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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.

    17 Comments »

    1. Sara S says:

      Well said! As a mom who had kids in her mid twenties and then was surprised years later, I would agree with everything you said. There are definitely pros and cons for younger moms and older moms but the shorter time spent with your kids is the biggest con.

      July 20th, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    2. Roxanne says:

      As always, your honesty is what hits home. Wanting more time. . .I want more time, and I had mine at 29 and 32. And I know that means I have more time to spend with them, but it won’t ever, ever be enough. I often tell my children that God picked them out just for me. . .my own mother recently told my husband that she lost two trying to have me. . .that she didn’t get to keep them because they weren’t me. I’m not really quite sure how all of that lines up theologically or even regularlogically, but I do know this. Twenty more years could not make you love him more and twenty fewer years could not make you love him less. When the time comes for him to do what you and AD are doing for your parents right now, he will do it with sadness over losing you, but with joy for the ability to care for those who gave him life. You know I’ve been reading this since about the time you asked AD if he’d been dumping cans of corn in your washing machine, and your sweet boy was already an old soul then. He needed JUST the right set of parents, and y’all needed JUST the right boy. How our heavenly Father knows what He is about. I will turn 44 in about ten days. My creaky knees, bulging disks, graying hair, and other unmentionable ailments salute you and your bravery in tackling first time motherhood at this stage, but more than that, I thank you for sharing your heart and your wisdom.

      July 21st, 2013 at 1:22 am

    3. Iota says:

      Thank you for sharing this.

      Who knows, though? My guess is that if you’d had Sean at 24, you’d have been full of the youthful belief that you could do everything. You’d have spent your young energy on holding down a job, maybe even A CAREER, while being a mom. You’d have whizzed about, travelling perhaps, dragging Sean around the country to visit with family or friends. You’d have missed out on so much… In those 20 years, you learned to take the slow road, and savor the view.

      Is my guess.

      (Which isn’t at all to criticize young moms, working moms, travelling moms… just wanted to add that…)

      But thank you for your honesty in this post.

      July 21st, 2013 at 1:54 am

    4. Amy Sue Nathan says:

      Every kind of motherhood has its issues.

      July 21st, 2013 at 8:22 am

    5. Julie says:

      I had my first at 21 and second at 39. The Dad and I like to joke that we’ve had three only children. I’m not sure which age is “better.” I guess it depends on perspective. I think I enjoy my second son more than I did the first (maybe enjoy isn’t the right word?) but his presence definitely put the cabosh on the career plans I was pursuing when he was born. “Early” and “late” motherhood each present a set of challenges, and neither is any easier, I suppose. I too wonder and worry about leaving this world earlier than Eric might be able to cope and make his way. I hope I stick around, but the guarantee of time is a luxury we don’t get at our age (I’m a couple of years younger than you and Eric is 7, or “almost 8″ as he’s fond of telling anyone who asks.)

      July 21st, 2013 at 9:06 am

    6. Jake's a Girl says:

      Ooh! I agree with Iota.

      This a your/AD and Sean’s time. And the Lord is always right on time.
      And you know what? I bet you already knew that.

      I think no matter the age, all parents have the same fears.

      I know what your saying though about Sean dealing with older parents as well as being an only child. I feel the same way with our son being an only child. He won’t have any siblings to help make the hard decisions. I’m so praying that we will still be of sound mind and body to make the hard decisions for him before he has to. That way I get to pick my nursing home.

      July 21st, 2013 at 9:46 am

    7. Dawn @ My Home Sweet Home says:

      I’ve hit both ends of this and everything in between. I had our oldest when I was twenty and the youngest when I was 39. I loved having a young mother (she was 20 when she had me) and some days I feel a little burned out (don’t we all?). My mother was an empty nester and a grandmother at my age and I still have 6 kids at home. My youngest ones are so precious. I hope they handle the teen years with grace and have some pity on us older parents. :)

      ***
      I know several women my age who have a child Sean’s age but also have children 8-10 years older, which I thought was kind of nice because, hello? built-in baby sitter. And all those issues that worry me about leaving Sean behind with no family, it would give some peace of mind knowing there were older sibs to step in. None of that guarantees anything I know.

      July 21st, 2013 at 10:39 am

    8. Cathie says:

      I had my first child when I was very young, and I had my youngest when I was 43. He is technically an only child, but I am thankful that he has older siblings. We are doing our best to stay healthy so that we will see him to adulthood, and hopefully see his children some day. You are right, this aspect of older parenthood is definitely the “con.” However, I can tell you that I am ABSOLUTELY a much better mother to him than I was to his siblings. He has 2 mature parents who love God, love each other, and are completely devoted. At this ripe age, we’ve got some things figured out that just come from experience. I think my Gabe is a very lucky boy, and I think Sean is a very lucky boy.

      July 22nd, 2013 at 7:00 am

    9. Luc says:

      As some have said already this was the right time for you.The huge challenges you’ve had to endure to even get to the point that you’d exhausted all avenues to have a child is powerful enough. But then to become pregnant AFTER all that is other-worldly for sure. The experiences, wisdom, humor and even your pain was all used in that you are now a very grateful and graceful parent, not to mention an insightful and funny writer to boot! Just think of the depth your son will glean from all of this….priceless!

      July 22nd, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    10. Pennie says:

      I had my first child at 16, then 18, then 20. I was exhausted all the time, single mom most of the time and wished I had waited at least until age 25 to start. Then, to make a long story very short, my then hubby and I moved to Mexico, became missionaries to what else? : Children! We usually had 12 – 30 at a time and we were in heaven. We adopted our little baby there. She is 19 now and she has to live elsewhere because I am too ill to finish this job. I’ll never be disappointed about any of my children, step-children or grand and great grandchildren. God had a plan for me to be a mom to over 350 children for longer and shorter periods of their lives. My 72 year old sister now has 3 adopted children ages 4,7 an 16.

      July 23rd, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    11. Mary says:

      Thank you for your honesty; I agree 100% with everything you have written.

      While we are thrilled to have been blessed with two wonderful children, we wish we had pursued help for our fertility issues earlier. We are now 55 and had our two children at 36 and 40. At 40 it was physically very hard for me to be pregnant. We would have liked another child but I was not up for it after number two. As others have said, there are some advantages to being older but, in my opinion, there is one huge disadvantage and that is the “math.” At 55 years old, I still have my mother, who is in good health at 78. When our youngest child is 55, we will either be 95 and maybe not in the best of health, or we won’t be here. However, this is our situation and we make the best of it. We try to stay healthy, we try to look young(er) (we do NOT want to be mistaken for their Grandparents!), we are very involved with our kids, and we trust God’s plan.

      Blessings to you and your family!

      July 24th, 2013 at 5:00 am

    12. Antique Mommy says:

      I’m not writing here about whether God’s plan is perfect for me, of course it is. My concern is that in the past decade or so late-in-life motherhood has become glamorized by the media as a better “choice” without talking about the not-ideal aspects. These stories about celebs focus on how its great for mom ( she can have it all) with no mention of downside potential for child.

      July 24th, 2013 at 7:59 am

    13. Debbie Moore says:

      I couldn’t agree more. It saddens me that I don’t always have the stamina needed to parent a teenager. It is not fair to my daughter.

      July 24th, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    14. Sherry says:

      Love this blog. I can relate so well. Basically, I’ve hit both ends of the mom spectrum with my first born when I was 19 and my youngest when I was not quite 39. I feel as if I’ve been with my first son my entire life and am really just getting to know this little guy. My goal has always been to stay healthy and active for him, and now at 49 myself I feel like I have a better grasp at parenting and have more time for him too. Thanks!

      August 20th, 2013 at 6:35 am

    15. Kristin says:

      If lifespan has become a primary focus, then you are living in an extremely fortunate time! As more and more people are learning about the health benefits of a raw food lifestyle, the social conditioning around what is considered natural aging is really just the result of decade upon decade of an acidic diet. There are 70+ spokespeople out there like Annette Larkins and Mimi Kirk who are living examples of feeling alive and vibrant at any age by making this simple switch to organic natural foods/juicing. The body acclimates immediately once it starts receiving more alkaline foods as the regeneration process gets ignited. Age chronology is a thing of the past, just as counting calories is.

      It’s a new, healthy era! I wish you many more years with your son.

      August 23rd, 2013 at 9:02 am

    16. Mindy says:

      You are so wise. I’m so thankful I found your blog years ago. Yes, children late in life are a blessing. I am 50 and have a 12 year old daughter who’s much younger than her five siblings. I call her “My Joy in My Old Age.” We have a great relationship and she’s a huge blessing, but just like you confessed, she never knew the younger, energetic me. But, a mother would rather have kids when they’re old and tired than not have them at all. Keep writing. You speak from the heart.

      October 25th, 2014 at 9:21 am

    17. Lori McD says:

      I fully agree with everything you’ve written! I had my children at 40 & 44. While it certainly is better late than never, I always think about the years my children WON’T have with me. I lost my Mom at 37. It’s hard to be without your Mom. Luckily, my husband is 7 years younger. But I will say this…unlike younger moms, I do know go treasure every moment. I have already learned from personal experience that time is a thief! I know you know that and have to keep things succinct and readable. I just wanted to say that I’m right with you. Have them young if you can. It’s the natural order of things! Do I regret being an older mother?Never. Do I wish for more years with my kids? Every single day.

      October 25th, 2014 at 12:49 pm

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