Thursday, February 11

young mama - old mama

I have a friend who is within a couple of years of me (39), and she has 2 children over 17, while I have a 22 month-old. She often remarks to her children that they're lucky to have a young mother.

My mother had me when she was 18. Quite acceptable at the time in Uruguay. I do recall liking that my mother wasn't old, when I was around 10-12 I think. Although I can't recall why I liked it. Perhaps it was no more than she putting it into my head how lucky I was. I have no idea.

Unfortunately, although I come from a family that values age - as the place of wisdom - I grew up away from my extended family and in the midst of this Western society that values youth.

Will my daughter see an old woman as her mother? Will she be embarrassed?

It is quite common these days for toddlers to be followed around by 40+ mothers. And our friends here are all close in age and have toddlers. So certainly here it isn't an issue.

I have no problem with age. None. I'm embracing reaching 40 soon. I value old age. So it's not a personal problem, being an older mother. Not philosophically.

However, physically, I feel the strain. I remember going to university, having a bite to eat and rushing off to one of my jobs, working until 2am, then heading off for a drink and a dance. Then doing it all over again the next day.

Now, changing the 8th diaper, preparing the upteenth snack, playing with toy animals, pressing play on the DVD, and reading the nth book of the day, does me in. Throw in a walk and I need to lie down!

Okay, perhaps not so bad, but close. I know a lot has to do with lack of sleep, but I also know the rest is my aging body. Will my girl, who has an amazing reservoir of energy, notice her mother's deficiencies?

Mother and daughter... at what cost?

I can't imagine having had a child at 20, or 25, or even 30. My world was not child-friendly then. The person that I am today has ripened over decades. And I know that whilst I can't give my child the gift of spriteliness, I do give her the gift of maturity.

Also, there's the effect on ourselves. Having children when young means they're out of our homes and meeting their own independent lives before we've turned 45. Woohoo, so much time and space to go off traveling, or whatever catches our fancy.
Having them when we're older means we've tasted the wildness offered by life that only youth can get away with. I've danced on tabletops and well.... we'll leave those secrets shall we.... But when I'm 50, my girl will be only 12!

And don't get me wrong, I do plan on being a wild woman for many years, but realise my limitations. Tabletop dancing now will likely incur a trip to the hospital. And tabletop dancing at my child's birthday parties is one I think I'll omit. Although if the Sangria comes out I can't promise anything.

ahem... where was I?

Being pregnant at 37 was a strain on my body. Then there's all the scares and tests that mother's under 35 aren't troubled with. Add to that risks attributed to older fathers.

It's pointless debating which is preferrable, as I don't think there is such a thing, despite what some claim. But it is a personal preference. Perhaps we wish we had children earlier and were able to share youthful exuberance with our kids. Or we worry about looking old. Or perhaps we've had them young and now realise that some years tucked under our belts would have helped. Does having kids later keep you feeling younger?

Do you worry about your age as a mother? Does it freak you out thinking you might be mistaken for the grandmother? If you became a mother after 35, did you have medical concerns? What do you love about being an older mother? And, only fancifully, if you had a magic wand, would you have done it differently?


  1. My husband is 17yrs older than me and sometimes I worry now - he's 54 and Eli is only 10 - and I just worry sometimes they won't have enough time together - and then I have to take stock and remember to value today - I mean, really, if my worry is all about the future we'll all miss out on this present and it won't really matter how long we end up having together.

  2. Being a mother at any age is a gift. I am young in age, 35 and have a 16 year old and a 14 year old. I think it is how you feel on the inside that really counts. I feel about 21 except when my daughter is driving...I have medical issues that would have prevented me from having children after the age of 25 so in my case I feel lucky that children happened early. I have to admit I love it when people think my daughter and I are sisters, and because I am a short and petite woman no one can ever guess my real age! I feel that being a mother is an all consuming and wonderful job. Toddlers are physically exhausting and teenagers are mentally exhausting. But I love every minute of it!

    “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”

    Sophia Loren

  3. Hello : )
    I had my first son when I was 24 - I have two boys now. I find myself thinking that it would have been helpful to have had more time for some (more)wildness and freedom, as well as solitude to do some inner work. The things I need to work on - caring less what everyone might think and increasing my self-esteem and confidence - would, I believe, help me to be a better mother. Having kids may be helping me to be more motivated to work hard on them, but it is hard to find the solitude! While I of course am thankful for the blessings I have, I can't help but think that maturity would bring some nice benefits.

  4. I'm forty-one and have an eight year old and a four year old.
    I'm also one of those that believes "everything happens as it should, and the evidence is that It Is." :)
    I'm soooo ready to be a Mama. I enjoy the hell out of each day, and many (most) of my daily Joys come from playing and adventuring with them.
    For me, instead of losing energy, I find that the more we play (play at the children's museum for five hours and the park for five hours and play hard for eight) the more endurance I have. It seems to build up, instead of down. :) thank goodness!

  5. My mother had me when she was 30 years old. I never really noticed that my parents were about 10 years older than all of my friends parents. Looking back, I'm glad they were older. They taught me things that my friends parents couldn't teach them because they hadn't lived it.

    I had my son at 20 and my daughter at 22. I was a little young and probably should have waited a little bit longer, but I know that I can use what my parents taught me to educate my children.

  6. my mom was just barely 19 when i was born so she was in her 30's when i finished high school. she would joke that we could pass as sisters at that time. i had my first at 29 and can't imagine me with a child at 19. for me, 29 was the perfect time for me and not too old, not too young! my husband is 10 years older and has been asked by my son's classmates if he's the grandpa. oh well, i don't know if having kids later keeps you young or just tires you out quicker.

  7. I've always had a strong mothering instinct, and wanted to start having children in my early twenties, like my mom. I wanted to be a young mom, but really for no good reason. The older I got, however, the more I realized I wasn't ready. I had my son at 28, and for me this was not only a good balance between age and wisdom, but it was when the timing worked out--I was done with school by then, and hubby and I had a few years of marriage under our belt. Honestly, I jumped at the first opportunity and got pregnant right away.

    I know I'm not that old, probably pretty average for these days, actually, but I'm so glad I didn't start having kids earlier. I didn't have a good handle on my emotions back then, nor as much life experience to draw on. I probably would have resorted to parenting techniques I don't believe in out of sheer frustration.

    I feel like my "wild days" died with having my son. Maybe even with getting married. I'll still enjoy traveling when I'm older, but I doubt I'll be backpacking it.

    I think I need time to find out "who I was" before I got married and then time to solidify our marriage before we had children.

  8. I think about this one alot. I feel like I couldn't (or at least shouldn't) have been a mother when I was in my twenties too. I was too unself-aware, and also would have always felt restless I feel. Yes I have family and friends for whom it was absolutely the right thing. I was recently reading that the average age for menopause symptoms to peak is 52, and realized that I will have two 13 year olds and a 14 year old then! Oiii! Then when many people here in the states are retiring, hubby and I could have three in college - which I recently read will average $100K a year per child at that point!!! Crazy.

  9. My mother was young 19 when she had me and grew as I grew, however, I am unsure as to what benefit this had because with age comes acceptance and experience of many things - it must have been tough for her. I am glad I had my kids later in my 30's as I had time to get to know myself before meeting them, it must be harder for younger mum's with many families being fragmented nowadays. I embrace extended families and my network of good friends and feel that my children came when I was ready. I think we can all learn from each others different experience of motherhood - young and old, near and far. xx

  10. My mum was in her late 30's when she had me, which means my dad was in his late 40's. I never really noticed that my parents were quite old compared to some of my friends. My dad I adored, my mother.. well it was a difficult relationship... that aside, no it really never occured to me... and even now I find it odd when women who were young mothers go out clubbing etc with their kids. Just seems bizzare to me.

    I don't worry about being an older mum; I have confidence in myself, I'm happy and content; these are all good things for Rye.
    My sadness comes from knowing Im unlikely to have any other children, but then until I had Rye I didn't even know I wanted children and how that elusive something I'd been searching for all my life.. clicked into place upon becoming a mother. There's a degree of irony; but I am deeply thankful I was given the opportunity to be a mama.

  11. My mom had me when she was 20. Growing up I always wanted to be a young mom too. And then I didn't have my first child until I was 30, which I now think it a much better age to be having children. My mom missed out on so much of her youth that I never realized until I was older. At 50 she left my step dad and turned into a college girl, going to parties, staying out late, dating tons of different kinds of men, mostly much younger than she. I'm happy to have mostly gotten that out of my system. I'm happy for stability and a little bit of wisdom. I remember hearing my mom criticize older moms for being a certain way. I think what she was missing out on back then was that they were actually smarter than she was and she was uncomfortable with that. Anyway, great topic for a post.

  12. My mother had me when she was 21. And she was a good mother, but I went through her growing up with her. I had my dd when I was 30, and although I'd wanted a child all my life, I'm glad I waited, as I had the emotional stability and the courage and the calm to be a better mother than I would have been in my 20s. Probably. I don't really regret anything, it is what it is.

    I dont know that I would have had more energy for my child if I was younger. I've never been much of a fun playtime type of person. In some ways I think I am more open to adventure now I am older. I have more wisdom which gives me courage to push for new things.

    I do think sometimes that it would be nice to be a young groovy woman with a kid ... but I was never really groovy to begin with, lol! And I am sad my parents wont have so much time with dd as she gets older. But that's all.

    Very interesting topic.

  13. Hi Mon,
    I had Lucas a few weeks shy of my 39th birthday. I'm now a 42-year-old mother to a preschooler and I don't feel particularly out of place among the other mothers. It might just be due to good genes - all the women in my family look much younger than we really are, so maybe I'm just pretending to be a younger mom, and everyone else is buying it. :)

    Seriously, though, I may not have the stamina I once had, but the mindfulness I have now that was missing when I was younger is definitely a positive trade-off.

    Though I've always wanted to be a mother, I remember thinking in my 20s that it would be a sacrifice, and I felt a bet waffly about my willingness to give up my perceived freedom.

    Then in my early 30s, I felt ready to make the sacrifice, whatever that entailed - teeth only slightly clenched.

    By the time I got pregnant with Lucas (at 38), I no longer saw motherhood as a sacrifice at all. It was this great career change, the dream job that I welcomed fully. As with any job, I knew there would be aspects of it that weren't my favorites, but I welcomed it in its entirety, and don't ever for a minute wish it any other way.

    Plus, I'm glad I had the opportunity to do a lot of fun and exciting things when I was younger. I think that helped me feel ready to fully embrace motherhood and accept myself in the role of mother that I've created.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post!

  14. My mother had me when she was 28 (but my two older sisters when she was 18 & 19) and when I was at school I hated having an older mum. Fast forward to me and I had Aoife, my first, when I was 34, so much older than she was when she had her 3rd...

    I would have liked to have been a younger mum because I always dreamed of having a lot of children, and being older I feel it limits the number of children we can have quite a bit, especially since it doesn't happen all that easily for us. Having said that, I often think about how lucky I am to have her now, at this age, because I have learned so much about myself and life in the meantime.

  15. My mother had just turned 19 when I was born. She was but a babe herself. Growing up I always thought I'd have my kids young too because I always "thought" my mum and I were close. But I was no where near ready to have a baby at 19...or 29. My son was born when I was 33. I am now 37 and he is 3.5. I was SO ready to be a mama. I knew who I was, had life experience and had fallen in love with the greatest man ever. I think you are only as old as you make yourself. (does this make sense?) While I feel the affects of aging more and more...I still feel like I'm 18. We play, and are silly and do lots of great things...things I wouldn't have even known of or thought of when I was in my twenties. For me...waiting has paid off and I really don't think Isaac will care in the slightest because it'll never be something we make a big deal out of. Thanks for this thoughtful post. It's actually something I've been thinking of lately. -Debbie

  16. Well, I'm 39 and Z is almost 22 months.

    I spent most of my life believing that I would never have a child for one reason or another. When I finally had the revelation that YES, I did think one was calling my name...I was already 33, and in the wrong relationship. I still felt like I had all the time in the world, but that feeling changed at 36. Luckily, I got pregnant a couple of days after turning 37. Perfect timing in my opinion. I'd already climbed the career ladder - and wanted down! I'd found love. Pregnancy wasn't hard aside from the nausea. I had no issues, and declined all tests. I still walked/ran every day.

    Sleep deprivation is debilitating though. But I've always needed more sleep, even when I was younger.

    Ya, I worry about Z looking up one day, and saying, Damn my folks are old....but if that's his main complaint, then so be it.

    Also...When I look around the playground I usually notice that Z has the most playful parents around. 20 something does not = more energy/interest. But it does = the possibility of more time...and that can make me a bit sad/jealous.

  17. I was a very young mama having Zeb a few months shy of 18. I certainly made mistakes I hopefully would not have made had I been older (I know at least I wouldn't make them again, but perhaps making the mistakes was what spurred me to find alternatives?). But overall I wouldn't have changed anything. I feel very strongly that he came to me when he did for reasons I only discovered years later.

    Like you said, it's just different. There are pros and cons to everything in life; younger vs older, or even having kids vs not. I know older moms with more energy than me and younger moms who are much wiser than I was.

  18. I had wished I had started having children when I was younger but now I think it happened at the perfect time for us. I had the man when I was 29. My hubby is 16 years old than me. Little man will turn 4 this year and hubby will turn 50. He also has a 24 year old son. It saddens me a bit to know that he won't be able to do the same things (physically) that he did when his older son was growing up but at the same time, there is so much more he can give that his older son didn't receive. I won't be having anymore children for two reasons 1) I'm lucky to have gotten one out of the old guy and 2) I'm concerned about the risks involved with hubby's age (though I realize many older men have gone on to father perfectly healthy children). Though, I will say honestly that if I had married someone closer to my own age, I likely would have had more children. I feel so blessed to have a joyful, healthy son and a husband who loves us both unconditionally. Touching wood and crossing myself xoxo @Turtle Oak: Love what you said about valuing today and @ Missy: Thanks for the Sophia Loren quote!

  19. I loved reading all your different stories and perspectives with your own parents.

    I was also thinking about whether the age gap made a difference in how we got on with our parents. But really, while a large gap might make it difficult to engage in the same things, being close in age brings up a whole load of other problems and clashes.

    Sarah - saying that you went through your own mother's growing up brings up possibly the most difficult thing about having a very young parent.

    My own mother was very mature, but she was jealous of me.

    Stephanie - wish I was like you and GAINED energy the more I did! wow, lol

    Amy - "if that's his main complaint, then so be it."
    Thanks for that! If the Wildflower has loving attentive and mindful old parents, then lucky her!

  20. Oh wow - I can so relate to this post! I had my hatchling when I was 35. The best thing? I was emotionally solid enough to walk out of a dyfunctional relationship the day I took the pregnancy test.
    My age definitely worked in my favour. Like you, I feel like I've lived an entire lifetime before she was born...and I think it's a good thing. I can't imagine having been a mom in my 20's.

    And trust me, running after a toddler has even my 20-something friends wiped out by the end of the has nothing to do with your age.
    It gets easier,(physically), I'd say...when they learn to dress themselves, feed themselves, put their own shoes on. You'll find you have extra time and energy reserves.
    My kid's friends all have moms in their 30's so school functions, etc. sometimes make me feel old.
    I see an entirely different mothering experience in my younger mom friends; they are still trying to find themselves and balance parenting with that. I'm glad I waited until I was mature enough to know the parenting route I wanted to take, mature enough to stick to my guns in the specific ways I want to raise my daughter. What I see in younger moms is more experimental, more comparing and taking advice from eachother, more feeling their way through. And I'm certainly not dissing younger moms, I'm just glad I waited and experienced all my major growth before she came into my life.
    *and we're not THAT old!

  21. Hola!
    Hay algo para ti en mi blog "Crianças Pagãs" (Niños Paganos) ;)

  22. Ah, yes. Our bodies are made for having children when YOUNG, our minds and emotions, when older. But that is just me, not everybody of course. I am glad I didn't have children until after 35, but I am tired more than I would be if I started 10 years earlier. I also don't think I would have been anything even remotely like the parent I am now if I started before I had wandered and traveled, explored, had years working on my art & music..not to mention that I spent years on a 'career', worked my way up to where I thought was in a good place and realized I never wanted to work for other people again in my entire life and who cared how much money I made if I never got time to enjoy it.

    I think the interesting thing, for me, is how maternal age is such a cultural thing. I lived in Chicago for a long time - where EVERYONE seemed to wait until their 30s to start families. So it is natural to have many moms in upper 30s/40s. Where I live now in Wisconsin, most people have children much younger, and I am easily 10 years older than just about everyone in any activity or event I have attended with the boys. Or in my neighborhood. I don't know one single person my age. Really. The only people I know are at least 10 years younger, and while our kids are close in age and I'm not exactly a fuddy duddy (and my husband is 10 years younger), it still means the relationships are never developed into close friendships, because I'm too old, if you know what I mean.

    I do wish my body didn't have these issues from having huge boys at a later age. Starting later also gave me a natural cap on how many children we could have. Ahem. ;)

    But in the end we do what we do, everyone is different, and the important thing is if we are attentive and mindful.

  23. I am 41 and have two older girls 19, 18 and one girl 17 months old...having had babies at both ends of the age scale I would have to say that I have enjoyed both....sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder if my little one sees my face as being old but then I come to my senses and realize that this is my issue not hers. I love being a mum to girls who are almost 20 and I love that they adore their baby question now is, am I too old to have another? Here in Germany it seems normal but it not so common back in Australia. My hubby would love another and I think my little one would love a a little sibling too...but I am not sure how I feel about having another one now as I would be 42 when it was born....hmmm

  24. My mother was a grandma at age 38 (from my brother who is 9y older then me), people always thought her grandkids where hers, she also looked young for her age.

    It;s funny, when I was younger I worked a lot, partied, etc, but I also was sleep deprived and tired a lot, so I wonder if it is much different?

  25. Motherhood has propelled me into a huge undertaking of dealing with myself that if I weren't a mother, or a wife, I don't believe I would have dealt with. I think for me a lot of my identity or self and the shadows of it are so embedded in motherhood and wifehood - in terms of what I experienced, so being those things now is forcing me to grow and evolve in profound ways I couldn't imagine if I weren't a mother and wife. I certainly see benefits in a child entering a secure partnership of mother and father (something I didn't have!), or a more wise and experienced mother because of extra time lived, then again, having children brings about new things to deal with in those scenarios anyway. I see benefits in being older and wiser for sure, at the same time, I don't know if it would change the quality in the type of mother my kids have experienced so far because of the unprecedented journey :).
    I *wanted* to be a mother when I became one at 23, probably unconsciously for this journey toward a much more holistically enriching life.
    Obviously I'd be engaged with something else or maybe phaffing about (or phaffing about in a job), but I don't know if doing this would have given me the same environment for this huge journey if I weren't a mum.
    So I'm grateful for the journey of motherhood, am glad it started earlier rather than later for me, and on a superficial level, I've never had a better body since having children! I just don't know if it would be the case if I were older, I have been told that gravity hits at some point lol.

  26. Age is just a number! I was a young mom at 19 years old..I am 43 years old and my oldest is 24 years old! I've come to realize that regardless of age and years apart ~ mothers and daughters are close, we battle with power, we love eachother, we disagree, and we have fun all at the same time.

    I believe you and your child will flourish and age truly is just a number :)

  27. I am new to your blog and really enjoyed reading today.
    I am 40 and I have 4 children. I had my first at 25 and my last at 37. I have to admit that I do love to hear my daughter's (age 15) friends say, "She's your MOTHER?!" Makes me smile once in a while. BUT I am so much more confident, patient, and empathetic at 40. And a much better mom now. Sometimes I feel sad that my 15 yr old didn't get the mom my 3 year old has. I was sooo stressed out with that sweet baby 15 years ago. And she has serious stress issues to this day. MEANWHILE my youngest 2 are about as laid back as the come. I have to think that isn't totally genetic. There has to be some correlation to my frame of mind during those newborn times.
    I don't think there's a magic/perfect age to have children but I do see many, many blessings that come from waiting until you are settled... emotionally AND financially. Being a broke, young mom in a new marriage was HARD and heartbreaking at times. Would I trade it? NO. But will I encourage my own kids to wait til their 30s? YES.

  28. Wonderful blog!
    I am torn on the age issue. I had my first two children at 22 and almost 24. I had my third when I was 38 ( she is 4 now).

    I was able to give my first two children everything in me. I'm creative so they got the best of that and we were fully present in the moment. I was also able to give to myself without guilt because I had nothing to look back on to judge.

    I am so pulled emotionally with the spectrum of ages in my children. I worry about my older ones as they speak of dreams, made and then broken and remade, reshaped and full of passion. Then I fly onto a magic carpet with my 4 year old and we take off to Morocco in our minds but I find myself not fully there.

    Is this my age or is this my mother's heart being completely caught up in the emotional needs of all my children? I don't think age is what makes or breaks a mother. I think it's how fully we want to live our lives as mothers.

    I wouldn't trade any of this for anything but I think having had children so far apart in age with the temperament I have is not the easiest thing. I look back too much and try to compensate too much.

    I truly have to relearn mindfulness and stillness and get some sleep ;) my 4 year old seems to need me more at night than she does during the day.

    I think there is something to be said for having children in your early years and in your later years. I think it's completely dependent on who you are. I was very ready at 22 and was never a party girl and always a poet.

    I was ready at 38 too but didn't realize how much more my young adults would need my wisdom and guidance. I think they need me more now emotionally then ever at a time when magic carpet rides vie for top spot. This mama is tired but what a nice topic to think about, I'm glad I'm not the only one who's thought about this subject.

  29. Hi Trista, such an interesting answer. Especially about the older ones needing you now, in a different way. What a pull between the two worlds!


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