Rachel Selby writes a beautifully eloquent and honest blog, Midlife Single Mum, about her IVF journey, life in Jerusalem as a single mum, and some really delicious regional vegetarian recipes.
OLDER MOTHERS – OR HOW TO SELL THE DAILY MAIL
There’s a lot of folk wisdom surrounding the whole Older Mother phenomenon. My favourite example was an article in The Daily Mail whereby a first-time mum in her 40s gave all the reasons why it was actually better to have your children later in life – better educated, more mature, more settled, financially secure, more patient, done her thing and got it out of her system, etc….
A few years later the same woman, I can’t even remember her name, managed to sell another article by doing an about face and admitting she got it all wrong. Now the mother of a lively young child she felt she didn’t have the energy she once had, all her friends are starting to enjoy their second age of freedom while she is stuck at home, she has little in common with the mothers at the school gate, etc…
You’ve got to admire her cheek. She managed to make money out of first-hand experience on both sides of the argument.
My own experience seems to defy much of the folk wisdom on both sides. And of course being an older mother is never an isolated factor. In my case much of my experience is due to also being single and living in a different country to all my family. Other older mothers may have other older children, step children, health issues, older husbands, or ailing parents. The possibilities for a complicated lifestyle are endless. And they can apply to younger mothers just as well.
I didn’t choose to have my first child at the age of 46, it just happened. I actually chose to have about six children fathered by an extremely wealthy husband and all in my 20s. Would that becoming a mother were as easy as shopping for furniture.
I am more educated as I got my MA in my late 30s. I am more mature but probably don’t have the patience I once had for young children. I thought owning my own home would be more secure than renting – it is of course but you still have to make the mortgage payments every month and that’s a worry. I was financially secure until I gave birth, then the hours available for work shrunk by about half. As for having done my thing, I did a lot of things but actually I always shortened my horizons in favour of hanging around for Mr Right who never showed up.
On the other hand, although I am old enough to be the mother of some of the other parents at the nursery school, I don’t feel the generation gap and have made some terrific friends there. Most of them are actually only a few years younger than me, especially where the pre-schooler is their final child. I have fun with my daughter and am excited for her at every stage in her development, I imagine in the same way a young mother feels. We dance and romp, play in the park and build dens. We don’t sit down to afternoon tea with scones followed by a game of gin-rummy (although I do intend to introduce her to card games as soon as she’s old enough to count to 21).
My friends are indeed seeing their children grow up and flee the nest. They are once again able to go out (and stay out) without prior arrangement, go away for weekends and holidays. They have started reading again as they can stay in bed most of the weekend to do so. I am stuck at home because a) you can’t go out too often as the little one needs the security of her mother, and b) I can’t afford babysitters. I don’t mind because a) I have to put in extra hours of work in the evenings anyway when she’s asleep and b) I have discovered blogging and the virtual community that comes with it so I don’t actually feel alone or cut-off completely.
Some of my friends are depressed at the prospect of moving on to the next stage of life whilst others embrace it with the anticipation of an adventure. Some of them envy me, some of them look at what I have ahead and say, “thank God we’re done.”
The best advice I ever got was from my doctor who told me not to think about the details of being an older mother too much. “One thing I can tell you,” she said, “is that no one I know who has gone ahead with having a baby in untypical circumstances has ever regretted it so there’s no point in scaring yourself out of it.”
Motherhood is all I have ever wanted and I waited a long time for it. It wasn’t cheap and it wasn’t an easy journey. If I’d realised my dream earlier I wouldn’t have the daughter I eventually brought home. Am I a different mother to the mother I would have been in my 20s? Probably. Am I a better or worse mother because of my age? Absolutely not.