Being an older mom is fabulous – except for the older part.
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I was 45 when I brought my eight-month-old son home with me from Ethiopia. About a year later I was giving him his gazillionth horsey ride when a hernia popped out of my groin. Though one of the more painful instances, it wasn’t the first time I wondered if I was perhaps a tad past my prime for this particular life adventure.
Don’t get me wrong: I love being an older mom. And there’s a lot to recommend it, as a sweeping glance at the spate of articles about my trendy new demographic show. (And we are trendy – according to a 2012 government report, pregnancy rates for women 40 to 44 increased 65 percent between 1990 and 2008, even as rates for younger women plunged). Studies indicate we’re more emotionally mature, more financially stable, less obsessed with our careers. Our kids even do better in school.
On the other hand, we’re old. And we’re constantly confronted with that fact in a way that middle-aged women who don’t have to wrestle a 30-pound toddler to the ground every time he needs a diaper change simply aren’t.
We’d all do it again in a heartbeat, but if you’re considering joining our ranks, these are a few things my older mom friends and I think you should know. If you can think of any others, let us know…
For some reason, a sleepless night for a toddler is not followed by a sweetly languorous day filled with naps. If anything, it results in extra doses of wilding out – even as you feel like you drank a bottle of gin then got in a bar fight the night before. Speaking of which, don’t even think about going out drinking until your child is old enough to get his own bowl of cereal and watch cartoons in the morning.
Something happens to your inner ear when you hit middle age that makes moving quickly, sideways or in circles – all the things kids love – distinctly unpleasant. I can’t even get on a swing without feeling dizzy these days. I have no idea what I’m going to do when my son hits amusement park age.
One of the things parents of young children never talk about, probably because it’s no big deal if you have 25-year-old joints, is how much of the time you spend kneeling or in a squat. It’s like your entire world descends to crotch-level. Be good to your kidneys now, because you’ll need a near-continuous supply of Advil to get your knees through the growth years.
When my partner and I were touring daycares in preparation for my son’s arrival, we got all goo-goo-eyed at the “water babies” swim classes at the center we eventually chose. All those adorable little babies bouncing around. Now we fight over who has to get into the pool, and not just because of all the hard-body parents in there. At this age, the only thing that sucks more than being cold is being cold and wet.
This one stings, but your best bet is to shrug it off. When my friend, a 46-year-old mom of two girls under six, snapped at the African parking attendant who simply couldn’t believe she wasn’t their grandmother, he chased her down the street bowing, pounding his chest and apologizing. “It really only made it worse,” she recalls.
I thought I was so smart living close to my parents. Free babysitters! What I forgot is that if I’m old, they’re ancient. They can’t watch my son any more than I can walk into the lion cage at the zoo and take charge.
When it comes to being a mom, anyway, and that’s your main gig now. Having no idea what you’re doing is a common state among all parents – it’s a ludicrously hard gig, and there’s no manual – but 20-somethings are used to that feeling. You’ve just spent a couple decades building a career and are probably used to feeling somewhat on top of things. Well, you’re not – not anymore.
Just as with all new moms, you’ll get a whole new set of friends. But yours could potentially be your kids. You won’t really notice until someone arranges a girl’s night out (a red flag if ever there was one) and the non-kid conversation turns to bands you’ve never heard of and bars you’ll never patronize.
There’s a point in a woman’s life when spontaneous photos become a curse, even if you are just background scenery. We need a moment to prep our face, particularly when we’ve had four hours of sleep. But unless you want to come off as the world’s most self-absorbed mom, don’t dive into your purse for lipstick when the cameras come out. Just smile and avoid Facebook.
Laura Silverman is a freelance writer based in Buffalo, NY
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