This morning I read Carolyn Gregoire’s Huffington Post article, “Being an Older Mom Comes With Some Major Advantages.” I was drawn to it because I’d had a conversation with a friend in her early thirties recently, who was struggling with the question, “When is the right time to plan a family?” She and her husband have been married for ten years and she’s still afraid to take the plunge into parenthood. She’s afraid of the changes a child would bring to her life. She may have to make a career change. She may need to stay home for a time. She’s also afraid that she may have waited too long and that she may be too old. That scared her!
I have three kids. My oldest son is twenty-nine, my daughter is twenty-five and my youngest is fourteen. I was nineteen, soon-to-be-twenty, when I had my oldest. My husband and I had been married only five months when we learned we were expecting. During those first months of marriage, I had tried several different pill forms of birth control. Each made me very ill. We were in transition and switching to another form of pill, using more than one preventative when lo and behold, I was pregnant. I was not prepared and felt very afraid. What about my hopes to go to college? What about my dreams? I hadn’t even figured out a cleaning routine. I was learning to cook! How could I be prepared to be a good mother?
I had my oldest son on a snowy January day. I can not put in words the power of my instant love for my newborn. When I looked into his eyes, my heart was forever changed. On that day, I knew my little boy deserved a good momma. I vowed to be the best I could be. While waiting for me and my baby to be discharged from the hospital, a social worker came to talk to me about programs for teenage mothers. She meant well, but she had misjudged my situation. But, there was no mistaking I was a young mother. On the other hand, when I had my third child, at thirty-four, I found it surprising that I was in the middle of the “age” pack. I’d thought I’d be on the older side of the spectrum. Not so.
Years before, my doctor had told me how favorable it was for women to have children before the age of thirty. And when I was in my thirties and pregnant, my doctor made sure I knew all the risks I was taking by being an “older mother.” Gregoire’s article states that “the number of women over forty having children has quadrupled since 1985.”
There is definitely a case to be made for the energy of being a youthful mother. When I had my first two children, I was a ball of energy. I focused on helping them create masterpieces out of string and noodles. I set up playdates with friends and got them outside, burning that extra energy.
After I had my youngest, I began to compare my lack of energy to the energy I had had with my first two children. I still was helping masterpieces be created out of noodles and string and scheduling playdates but, my energy level was not the same. I’d added quite a bit to my plate of responsibilities outside the home since my younger years and my attention was pulled in several directions.
In Carolyn Gregoire’s article she speaks favorably of older mothers stating,
“Older mothers are less likely to scold and harshly discipline their kids. This makes sense, considering that older mothers are generally more educated and financially stable, and often have greater relationship stability.”
I laughed when I read this. Yes, I am less likely to scold but, it’s not because I’m financially stable or because I’m more educated. It’s because I’m gosh-darn tired!
There were advantages to being a young mom. Transitioning from youth to motherhood happened in such a short amount of time, that I didn’t have time to focus on what I didn’t have or was going to miss out on. That was a blessing. The struggle my thirty-something year old friend was having when we spoke to me last week was that she knew the things she’d have to put on pause or give up to have a child. She was grieving the change before it happened. I wished I could show her how much love my heart holds for my kids and how it was worth giving up some dreams and extras to care for them. The trade off could not even compare to the rewards of motherhood.
Yet again, there are also advantages as an older mother that I did not have when I was younger. Financial stability does ease the load. But, the biggest change is not circumstantial, it’s ME. I’ve changed. I know better who I am, now. Knowing who I am, what my core values are and what makes me ME, took time. We have to do some living to know who we are. That is the biggest advantage to being an older mother. I don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s more than not worrying when you drop a pacifier on the ground. It’s learning that with struggles, time is often on your side. It’s knowing when to ask for help. It’s knowing what to help with and what to let be.
So, the question is: Is it better to be a young mother or an older mother?
There isn’t a perfect age to be a mother. Mothering is giving who we are and loving our children. What is the perfect “mothering” age for one is different for someone else. No matter what age, we’re going to have moments that bring us to our knees, pleading for God’s wisdom and strength.