Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Domestic Enemies of the Older Mom

Totally kidding. In real, life she's hawt.
This one is for all my Advanced Maternal Age homies... Meet Katy:

Katy is the 40-year old mom of a nearly-three year old. Between yelling at teenagers to get off her lawn and turning down that damn music on the radio, she works full-time and attempts to read grown-up books. Mostly, she cleans up old food on the floor and dresses up as Cinderella's godmother. Every once awhile, she thinks fondly of the sleep she got in her 20's, but not-so-secretly, she thinks she hit the parenting jackpot with a great kid.


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After years of infertility (and not getting married until age 31), I became a mom two years ago, when I was 38. In new-mom years, this is pushing it. I'd like to argue otherwise, but the whole "advanced maternal age" label landed on top of me and I'm too tired to push it off. Which brings us to enemy number one:

The Tired.

If you're reading this and you had a kid earlier in life, you might well be thinking, "man, am I glad I had my kids young, because keeping up with a toddler at age 40 sounds tiring." Let me tell you the truth: you are 200%, absofreakinglutely, right. Fortunately I no longer remember with any precision how much energy I had when I was 21, because that would undoubtedly be depressing, but I have to assume that the answer is somewhere in the vicinity of, "more than I have now." Add into this the fact that my husband is 50, and we are ready for bed the minute our child finally succumbs to sleep. Roughly 9:02pm. On the other hand, I've never heard any mom, of any age, say that having a child was energy-producing, so I'm not sure that my age is all that much of a disadvantage. Although the windy day I tried to chase down a pink balloon in a parking lot took it out of me for about a week.

The Oh Sh!t I'm Going To Die Before She Goes to Prom Freakout

During those five years of infertility, I did a lot of math. Most of it involved counting 9 months ahead, but occasionally I looked a bit further down the road. My Original Grand Plan for Life involved starting a family when I was 26, so I had to adjust a bit. By 6 years. Then 7. Then 8. Then 10. Then I started to worry about retirement crashing into college expenses. I had never really thought of us as 'older parents,' until the day when our financial advisor told us that we could save for college by using an IRA, because my husband would be over 65 WHEN MY KID WAS STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL. This caused a slight panic on my part. Yes, I worry about her, about us, about things that happen when you're in your 50's and 60's; and every once in awhile, late at night, I panic that she won't have parents at her wedding. But then again, I could have had her at 26 and been hit by a bus at 30. Life is risky. Parenting is perhaps the ultimate risk; the dare to put your heart into the world and know that, by all sense and reason, that child of your heart will outlive you. (Please God, may that be so.) And all we can do is hope and pray that we're around to share as much of this life with her as we can.

The "I'm So Glad I Had My Kids When I Was Young" Unsolicited Assvice

"So," said someone to me many moons ago, "don't you want to get married and have kids? Because, I mean, tick-tock, you know. You don't have forever." Naturally, I wish that conversation had ended with me punching said person in the face, but it seemed unwise (if satisfying) at the time. This kind of stuff has increased exponentially since our daughter was born, with a twist: now it comes from people looking at me (probably in the week before my hair gets colored) and saying something like, "parenting is really for the young, isn't it? I'm so glad I had my kids when I was in my 20's!" What does that mean, exactly? That I should have gotten my act together earlier? That I should have just married that horrible guy from college because I could have been pregnant before hitting 30? That I should have given up trying to have a child once I hit some magic "old lady" age? (What is that age, anyway?) Unsolicited Assvice is the Domestic Enemy of every mom, everywhere, of every age, and it nearly always involves a judgmental comment on something you have no control over whatsoever. 

The Generation Gap

A few months after my daughter was born, at the encouragement of many moms I knew, I tried going to that "Parent Support Group" at the local hospital. Not a great success. It's a wonderful program, for sure, but my particular group consisted entirely of moms in their early-to-mid 20's. When a discussion got underway one day about high school, and it became clear that I had graduated from high school about the time that most of them were entering kindergarten - well, yeah. That was a little painful for me. Yes, I worry sometimes about being the Old Mom at the PTA, or the field trip, or the piano recital. I will do my best to bedazzle my cane and walker before the senior prom, but it is true: I will be older than many of the parents of my daughter's friends. I can only hope that someone stops me before I go full-on Joan Collins at the 4th grade Parent-Teacher night.

The Assumptions

There's a lot out there about women 'waiting' to have kids until later in life. Presumably, this applies to women who want to work on education and career first, before kids. (We can all observe the relative silence on "men who put off parenthood to work on their careers" phenomenon, but that's a post for a later time.) I know there are women who do this, who intentionally choose to wait on parenthood and I say: kudos to you. Lean in, my friend. More power to you.

But I didn't really do that. It would make me sound far more intentional and high-powered than I am, so maybe I should go around claiming that I waited on parenthood until I was a huge, raging success (as a minister, by the way, which is a lot of wonderful things, although 'high-powered' is not exactly one of them). But I didn't. I just stumbled around in my life hoping to meet somebody along the way. I went to college. I went to graduate school. I got a job. I liked it. I dated. But I didn't meet my husband until I was 31. He was 42. Neither of us had been married, and there wasn't anything intentional about it - just the reality that it's hard to meet the person you want to wake up with every morning for the rest of your life.

And then we tried to get pregnant. For five years. About halfway through that, we discovered that I had really, big, ugly endometriosis. Two IUI's, one miscarriage, and two IVF's later, we clung to that crying, messy, bloody, squinty infant as if she was the only baby who had ever been born in the world. I was 38. He was 48. And so, we were older parents. 

Whoever it was that said, "be kind to everyone you meet, for everyone is fighting some kind of battle" - yes. And yesser. It's certainly true about parents, of any age. So many of our battles are invisible. So many of them seem almost impossible to carry until you look back and realize that you survived, somehow. Maybe you were younger than you imagined when you became a parent. Or older. Or your family came to you in a way you didn't plan on, originally. 

Yep, I'm an older mom. And it turns out that there's some really good stuff here. I'm calmer than I once was. I'm more patient. I'm more stable in lots of ways than I would have been if I had been a mom at, say, 21. I trust myself more than I did then. And yet, what I know for sure is this: it's not a contest. Younger mom, older mom, one kid, lots of kids, whatever your circumstances are: we're all just making it up as we go. We might as well be kind to each other while we're doing it.

And now it's 9:03pm. I gotta go to bed.

(c)Herding Turtles 2009 - 2013

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