Pick up an issue of US Weekly, and you’d think all women these days are having babies in their late thirties and into their forties. While there definitely are more of us “senior” moms out there, in real, non-tabloid life, we’re still in the minority. Society often likes to point this out, especially people from previous generations, who can treat us as though we’re reproductive anomalies. Once, an older woman I didn’t know but was casually chatting with, learning of my age (41) and my daughter’s age (4), exclaimed in shock, “When I was your age all my children were in their 20s!”
And sometimes the insults come from where you least expect them. Recently, my dad texted me to say, “Today was my grandmother’s birthday, and I just was thinking she was your age when I was born.”
“That’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to me,” I gasped. “So you’re saying I’m old enough to be your grandma?”
“I’m going to die now.”
One of my daughter’s classmates last year had a 20-year old mom. In theory, she could have been my daughter, which means that her son, my daughter’s friend and peer, could have been my grandchild. Every time I think of that I die a little on the inside.
I don’t feel particularly old or different than any other mom. It’s not like I stash arthritis medication and crossword puzzles in the diaper bag. Aside from perhaps having arguably less energy and more financial stability 35 and over moms are just like their younger counterparts — we have the same worries, insecurities and hopes and concerns for our children. We just have to field indignities from insensitive schmucks every now and then (sorry dad). Actually, I’d say there are more advantages to being a mature mom than there are drawbacks. Here they are:
- Perspective. In my twenties and thirties I tended toward catastrophic thinking. Every perceived career failure or personal setback was the end of the world and left me anxious and doubting myself. I’m not going to say I’m completely cured of this, but my advanced age has helped me quiet this tendency. Now, my husband and I employ a silly but effective method for putting things into perspective that we call “The Three Hs,” which represent health, happiness and (our daughter) Hailey. If we feel pissed off or stressed out about something, we quickly check ourselves: “Does it affect The Three Hs?” Most of the time, the answer is, “No.” Yes, the mommies in the mommy group are clique-ish buttholes, but does it impact my health, happiness or Hailey? No. So let that shit go. On the other hand, when I had a job that was stressing me out to the point that I was doubled over with stomach aches every day, we realized it was time to make some changes for the sake of our family.
- I got this, people. I got this. Every new mom knows that as soon as you have a visible baby bump the unsolicited child-rearing advice begins. Strangers will stop you on the street to tell you that their best friend’s daughter had a child who choked on a pacifier, so you are an irresponsible asshole for letting your child walk around with a binky. One time, my dog sitter (my dog sitter!) chastised me for not breastfeeding my daughter. It wasn’t any of her business that I had tried and failed, because it’s pretty damn hard to produce enough milk when you’re separated from your child who’s in the NICU. People thought it was their business to weigh in on where my child slept, how and when she slept, when she gave up her beloved binky, her footwear and that she looked chilly even though it was 70 degrees outside and we live in LA. In my younger years I would have gone one of two ways in response to the unsolicited advice: I would have either felt the need to explain and justify my parenting decisions to anyone who dared challenge them in some unwinnable attempt to make everyone see what a capable parent I was. Or, alternately, I would have just gone full on bitch and told them to shut the hell up. As an experienced liver of life though, I know these people, while pushy and often out of line, are mostly well meaning, so I never bothered to engage in these discussions, never made excuses for my parenting choices, never told them it was none of their damn business. I would just smile and say, “Thanks. I got this.” No one ever had a comeback for that.
- Freely question authority. I was raised to respect authority without question, and this stuck with me into adulthood. If someone had a badge or a couple of degrees and a white coat, I’d nod and smile, do what they said and never question them as if, you know, they were normal, fallible human beings. Then I had my daughter, and I had a disaster of a c-section and a doctor who started to show the signs of hubris and inexperience as the situation unraveled. A week after my daughter was born, my c-section incision split and I had to go in for a second surgery, but that time they couldn’t sew me back up. The football sized wound would have to be packed twice a day and heal on its own. My doctor wanted to speed the healing up with something called a wound vac. I won’t go into the gory details, but I will say that I had the wound vac for one week and every time it was put in or removed I screamed and nearly passed out from the pain. After seven days of this, I looked my doctor in the eyes and said, “No fucking wound vac! Do not come near me with that thing! Think of an alternative!” On that day, at my worst and most desperate, I learned that I alone make the decisions for my body. I am my own advocate. Doctors should be questioned. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think science should be questioned. But doctors, police officers, the courts, teachers get things wrong. They deserve our unwavering respect for the jobs they do. But no one should have absolute authority. You might guess that my child’s pediatrician does not love me. But that’s okay. I got this.