My 24-year-old client said to me the other day that she hopes her new relationship works out; she doesn’t want to wind up being one of those “old moms.” What’s an old mom to you?, I asked. “28,” she said.
I had my daughter when I was nine years older than that (go ahead, you can do the math.) And mostly, I’m comfortable with that. I was certainly nowhere near ready at 24, or even at 28. But sometimes…
Like the other day, I’m at the park, and I see this young mom (25, at the oldest) pushing her kid on the swing. And I am actually sidelined with a knee injury, watching my husband (an old dad) pushing my daughter. Where I’m usually fine with my life choices, my client’s comment came back to me, with force.
I’ll make this disclaimer: The knee injury was from hiking (I slid on a muddy path). But I can’t help wondering if I were ten years younger, would I have had better reflexes? Maybe I wouldn’t have slipped at all. I probably would have healed faster.
The thing about being a young mom is that you might not have accumulated as much self-knowledge, or have the same patience; but when you’re an old mom, you’ve got to think about things like how your energy level and your body’s going to hold up. Will I be able to keep up with my daughter? Will I, physically, get to be the mom I want to be?
Then, of course, there’s the societal perception. It’s vain, I’ll admit, but I don’t want people looking at me and thinking I’m an old mom, though I’m well aware I’m not a young one.
But what does it really say about us, the decision to have our kids older or younger? It might say that we found the right partner, sooner (or later.) It might be about economics, or our peer groups, or our culture, or our family’s expectations. It might say we had a certain amount of maturing to do, or a lot of things we wanted to achieve before procreating. It might say we were careless, or didn’t have access to birth control. It might say we had fertility issues.
The truth is, we don’t know what story is being told when we see an old mom or a young one. What I do know is that men don’t often struggle with the same insecurities in this department.
I have a friend who was dating a 40-year-old man, and she asked about whether he wanted to have kids. “Oh, sure,” he said. “Not immediately, but in the next couple of years. I don’t want to be one of those old dads.”
By his calculation, then, he could have a child when he was 42 (at the earliest), and still be–what?
I think I’m whatever he imagines himself to be: somewhere between old and young, somewhere between inexperienced and wise. I suppose that’s what most of us feel. When we’re young, we never feel it, and my mother and her friends (at 70), say they still feel the same as they ever did.
So how to define myself? Timeless.
Mother and baby photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 20 Apr 2013