My mother started having children at the age of 22. All three of my sisters had their first babies before they were 23. So, I have to admit, I felt a little late to the party when I had my first child at the age of 36 and my second at 39. I had already been placed in the glorious category of advanced maternal age by my doctor. All of my close friends had already given birth to what would be their final baby. I had been left behind.
I was pregnant alone. I had no one with whom to share my swollen ankles and incessant heartburn. When that first baby grew into a toddler and started having attitudes and opinions, my friends were far enough past the toddler stage to laugh and warn me that more difficult days were coming. I needed someone to whine with me about the toddler stage. Some days, motherhood was a lonely place. It still can be. But being an old mom is not all bad. There are beautiful things about having a newborn while looking your forties square in the face. Here are a few.
- I am super comfortable in my own mothering style. I don’t parent like my mother did. I don’t parent like my friends did. Some days I don’t parent like I decided I would yesterday. But I know that I am a more patient, loving mother in my 40s than I would have been in previous decades. I am confident in my ability to figure out how to raise these kids, even if I don’t have all the answers today. Which leads me to:
- I know that I don’t know everything. When I was in my 20s, I was a foster mother. I had all of the parenting answers. I was an expert in all things motherhood. And since my foster parenting stint was pretty successful, it solidified these answers. And then life taught me that every kid is different, and that there is no sure-and-fast way to make a child behave. I have been humbled by how wrong I can be. And so now I remain teachable in this parenting game. I ask questions, and I listen to answers. I watch the ways that my girlfriends encourage and empower their teenagers. I see how expertly they manage homework, social media rules, school parties, and soccer practices — things that are several years away for us. I learn from those who have gone before me.
- I’ll take the hand-me-downs. When your friends are all done having kids, they give away stuff, y’all! We have been so blessed by friends who send boxes of sweet little baby clothes our way, knowing they won’t be needed back. I don’t cringe when my children make huge messes. These clothes are ours. Much of my first maternity wardrobe was gifted from friends, as well.
- I’ve been everywhere, man. Okay, so I haven’t been everywhere. Not even close. But I have been somewhere. I spent parts of my 20s and 30s teaching and living overseas. I traveled and planned fun trips with friends. I was broke and spontaneous, and I was mildly irresponsible. I spent my money however I wanted, and I have some great memories to show for it. And while travel and girl trips don’t end with motherhood, they certainly become more complicated when kids enter the picture. I am thankful I spent some time discovering the world before my kids were born.
- I’ll work hard to stay young. Ask me how old I’ll be when my youngest child graduates from high school or, worse yet, college. I won’t know the answer. Because I don’t waste my time figuring out if I’ll be around to see grandkids. Those details of my life are already ordered by God, and I don’t need to spend lots of time crying about being the 50-something mama at the high school graduation. If someone at the park asks if I am my kids’ grandma, I’ll check to see if they’re misbehaving, and if they are, I’ll just say “Yep, I’m grandma.” But I want to stay healthy and active for my kids. We go for long walks at the zoo, and we spend mornings at the playground. I eat grilled chicken when I want to eat burgers. I drink coffee to keep me sane and energized. I want to take care of myself, so I’ll be around for a long, long time.
I don’t mind being the old mom. I really don’t. If my body didn’t hate pregnancy so much, I might try for one more cute baby before retiring from baby-having. But we’re all done here. When people post old photos of themselves with their first child on social media, and everyone comments, “Y’all look like babies,” I know that will never be me. The only person who looks like a baby in my post-natal hospital pictures is the actual baby. And I’m okay with that.