Middle-aged motherhood – the pros and the cons

I have for several years suspected it, and only recently confirmed it: I am middle-aged. This is a somewhat fluid term used to define the midpoint(ish) period of a person’s life based on life expectancy. I am 41 years old, and my alarming trend of being a 40-something shows no sign of reversing or even slowing. And since the average life expectancy of a female these days is 81 years, that would make me … middle-aged.

This is not to say that I usually feel middle-aged. My skin is still as oily as it was the day I turned thirteen. Despite the fine lines that are settling in around my eyes, I have a baby face that will ensure that I will be ID’d for every bottle of wine I will ever buy for the rest of my life. I have yet to find a gray hair on any part of my body.

I also don’t feel middle-aged because I have tiny children. The conventional wisdom goes that old ladies don’t have little children.

The day I brought my son home from the hospital, I turned 34. At that age, I was exactly twice the age my mother was when she had me. I’ve experienced motherhood as a, ah…mature adult, and I’ve experienced being raised by a teenager.

I think I’ve put my finger on the pros and cons of my situation…

Cons:

1. I’m tired. Oh, so tired. In my early thirties, I found that caffeine consumed after my morning coffee made me jittery and caused my heart to do funny things. I swore off afternoon caffeine for years. Until now. On the days that I am home with my children, I make an extra cup of coffee in the morning and set it aside for such time as when I sit and literally can’t … get … up, because I have hit…the…wall.  And you know what? There are no more jitters following mid-day coffee, and no cardiac acrobatics. My body grudgingly accepts the dose of energy as an essential part of getting through the day.

2. By the time I get to do things again, I’ll be really old. Facebook, that yardstick with which I often smack myself around, gives me a window into the lives of my friends and acquaintances who had children right out of the gate. Date nights, trips to Europe, intimate dinners – these are all a regular features in their lives now, and are rubbed in my face as I gaze dumbly at my computer screen over my warmed-over cup of afternoon coffee.

3. I’ll die soon. Okay, when I say soon, I mean sooner than a twenty-something who right now has small children might die if we both reach average life expectancy. She gets to spend about sixty years with her children, while I only get to spend about fifty with mine. To try to beat these numbers, I have been paying strict attention to my diet for several years, and have started torturing my body at the gym for the last several months. I’ll outlive that smug twenty-something if it kills me.

Pros:

1.  I’m only a little bit broke. I used to be a lot broke. We had established careers long before ever having our first child. I grew up with a struggling mother who was trying to finish her education and build a career while raising a child. Life was stressful for her, which pretty much meant that life was stressful for me too.  I’ve seen some people in my family struggle as young parents as well.  My struggle – and it was an epic one – took place before the children arrived.

2.  I’ve already lived my life for me. Now I can live it for them. I finished college, went to parties, dated around, drank lots of wine, stayed up late, slept in, got a head start on a career, and had weekends away with my husband.  I’ll never wonder what those things are like because I got to live a fairly full life before the children arrived.  I have much more that I want to do, but for now, I am satisfied.

3.  I’m much nicer than I used to be.  When I was younger, I could be a little tyrant in my relationships.  I don’t like to admit that, but it’s true.  A lot of my loved ones were on the receiving end of my raised eyebrow or disapproving little glances.  Over time, I’ve mellowed considerably and am evolving into the person I had always hoped to be.  This is a much better time in my life for me to be in charge of sweet, noisy children.  My home is a hotspot of clamorous chaos and activity with which I rarely disapprove, because I am kinder, I am wiser, and I am tired.  Oh, so tired.

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About Joyce

40-year-old university advisor, 10-years married with two small children, trying to do it all and have it all and still manage the occasional social interaction through the wonderful world of blogging.
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24 Responses to Middle-aged motherhood – the pros and the cons

  1. When I read the title I was like, I think I will be able to relate to this and in some way I can, I have no gray yet, I’m a freckle face so it helps my look more youthful, I have a pimple on my chin right now as a matter of fact. Although I wasn’t a teen when I had my kids, I was under 30 with all three and so we were broke, we struggled and I never did go to college, we even say sometimes although with no regrets, maybe we should have waited just a little bit before we started this family thing. I think both ways really do have their pros and cons for sure. We just embrace the hands we were dealt and that’s the interesting part. As Tim Gunn says “make it work”

    • Joyce says:

      Yep, pimple on my forehead, right here!

      Absolutely, make it work! I am satisfied with how everything has worked out in my life, but I can’t help but have a tiny bit of envy for people who did it the way you did – we are about the same age, but you are gaining more freedom. You’re only a few years off from that trip to Europe, or wherever it is that you wish to go. I’ve got a little while longer. At the same time, I don’t want to wish this time away…I’ll never get these precious years back.

  2. I’ve thought about my age relative to my children and when my mother had children as well. Both my wife and I were in our mid 30’s when our first kid was born. We were older parents by some standards.
    I’ve also thought about what kind of shape I will be in when the kids move on. I hope my wife and I be able to enjoy a very active life.

  3. Sofia says:

    Thanks for your sincere thoughts. I’m in my mid 30s and still have not been able to get around to having kids, though we want to. Living in Spain with this awful economy, even when you have a brilliant career that you’ve worked so hard for, you can still be in the situation of struggling. We are working on the end of our personal economic struggle and to have children. Then I hope when I’m 41, I’ll be able to make the same reflections you have made here. Enjoy these sweet moments while you are there. xxx

    • Joyce says:

      Oh Sofia, I hope so too! We were married almost five years before we had our first child. My husband went through several layoffs and so forth. Times were so hard for us. I think there is something to be said for planning. People used to ask me when we were going to have children and I would tell them that I was waiting until the time was right, and they would tell me the time was never right, so I should just have them! And I would think “Um, no, my husband just started working again and we have like $20 in our checking account…what are you thinking?” I’m sure you get the same inquiries as well, but you know your situation better than anyone. You are smart to prioritize right now.

      • Sofia says:

        You’re right, people do ask. And they also say there is never the right moment. The fact that in the last few years both of us have gone through layoffs too (but then I’m sure 90% of the Spanish population too). Now we’re only beginning to get back on track. but not there yet. I’ll keep you posted :)

  4. jojoka1963 says:

    Eek, now I feel ancient! I was 47 when I had my third child.
    I am grey, more rounded (as in weight not as a person, although yes, probably that too), more tired, but somehow thought it would be a doddle raising another child! Ideas of touring the world now swapped for Butlins or Center Parcs!
    Swap any of it? Nah.

  5. Sometimes I think you and I are long lost sisters or at least sharing the same brain! I’ve done the pros and cons in my head so many times as an “older” mom. I once made a BIG faux pas. My husband got us a babysitter. She was someone he worked with. I had never met her and didn’t know anything about her. When she babysat she brought her 7 year old son with her. When we got back from our date which was really early and she commented on I said something along the lines of “no one should knock young girls getting pregnant, at least they can keep up with their kids better than I can and probably stay out a whole lot later.” My husband told me after that she had her first kid at 16. She never babysat again and I think it’s because she thought I was directing the comment at her but I had no idea how old she was. I honestly don’t care what age you have a child there is always going to be some serious pros and cons!! I’m dying to know what your epic struggle was…I’ve had a few of my own! Wouldn’t it just be grand if we could meet for coffee??!!

    • Joyce says:

      I think so too- I would love to have coffee with you! We are definitely two peas in a pod. We definitely suffer from the same foot-in-mouth disease :0 I’ve made many innocent comments like that and embarassed myself to no end.

      My epic struggle were many small and several very large issues that all popped up over several years … if I list them in great detail my life would read like a Shakespearean tragedy, but they include firings, car accidents, totaled cars, lay-offs, and a house fire! It didn’t feel like we ever got a break.

  6. I was 25 when Prodigal was born 25 years ago. By the time Skater came along I was 33. It is hard to believe that my baby will be 18 in a matter of weeks. The other 3 have all gone off on their own paths through life. I can now do all the things I only dreampt of while they were growing up. But now my body is beginning to feel the effects of a relatively inactive life. I am also tired but when I look back I think I have always been tired.
    Would I turn the clock back and do it differently?
    The only thing I would change is who I had my 4 children with.

    • Joyce says:

      I have really been feeling my stamina leave me lately. I want to keep going, but my body will not cooperate. I’m trying to work on my energy level.

      I have read some of what you have written about your ex. Clearly he is not your favoriter person. But when you think about it, if you go back and change one thing, it changes everything. At least that’s what I tell myself so that I don’t become mired in regrets!

      I hope you are well~

  7. I’m already oh so tired at 34. I’m in trouble!

  8. I have nominated you for an award over at mine:)

  9. Valerie says:

    I think your Facebook “con” is true for a great many people, and a reason so many have decided to “quit” FB. I may not love the fact that we don’t travel, but I’m content until I see and hear about others doing it…

    • Joyce says:

      On Facebook a lot of my friends have beautiful houses also. And tons and tons of friends. And fun outings. But then I wonder how much of it is really real. A lot of times people just post the good stuff.

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