By Beth Jones, MEd, ATC, LMT, CPT-RES, CHC
Geriatric. It’s a word that I didn’t expect to have associated with me for many more decades, but about 10 years ago I heard it for the first time. “You’re a ‘Geriatric Primigravidae”, the midwife told me. Basically I was a first-time mom over the age of 35 and was being told that there were some special considerations for my pregnancy.
Luckily the birth center and midwives who helped me through that first pregnancy weren’t into classifying me as high risk, and I was able to have normal pregnancy without the many tests, and an unmedicated birth at the birth center. Two and a half years later at the age of 39, I enjoyed the homebirth of my daughter. All were fine and normal. My babies were healthy. At the time, that was all I cared about.
Shortly after my son was born I realized that I was in a class of moms who were different from those around me. I was older with young kids, a self-proclaimed “midlife mom”, and the path of motherhood that we travel is a bit different than those of women who had their kids in their 20s and early 30s. Not better or worse, but different.
At first it was hard. Most of my friends had kids in middle and high school and had long said goodbye to the trials of infancy and toddlerhood. They were sympathetic, but were not a group who I could talk to about the struggles I was making transitioning to life as a mom. The women in mommy groups I attended never quite clicked with me. In the MOPS group I attended, I had more in common with the “Mentor Moms”, those who had older kids and were there to support the new moms, than I did with the main group. I was older, and frankly my personal style just didn’t gel with the other moms of littles in the group. I felt disconnected and alone, just when I was in such a vulnerable season of life. I didn’t have a mommy friend who understood the struggle I was having in shifting my identity and transitioning from a life I had lived for 35 years previous to where I was now.
By the time my son was born, I had acquired two Bachelor’s degrees, a Masters in Education, and had pursued at least two different career paths. I had worked for 15 years and had lived alone and independent for 13 of those. I had lived an entire life that many of the moms I met didn’t have experience in as they had often transitioned from college to marriage to motherhood. They were looking at getting their pre-baby bodies back, and I was juggling the emotional swing of both postpartum and perimenopause. They were back at their 6am gym class by 3 months postpartum and I was wondering if I would ever have another full night of sleep again!
Eventually I realized that I wasn’t alone. As my kids entered school I finally started to meet other moms my age. We all marveled that there were more of us. Where had we all been during the younger years, we wondered? I think many of us had retreated into hiding to figure out how to handle the mess of hormones and random bodily fluids we had become. As many of us were Gen X’ers, we’re pretty adept at figuring things out on our own. But man, was I glad to finally find my tribe and we all started chatting, it was clear that there are some major benefits to being a “midlife mom”.
- We’re more stable. Most of us have established careers, or our husbands do. The stress of adding kids to the mix wasn’t a financial stress as it may have been in my 20s and early 30s, when I was still getting started financially. Many of us own homes and are prepared to what it means for our budgets to expand our families.
- We’re experienced, intentional, and have more perspective. Personally, I had two Bachelor’s and a Masters degree before I had kids. I had explored a few different career paths, traveled internationally, and had the freedom to make dramatic life changes on a spur of the moment. By the time my kids came along, I was ready to settle down and be a mom. The experiences I had before they came along have given me a different perspective in their interests and education.
- We’re more chill. We may not always be the “cool” moms, but most of us are a bit more laid-back than some of the younger moms. We remember a childhood free to explore and play, and while we understand that our society has changed where our kids may not be able to have the same freedom, we are not hovering around waiting to save them for every possible negative outcome. Climbing a tree, jumping from swings, and getting in an argument with another child doesn’t stress us out as much.
- We’re more confident and less judgemental. We know that every person has to take their own journey and find their own path. As we hit midlife, we’ve been through the wringer and have finally come into our own. While we may look at other parents’ decisions with curiosity, we don’t tend to judge them quite as harshly as we may have when we were younger. Also, we are fairly confident in the decision we make for our kids. We’re OK with our kids not being into the same activities as their friends and classmates. My daughter has never wanted a big birthday party with friends. At one point in my life it would really stress me out, thinking about the socialization she was missing because of this preference, but honestly I’m OK with it now. I see that she still has friends, gets asked to parties, and wants smaller playdates and I understand that 100%.
- We have more patience. Well, some of us. This one was definitely a toss-up. For some, the journey to motherhood was preceded by years of infertility and treatments, and just waiting each month for those two pink lines. Some of us have just experienced a lot in life already. For example, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s shortly before my oldest was born. By the time my youngest came along, I was juggling potty-training my daughter and also helping my mom with toileting. Temper tantrums on both ends. Patience is something I’ve definitely acquired along the way. However, some of us feel like parenting is trying now that we’re older, that we don’t have as much as we did when we were younger. I definitely can see both sides. Personally, I do think most of us are very patient, but when we’re done, we’re done, and the eruption is usually not pleasant.
Being a midlife mom isn’t all chill and calm. We have difficulties that many of us would gladly trade with those moms younger than us. For one, most of us had to navigate not only the hormonal chaos of pregnancy and postpartum, but immediately shifted into perimenopause.
Which means most of us have been a hormonal mess since our pregnancies – which is why sometimes our patience runs thin. We are also the sandwich generation, caring for our young kids while simultaneously taking care of parents in their 70s and 80s. Because we have older parents, many of us don’t have some of the childcare options available to those who are in their 20s and 30s – our parents aren’t well enough to handle the kids alone. And for some of us, our we struggle to keep up with the energy that our younger mommy friends exude. I often read posts from younger friends of days full of crafts, work, fitness, and a home-cooked meal. I can do all of those, but everyday you’ll have one emotionally fried woman on your hands. Parenting is exhausting, and I think many midlife moms feel it a bit more (although many of us are pretty good at hiding that fact).
Would I change anything about my parenting journey? Nope. I can’t imagine having kids at any other point of my life. If I had my kids when I was younger, I wouldn’t be the woman who I am today. I am thrilled that the other midlife moms are starting to come out of hiding and connect. Personally, and of course there is a lot of bias here, I think we’re a pretty amazing group of women with a unique perspective on raising kids honed by watching our friends go through the parenting process before we set out on our own. Ideally, moms of all ages would come together and collectively share their parenting advice. Midlife moms could help counsel younger moms as the kids get older and they start looking at career options, and the younger moms can help the older moms to maintain their youthfulness and play – get us out of the house past 9pm on occasion. Just because we’re older and looking in the face of menopause, doesn’t mean we don’t know how to have some fun.
Beth hosts two communities where women can connect with her and also other women to find support, resources, and fun events – She Moves Social Club (www.shemovesathleticwellness.com) and Midlife Moms Adventure Club (www.midlifemomsadventureclub.com).