Elizabeth Davies: Older moms have different perspective
My mom was fully entrenched in the world of sleepovers, report cards and after-school activities.
Then she got the biggest kind of surprise.
I came along 11 years after my parents thought their family was complete. Eleven years since my mom had done the sleepless newborn stage. Eleven years since washing cloth diapers. Eleven years since having a completely helpless human being who relied on her every move.
Back then — the mid-1970s — women tended to do their childbearing in their 20s. Women her age, my mother was told, did not have healthy babies. They were just too old.
So her doctor offered an abortion.
Lucky for me, my mom turned him down and decided to take her chances. She ended up with a baby girl who had 10 fingers, 10 toes and not a single health problem.
Not long ago, I sat back and did some math. What I realized is that my mom — so ancient when she gave birth to me — was exactly the same age that I will be when I have our third child this summer: 35.
The official medical term is “advanced maternal age.” Personally, I would like to think of it as “advanced maternal perspective.” There’s something to be said for raising children with a little life experience under your belt.
I once told my mother that I don’t remember ever being yelled at as a child. Did she really not ever raise her voice or could I just not remember?
“Oh, I yelled at your brothers,” she admitted. “I had just grown up a bit by the time you came along.”
As it happens, older parents simply aren’t the odd men out nowadays. Increasingly, women are finishing college and starting a career before focusing on family. They marry later and start a family later.
There are downsides to being an older parent. With two small children and pregnant with a third, I can tell you: I’m tired.
My body seems to be wondering why I keep standing up to fetch sippy cups and fresh jars of Play-Doh. It doesn’t understand why I insist on sitting on the ground — and then standing up again — with such frequency. It wants to know why I haul a 20-pound child up the stairs all the time.
Even when they’re not pregnant, older mothers sometimes struggle to summon the energy of their younger counterparts. They fast-forward and realize that they will be nearing retirement when their children graduate from college. They wonder if they’ll live to see their grandchildren get married. If they’ll even know their grandchildren at all.
But for those of us in the “advanced” category, it’s not all about increased risks or aching backs or general fatigue. There are blessings in being an older parent as well.
We have a little more perspective on life. We’re further removed from those “I’ll never make my child eat peas” vows. We have confidence in our decisions, our beliefs and our values.
As an older parent, I like to think we have the special opportunity to reflect more — even on the busiest, most tear-filled days. Someday, we know, those bear hugs and butterfly kisses will be gone.
And so we push aside the fatigue and push the swing “just one more time.”
Because each part of life is a passing stage, we’ve learned, and the best ones are over far too soon.
Elizabeth Davies can be reached at email@example.com.