Being an Older Mom

May 23, 2011

Brazilian sculpture

Sculpture at the Catacumba Park, Rio de Janeiro. Image by Eurico Zimbres

If you had told me when I was 22 that I’d enter my 40s and still not be a mother, I’d have called you crazy. At that age, I thought I knew who my husband was, and getting started on our five kids seemed right around the corner. (When you’re the eldest of 10, five seems like such a tame number.)

Instead, I walked down the aisle at 34 with a man I met at 30, and my 40th birthday has now come and gone. I have friends with kids in college, and I’m just getting ready for bottles and diapers.

There are days when it bothers me that I’ll be an older mom. I don’t have the energy I used to. I need a lot more sleep. I don’t like that I’ll be in my 80s (if I’m lucky) before my kids reach the age I am now.

But there are great things about being an older mom, and you have to focus on the positives — just as you would if you became a mother much earlier than planned. Despite our best intentions or plans, motherhood doesn’t always come along at the ideal time. And maybe what we think is ideal, isn’t.

I know mothers across the age spectrum. I’ve heard young moms complain that people often mistake them for a babysitter when they’re out with their kids. Other times they feel out of place with all the professional moms who started families in their 30s.

I guess whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in between, there are things about motherhood that are always challenging… and also wonderful.

If you’re a mom, did you become one when you were older? Younger? Did you ever wish you had started motherhood at a different time?

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Ann Waterman 1 Ann Waterman May 23, 2011 at 11:22 pm

I had James when I was 27 and Peter when I was 32 so I guess that puts me somewhere in between. Now that I’m older, I have a much greater appreciation for children than I ever did in my 20′s and I can see the advantages of having them earlier. That simply wasn’t in the cards for me, however, as I didn’t get married until I was 26.

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2 Zoe Saint-Paul May 23, 2011 at 11:53 pm

I would consider those ages to be “ideal” if there’s such a thing. Old enough to have experienced life and gained self-knowledge, young enough that your body is still in good shape for conceiving and bearing children, and you’ve got lots of energy.

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3 Patty May 24, 2011 at 12:28 am

Hmmm…had babies at 30, 32, 34 and 36, at which point I swore I would *never* have a baby when I was really old, like my 39 year old SIL. Never say never, because I then had one of my own at 39…and did her one better and had a gift baby just shy of 42. Two little (or no so little – they were 2 and 6) Habeshas arrived when I was 48. My only regret? Waiting the 3 years after our wedding before having my first one. If I had it to do over, I’d ignore all the well-meaning folks telling me we need time to “get to know one another” and “enjoy one another”, and dive right into parenting!

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Ann Waterman 4 Ann Waterman May 24, 2011 at 8:47 am

Patty, we hope to expand our family and I’m curious to know how your body handled pregnancy at 32 vs 42. So far, I’ve been very fortunate to have had two easy pregnancies, but know that might not be the case as I get older.

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5 Sara M May 24, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Ann, a friend of mine who had her 10th child after she turned 40 said that she had an easier time of it than she did when she was in her 30′s.

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Ann Waterman 6 Ann Waterman May 24, 2011 at 2:42 pm

That’s good to hear, Sara!

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7 Karen May 24, 2011 at 12:12 pm

I’m on the lower end of the spectrum, having had twins when I was 24, one more when I was 26, and am having my fourth this year just after turning 29. I will say that being younger is definitely a plus, energy wise, when having several kids close in age.
The one thing that can sometimes be daunting for me, because I started early, is that I have 13-ish more child-bearing years ahead of me. We firmly believe that the ultimate number of our children is up to God and practice NFP. At the same time, knowing that we could potentially have around 10 children is a little… intimidating.

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8 Zoe Saint-Paul May 24, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I think you bring up something that is indeed a challenge for young moms — especially for those who believe in only using natural means for spacing/post-poning pregnancy.

At the other end of the spectrum is women over 35 who have lost some of their fertility and hear the clock ticking.

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9 Sara M May 24, 2011 at 12:15 pm

I had my first baby when I was 22 and I feel very blessed that I was able to do that. However, the first few years were so busy with all the changes babies bring that I appreciate the “baby” stage much more now, at 30.

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10 Elizabeth May 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I became a mom at 29, just barely, so I’m on the older end of parenting among my friends, but still quite young in terms of the professionals that I work with. Depending on who you ask, I was either older or younger than normal, but for me, I wasn’t any age, just ready. I knew I wanted this child, but that “this” child would remove me from all the “normal” parents. I think you will probably find the same complex social dynamic when your kids come home. Starting parenting a little older means you do have friends with college-age kids, which does means that you will be in a bit of an odd group. Families with kids that are your kids’ ages may have mostly younger parents, while families with parents your age may have mostly older kids. While age wasn’t exactly what we were dealing with when trying to built a network of friends that would fit our child and our family, we did face something similar. Our son is 4, but he’s not a typical 4 year old, but he’s also not a typical disabled child, so we struggle with finding families that are “like” us/him. We’re not a typical deaf family, in that we communicate both in ASL and vocally, not to mention that our 4 year old is developmentally 2.5, given he was blind until he was nearly 2 years old. So, basically what I’m saying is it’s a little harder being a non-typical family. You may be a bit unique among your friends, but the adoption community is often filled with unique families and unique families are typically fascinating families. Besides, being a little older often means that you take less for granted. You may find yourself more tired than if you were starting out in your early 20s, but, particularly as a SlowMama, you will enjoy and delight in parenting details that the mainstream media would have you believe are chores. (I get such a kick out of watching my son eat something new or take a bite off a banana since I know what a huge achievement it is for him. Those bites mean he’s learned to trust that I’m not going to give him something that will choke him and then I get to see his little face light up with excitement as he tastes something new. If I hadn’t cleaned up so much vomit and spent so many hours helping him learn to use his tongue to move food about, I doubt I’d even notice, but it makes my day every time because it is such a success for him and he sees how thrilled it makes me and is so proud of himself.) It’s all about perspective. You may be more tired starting out as an older parent, but you’ve all that extra experience of life that can’t help but enrich your kids’ lives.

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11 Zoe Saint-Paul May 25, 2011 at 12:30 am

Yes, perspective! It’s key.

We’re going to be such an unusual family in so many ways, there’s no sense trying to pretend anything else. And that’s okay.

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12 Jen May 24, 2011 at 9:43 pm

I am getting ready to be married this summer at 36 and looking forward wistfully to older motherhood! My clock has been ticking probably since about 18, so it has been a long test of my patience and trust. But things will work out to have been the best in the end — for me, my husband-to-be, and our kids.

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13 Zoe Saint-Paul May 25, 2011 at 12:29 am

Yes, and you will not be alone in older motherhood land!

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14 Therese May 25, 2011 at 11:11 am

My doctor has me listed as “A.M.A.” which appalling means “Advanced Maternal Age.” It is funny to see moms in their late 20s considering themselves on the “old” end. I was 37 and 40, so definitely OLD by many standards, but so grateful for what I have, that if I had to judge, I’d say I’m just right! :-)

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15 Liz @ Frugally Blonde May 25, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Definitely at the young end of the spectrum here – got married at 21 and had my first baby at 22. I’m 27 now with three little ones. I definitely see advantages on both sides – there are days when I so wish I had more years of freedom and there are days when I’m so glad I don’t have to spend years wondering what to do with my life.

Some things I like about being a young mom are having a lot of energy and flexibility – I’m usually up for anything! I also feel a lot more mature than some people my age; having kids certainly makes you grow up and teaches you to be unselfish.

The interesting thing is that in contrast to many who grow up thinking they’ll get married and have kids right away, I never expected to. My mom got married at 29 after a rewarding teaching career, and I expected my life would go something like that. I was surprised as anyone when I met my future husband at 17! Now my plan has just shifted and I am open to new career paths coming later, after I raise my kids.

I definitely struggle with the whole “I could potentially have 10 or 12 kids!” factor, and whether it’s better to have kids all close together or more spread out. I’ve just determined that the only way to go is to take it one day, one baby at a time.

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16 EML May 25, 2011 at 7:25 pm

I got married at 28 and then had kids at 28, 30, 31 and I wouldn’t change it. I worked a normal 9-5 job since out of college and by the time I was in my late 20′s I was ready to “settle down” and be a stay-at-home mom. However, I must admit there are times when I think being a stay-at-home mom is a lot more work than a 9-5 job.

My husband figured out that I could potentially have another 9-10 kids if we keep having them like we do. It is lucky that we both want a large family.

My mom had her last at 41 and she said that the deliver was easy, but she did take longer to recover. My sister just had her 4th at 41 and she also said it was an easy time…well, as easy as that can be.

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