I’m an older mum. Here’s what I wished somebody would have told me before I became one.
It’s another ordinary day when I’m picking up my daughter from her 4 year old kinder (or Pre-Prep which is the new official term) and it’s happening again. The same mums (in their occasional Lorna Jane clothing while holding disposable coffee cups) who instantly gravitate towards each other and start downloading about their week while unconsciously (or consciously) turning inwards to form an exclusive circle that no-one else can barge through. They were all wearing pink tops, which instantly conjured up flashbacks of scenes from the movie “Mean Girls” where the Plastics had to abide by their strict dress code as to which item of clothing they had to wear (or not wear) on certain days of the week.
As an introvert, I often keep to myself and I usually struggle with small talk in groups, however I couldn’t help but take this clique a little personal. But after ruminating about it for quite some time, I came to a simple conclusion: they are all young mums, and when I mean young, I mean women who would’ve become mums somewhere in their 20s or early 30s at the latest.
Now I know that shouldn’t be seen as a huge anomaly, however when you don’t fit into that demographic, you do feel a tad alienated.
I am a working mum who had my first child when I was 38, then had my 2nd (and last) child at 40. This was not done by choice as I had to wait a while to find someone before I became a mum. I got married in my mid 30s, and I wasn’t prepared to be a single mum who had a child from a Sperm Donor - kudos to those who were brave enough to go down that path when no-other option seems viable - but I digress.
I guess you could also say that I spent a large majority of my 20s and early 30s enjoying my life hanging with friends, pursuing a career (I was a teacher - and still am after 15 years) and travelling the world before getting married, settling down, establishing ourselves as a married couple before coming to a point where we both felt ready to become parents. We then spent 9 agonising months trying to get pregnant while wondering whether it was wise to start trying at 37 while also considering whether IVF was on the cards (luckily we didn’t have to go there as I would have struggled with the emotional and financial ordeal of trying to get pregnant that way).
Dos all this sound familiar? The last time I checked, women are choosing to have children at a later age, and in 2020, the average age to have a first time baby is somewhere between 30-34 years. However, as an older mum, I still feel as though I am the only one who is going through this journey on my own because I can’t seem to find many other women who had to wait as long as I did. I’m not saying that I can’t engage with younger mums, but in terms of maturity and life experience, it would be great to have that one person you can do life as a mother, which is why I probably should have factored in these curveballs before making the decision to become an older mum when I did.
You will feel alienated and alone as some point.
You have heard the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child” and when I had my daughter, I couldn’t agree more. I was given torrents of advice, presents and second hand clothes in my daughter’s first year, and it was my closest friends who I grew up with, who always came through and were never hesitant to share their pearls of wisdom. The problem with this was they were experiencing life as parents at different stages of their children’s lives. For example, one of my friends asked me “which issue do you want to deal with? Changing nappies or dealing with puberty?” (That helped me gather a bit of perspective as a stressed out first time mum.) I even have some friends who’s children have now left home or are going through uni, and now they have all of this new found freedom to go out to the theatre and have a cocktail at some classy bar, whereas I’m too exhausted after putting my kids to bed at 7pm and would rather Netflix and chill in my oodie and slippers on a Friday night.
You will also notice a slight drop in friends as you gradually lose contact with people you used to hang out with before becoming a mum. For some, it’s not deliberate, while for others, they may struggle to identify with your new role and just move onto the next free fun friend. With that said, you will come across some friends who will remain in your corner to the very end, regardless whether they have kids who are battling raging hormones, who have left the nest, or who don’t have kids at all. If anything, it might be refreshing to discern those who were or weren’t your real friends all this time.
2. The tiredness can be overwhelming
I actually think I read this in a book when I was pregnant, and I just shrugged it off like “I’ve got this!” However once my 2nd child started learning how to walk, I felt like a zombie by the end of the day, or even a few hours in the day once they got out of bed.
They say that when you get older you lose more and more energy as you go, but I don’t want to negate the struggle younger mums have to go through with fatigue. I’m just very fortunate that both of my kids are excellent sleepers and if I can get through at least one night with one of kids wanting a glass of milk or some much needed attention, then I am one of the lucky ones.
I never used to drink much coffee until becoming a mother of two (I will only cap it at one cup a day as I find too much caffeine dries out my voice as I am also a singer) and I chew lots of gum as I read in a book that the chewing sensation helps keep the brain awake. And let’s not underestimate the importance of a powerpap while the kids turn in for their afternoon slumber. Why not make the most of this when you can!
3. The older you get, the more internal you become
When I hear stories of mums who have kept in contact with those who they met at mum’s group over a period of many years, it makes my teeth grind. When I attended my first time mum’s group, there were only 3 of us (including myself) and we all seemed like we were roughly in the same age bracket, so jackpot! However, when the time came to exchange phone numbers, nothing happened! I did reach out to them once because I was hosting a housewarming, and I thought I’d invite them to come along, yet one of them had another engagement, while the other didn’t get my message until after the event. It’s probably worth noting that one of the mums already had an 18 year old son and her newborn spent the first 4 weeks in NICU and I could tell she was a red hot mess (as we all are).
As well as the tiredness, one of the other characteristics of older mums is that because they had children at a later than expected age, they would have spent their previous years invested in their careers, buying and settling in their first home, and building a secure future for their pending family. However, with great wealth and security also comes responsibility (my crappy take of the famous “Spiderman” quote) and most of us still have to hold down jobs, maintain our stature in our careers, and keeping up with mortgage repayments while also juggling motherhood at the same time. So where would we get the time to maintain a regular social life?
I also think that because older mums have “done” life more, that they may be more emotionally, mentally and even financially equipped to brave the storms of being a mum (which I guess you could narrow it down to “wisdom”), as opposed to younger mums who may struggle with the reality of it all. I don’t mean to put people in boxes, but with that said, sometimes it helps to at least have someone to talk to when things get too much. That’s what happened when I decided to see a counsellor while dealing with the “baby blues” after having my first.
4. Whenever you decide to do it, you will never regret it.
I have often agonised whether it was smart of me to have children later as I may not get to see them achieve as many milestones as they get older (I will be 80 when my son turns 40). My mum was 24 when she had me, and she had my older sister at 17, so it is obvious that she may not have had a chance to experience what life had to offer as a teen mum. If I had a similar fate and decided to have my kids younger (as in 24), I probably wouldn’t have had the same level of resilience, financial security, humour and wisdom then I had at 38. I am glad that I had a chance to get so many things out of my system such as going to University, seeing the world, buying my first house and being a teacher before deciding to become a mum rather than go through the “what ifs” of life. Every decision comes with a price, and I have come to appreciate where I am at in my journey as a mum. So the next time, I come and pick up my daughter from Pre-Prep, I can just swagger in knowing I have what it takes, regardless of my age.
P.S. A few weeks ago, I did actually meet a mum at my son’s Playgroup who had her first at 38 and her 2nd at 39, so we did exchange numbers. Now it’s up to us to break the ice and have our first playdate without feeling so tired.