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  • The Truth About Late-In-Life Motherhood

    July 20, 2013

    I recently got a request from a well known publication to write a short piece on older motherhood.  I have responded to enough of these kinds of requests in the past to know they aren’t really looking for illumination. They are looking for inflammation. They are looking to stir up women who have (for whatever reason) delayed motherhood against those who have not, which creates drama, which creates traffic. But not illumination.

    So I decided I would just skip all that and lay out the truth about older motherhood as I see it, right here.  It doesn’t mean what I’m saying is universally true, it just means this is how I see it based on my own experience and world view.

    You may be surprised to find that the truth about older motherhood, as I see it, is that it ain’t ideal.

    It’s a blessing.

    It’s sweet.

    I’m glad I didn’t miss out on it.

    Better late than never…

    But ideal it is not.

    I didn’t really choose to be a late-in-life mother, that’s just sort of how the chips fell for me.  If I had the chance to do it over again, and I had a choice in the matter, I would have started my family much much sooner — if for no other reason than I would have liked for Sean to have known me when I still looked like myself.  And given the benefit of time, I might have liked to have had another.

    The truth is that there are ups and down, pros and cons, no matter when you have children, whether at 24 or at 44 as I did.  But in hindsight, and as I look around, 24 seems a more ideal scenario than 44, if I am to be honest.

    Why?  Maybe because younger motherhood is more in keeping with the harmony of the universe.  Fertility belongs to the young, it always has, even though thanks to modern medicine we can now prop that window open longer.  All the same, having children younger rather than older increases the odds (although does not guarantee) that you will have healthy children, that you will live to see them grown and that you will get to enjoy grandchildren.  And obviously reaping the benefit of those odds is more ideal than not, and who doesn’t like better odds?

    But mostly what makes 24 more ideal than 44 is those extra 20 years of being a mom that you might get, that I won’t get.  There’s nothing I did from age 24 to 44 that I wouldn’t trade double to get more time with my kiddo, even on the worst of days.

    But it’s not even about what’s ideal for me right now.  It’s about what’s ideal later for Sean, when under the very best of circumstances, age will catch up with me.  Health issues are inevitable as we age, let’s not pretend otherwise.  And when Sean is a young man, when he is in that exciting season of getting his life started, he will be stuck dealing with the complicated issues that go along with aging parents (if we’re still around), issues that AD and I are just now having to address with our own parents.  That’s part of the less than ideal package of late-in-life parenthood that they never talk about.

    Motherhood.

    Better late than never, but in my view, better is not so late — better for both mother and child.

    Chore Charts, Eggs and Other Opportunities

    July 15, 2013

    The other day I was out of eggs, which as a person who adheres to a Paleo diet, is a crisis.

    So I said to Sean, “Hop on your bike and run to the store and get me some eggs.”

    “Yeah, right,” he said dryly.  And then we both slapped our knees and laughed heartily.

    It was funny because the thought that I would send him the half mile to the store and across a busy 4-lane road on his bike was ridiculous.

    It wasn’t ridiculous because he’s not capable, because he is — he is more than capable.  It’s not ridiculous that I would trust him to get the job done, because I am convinced he could.   It’s ridiculous because there is no way under the sun that I would let him go.  I have calculated the risk and it’s not one I’m willing to take.

    After I quit chuckling, I felt everything from resentment to heavy heartedness that I couldn’t provide him such an excellent opportunity to practice responsibility in so many different ways from navigating his way there and back to managing the money to figuring out how to get a dozen eggs home without breaking any.

    All throughout history, life has provided children with opportunities to practice being responsible.  They tended to the stove and garden and helped care for younger siblings. Boys learned to chop firewood and hunt and girls learned to wring the neck of a chicken and then clean, butcher and cook it up for dinner — all real life jobs that contributed to keeping the body and soul of the family together.

    As a Babyboomer, I of course didn’t do any of those things, but I did occasionally ride my bike to the store for a loaf of bread or something for my mom.

    And now we can’t even do that.

    Today we have to invent responsibility, like chore charts with stickers.  Not getting a sticker or losing iPad privileges is not exactly the same as being the person responsible for not having enough food on the table. (Not a slam against chore charts or those who choose to use them. I love chore charts!)

    I’m not saying we can’t raise responsible children in this day and age, I’m just thinking I’m going to have to be more creative in finding real life opportunities for practice.  Maybe the next time I’m out of eggs, I will drive to the store, drop him off with $5 and see what happens.

    If he comes out with candy then I’ll start raising chickens.

    From The Little Gym To The Big College

    July 9, 2013

    Today Sean and I are heading to a local community college so that he can take a math test which, if he passes, will allow him to do more challenging math type stuff this coming school year, which if my calculations are correct, is 4th grade.  (GULP!)

    The reason Sean is taking a math test at a college campus instead of an elementary school, where 4th grade is generally located, is because through a red-tape snafu accounting error — or his mom wasn’t on top of the calendar — we missed the deadline for the spring testing.  And so, because we, meaning me, missed the deadline, Sean now has to take a math test in a college testing center with college people who have beards and cars, of which he has neither.  And there is more good news!  Sean’s mother has to pay $100 to have the test proctored instead of $18.  If ever there is an opportunity to pay more money for something – sign me up!

    So as you can see, Sean not only has to be super smart at math, he has to develop a lot of other skills to offset the ineptitude of his mother.  But that will serve him well in life, because that’s pretty much how the world works.  So there’s that.

    As I’m getting ready for this big day, for some reason I’m thinking back on when Sean was like two, and I felt like I had to sign him up for activities, because all the other moms and kids did activities, and I desperately wanted to do this mothering thing right and all I really knew about mothering was that I didn’t know ANYthing about it and therefore I should see which fork the other moms used for salad and do that.  But the fact of the matter was this, all we both really wanted to do was stay home and play on the floor in the den and pretend and read books.

    So in an effort to do it right, I signed him up for a class at a little gym type place and I paid $100 or something ridiculous like that.  And every week I would take him, and he would not want to go, and I would not want to go, but I paid $100 dangit, so we went. And he would want to play with the water fountain, but he did not want to run under the parachute that was flapping up and down and he did not want to swing from the tiny little pull up bar.  And I would spend all my time trying to keep him out of the water fountain and redirecting him back to parachute (all for the low low price of $100!!). It was a great workout FOR ME.

    And I was sort of blind to the fact that we were different, Sean and I.  We were happy doing our own thing just the two of us and the little gym thing made us both a little cranky when we were supposed to be having an Instagram moment.

    So now I’m nine years into this gig, and once again, I’ve paid $100 for him to do something and at times in the past few weeks, I’ve had to push him to prepare for this test when he’d rather play on the iPad, and I’ve wondered if maybe this is one of those “little gym” scenarios.  Maybe he doesn’t want to run under the parachute, maybe it’s me who wants to run under the parachute.

    I don’t think so, I think he wants this.  But we’ll see.  I’ll be waiting outside the testing center.  Near the water fountain, just in case.