Walking in, I see a group of women and preschool-aged children sitting, standing, talking, and playing. I notice the ages of the mothers immediately and realize I stand out.
Moms are enjoying grown-up talk while the kids play. Topics include that first big vacation far away, a new way of eating or exercising, the current job market, and new clothing styles. It all sounds fun and interesting, and I suddenly feel a sense of déjà vu. I took my first big adult vacations 16 and 20 years ago. By now, I know what foods are best for me and how to lose weight (whether I actually do it or not!). I have worked in the same field 22 years, and my clothing style is a bit dated as I just can’t get into some of the newer trends. So I listen, talk a bit, and watch my child play.
My thoughts drift to things I seem focused on now; like ways to engage my preschooler in play, learning, and exercise. And I LOVE it. I love doing all these activities with my daughter and husband. I love parenting with my husband as mature 40-somethings. As a woman who had no interest in children until my mid 30’s, that is saying quite a lot.
What it boils down to is this: At 40 and entering midlife, all of the other things that cluttered my mind seem much smaller and less bothersome. Although they are real and valid, they are no longer in the forefront of my mind. I’ve gone from being a professional to a mom, both, then stay at home/work at home mom. I’ve done it all.
To be honest, I am having the time of my life. I am happier at 40 than I ever was at 25 or 30, although in a far different way. I am happy to have traveled and enjoyed life as a young adult with no children. All of the experiences I ever wanted and wondered about, well I’ve had them now. It is time to experience a different kind of happiness with a child. Seeing the joy and excitement in her face with each new situation or experience makes me feel that same joy and excitement all over again.
Do other older moms feel this way? I have asked myself this question often, but then I actually started asking moms who had children later in life. Keeping in mind we are not all the same, most of the moms I asked have said something similar. Here are a few responses that I have heard:
1. “I don’t think I have as many worries now as I did as a younger mom.”
Moms who tell me this often say they are settled in their lives and careers, with friends and family, and now have a routine and know what to expect. They know what hair style they like and don’t often change it. Same goes for clothes and décor. We have purchased at least one home and have managed our lives independently for 2 decades. This does not mean older moms do not stress. We can stress about sleep issues, feeding issues, and learning or behavioral issues with our children just as much as anyone. But our lives and the lives of our children are more settled and we have a better idea of what to expect.
2. “I finally feel I have things figured out, and I am not as focused on myself at this age. This is the best time for me to have a child.”
This meant different things to different moms. Some were career-driven from college age until having a child at 35 or 40. One had travelled the world and simply waited until later to settle down and begin a family. Whatever their past, most women said they enjoyed having more time to devote to their children because they had already accomplished most of what they wanted in life. Some had careers that allowed for international travel, frequent trips and adventures with their husbands and children. Others began working from home. Some resigned altogether and became stay-at-home moms. For most, this was not their first foray into changes in life and career. We adjust, and we do it well. One older mom with a busy schedule simply told me she had learned long ago how to best manage her time, and she felt this season of her life was far less chaotic than when she was younger.
3. “I miss having the body I had in my 20’s and 30’s, but I feel so much more confident now!”
This response was universal. Every older mom I have talked to over the last 5 years has said the same thing. They remembered their earlier looks: less wrinkles, grey hair, and sagging or better muscle tone and less weight on the frame or shiny hair, a bright, fresh face, and no bad knees. However, older moms seem happier with their looks. It feels so strange to write that. Why would we love our older bodies? We see nearly constant commercials to the contrary and are encouraged to seek youth through surgery, creams, and procedures. However, as women age we often lose insecurities regarding appearance. Confidence increases and self-focus diminishes.
Overall, the experience of having a child past age 35 differs for each mom. We may be a bit more tired with a newborn at 38 than at 24. We may be balancing physical changes of midlife along with challenges of raising an infant or small child.
But oh, you’d better believe we’re having a blast doing it!