I recently read an article justifying being a “new” older mom, meaning a woman over 40 with a young child. The article was good, but the reader’s comments made me cringe. They ranged from young mothers to older grandmothers bashing women who had children after the age 40. Why does there need to be justification in the first place? And furthermore, why does there need to be shaming? I am a first-time older mom with a two and half-year old. I’m 42 years old to be exact. Who cares? I bash myself enough for all of us. I need encouragement. I need advice. What I don’t need is for you to act embarrassed when you accidentally mistake me for grandma instead of mom. I’m not offended, really. It happens. Your embarrassment (or is it shame?) makes me feel as though I should be embarrassed or ashamed for some unknown reason.
Now let me back up a little to review my own personal experience. Several months ago, I was in a store with my mom and my 2-year-old, lil’‘ Jelly Bean. At checkout, the clerk was bantering back and forth with my daughter and then innocently pointed to me and then my mom, asking “Grandma and great-grandma?” I politely corrected her and after an awkward moment of embarrassment for both of us, we quickly changed the subject and she hurried us out of her line. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t offended. I was just…what? I don’t know exactly. I mean, I’m perfectly aware of my age and that many of my friends the same age have teenage kids or even grandchildren Jelly Bean’s age. That really doesn’t bother me. Or does it?
All that really matters is that I love this kid with all my heart. I waited for her my whole life and I’m doing the best I can raising her. I have the privilege (well, usually it seems like one) of working from home and being with her nearly 24/7 most days. That is not easy, by the way. But I cherish every challenging minute of it. She is flourishing and reaching milestones like a rock star, literally. She can rock out to her ABC’s and nursery rhymes better than Eddie Vedder or Bono could. Am I showing my age here? You know, Pearl Jam and U2 singers? Anyway, I’m not lacking in energy. She loves being outdoors and we go for daily walks, play hide and seek, and chase each other around the big shed out back at least twenty times in a row.
But there’s a dark side too. The thing about being an older mom is, you think about how old you’ll be when your child has major events in his or her life. And if you’re like me, you sometimes fret over it. I think about her first child, my grandchild. If she waits like I did, I may not meet him/her. I possibly won’t be there to guide my daughter through the wonderful perils of her first child, or I may just be too old to be helpful. Even if she has him/her at a younger age, I’ll still be “old,” or at least older than most first grandparents are. And it’s not just that. It’s everything. I’m very close with my mom and I rely on her for so much. Not only is she my living guardian angel and guiding light on this earth, she’s one of my best friends. I want to be all of that for my daughter too. But I worry I’m too old to promise her all that. Am I selfish to have had her at such an older age in life? I didn’t plan it that way. I didn’t wait on purpose, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just didn’t happen for me until later in life. It’s that simple, yet complicated. But you know what? None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, young or old moms. All we can do today is be the best parents we can be. We can give them strong foundations that we believe will best guide them in the future and hope they flourish into wonderful people. There is no shame in being the best parent you can be no matter what age you are.