prom and college and begin to enjoy their empty nest I’m still trying to get my last little chick to poop in the potty. And although I sit here physically exhausted after spending the past week dealing with three children with the stomach flu I can’t imagine my life unfolding any other way. Here are my top 4 reasons it’s awesome to be an old mom and 1 reason why it sucks.
1.) I Didn’t Give Up Anything
Our society is obsessed with the role of women. There are books written about it and specialists and therapists and TED talks all about the choice women face between career and family. It is rather absurd since the real answer is unique to each person. I feel lucky that I have been able to be both mother and professional. I started working in advertising and media in 1992. I started in radio, moved to non-profit, then online media. I’ve worked as a strategist, project manager, consultant, business analyst and a myriad of other titles. I’ve had clients in England, France, Japan, Columbia, Mexico, Canada and elsewhere. I’ve traveled and met CEOs and had large expense accounts, managing million dollar clients. It was fun and exciting and when I walked away from that in 2006, when Max was born, I didn’t think twice about leaving. I have been able to have both – family and career – and for that I’m lucky. As an older mom you have the unique ability to experience both sides of the fence – wholly and completely without feeling like you are choosing one over the other.
2.) Selflessness Versus Selfishness
When you are young you are selfish and myopic. This isn’t a bad thing, this is just biology. You are consumed with your own life, your own career, your own needs. Sometime in your mid-twenties you are ready to think about somebody else and so you get married but children demand a whole different level of selflessness. In order to be a parent you must be willing to give up practically EVERYTHING. The demands of parenthood are extreme. The thing about being in my thirties is that I don’t mind giving all that stuff up. It is easier for me to understand the demands of the now versus the demands of the later.
I’m more financially stable. With fourteen years of career under my belt and a solid salary I was able to pay off debt, invest in a 401K and build a nest egg. Yes, children are expensive and my kids won’t be going to private schools or fancy colleges but they also won’t be in debt. In addition we can afford the vacation here and there, a bigger house, and we don’t have quite all the same money worries that so many young parents face.
There are few areas of life that are filled with as much unsolicited advice as parenting. The sheer number of books that populate the world telling you how to be a parent is mind boggling and when you add that to the advice given from well meaning relatives and friends — well it is a miracle anybody gets it wrong. All that advice can make you doubt every step, every decision and you can find yourself feeling the need to stand so firmly in your convictions that you become the self-righteous parent. The nice thing about being an older mom is that I don’t give two craps what other people think. Your late thirties and forties brings you a good dose of self confidence and belief in yourself. As a result the whims of parenting trends don’t ruffle my feathers nearly as much.
All of this sounds lovely but there are definite downsides to being an older mom and the number one reason is biology. When you’re twenty and have kids your body bounces right back. The weight melts away and your stomach retains it’s shape. The burden on your body is barely felt. In my thirties having children has left an indelible mark. My bladder control was gone after child number 2. My ability to keep my stomach acid in my stomach left after child number 3. My abdominal muscles were permanently damaged after child number 2 and just made worse by child number 3. Far too often I hear doctors say to me, “yeah, well we can’t fix that, that is what happens after three kids in your thirties”. These young mothers who so self-righteously complain that if women just watched their weight and exercised they could fit back into their bikini need to have their third child at 39 and then tell me how easy it is. For the record I never gained more than 20lbs with any of my pregnancies and yet the damage to my body would tell a different story. The nice thing though is that nobody expects me to look good in a bikini at 43 so I guess it doesn’t really matter.