When I (become a midlife mother), I tell ya,’ I can’t get no respect –Rodney Dangerfield
I am 56 years old. I’m the mother of a 9 and 11 year old, and stepmother to 28 and 30 year olds who I’ve raised (1/2 time) since childhood. I am also a new older parent – a Midlife Mother. Nearly every day, I feel the sting of what comic Rodney Dangerfield said in his routines, “……I can’t get no respect.” I did not ever expect to have this experience, especially ten years ago, when holding our youngest daughter in Russia …
Although it came as a shock to me that I had not previously become pregnant, on that cold winter’s night nearly 9,000 miles from home, I finally felt my life begin. My age was a (small) nagging problem, but at that moment I was filled with pride, joy and the fullness of starting a new family. I could see nothing but rosy times.
I had long ignored the biological clock theory thinking that it was mere hyperbole. I always looked, felt and acted much younger than my age. I had no reason to believe that in pursuing motherhood much would change in our successful and social lives, except that everyone we knew could now embrace first one, and then two additions to our wonderful family.
Arriving home, we expected the rest of the world to share our joy. However, the reactions were puzzling — jealousy, disbelief and confusion. We were middle-aged, had launched my two stepchildren into adulthood, and had finally achieved time to ourselves. Although our decision to have our own family seemed perfectly logical to us, the rest of the world seemed not to agree. The questions persisted: Why would we do this? Why had we done this?
Everywhere I now went, I felt out of sync. At daycare centers, and later at public school, the vast majority of mothers were nearly ten to twenty years younger than me. And, as women/mothers of my generation were now sending their children off to college, experiencing “empty nest syndrome” and a reinvention and reexamination of life – borne by hormonal shifts and aging/dying parents – I was struggling with these same shifts, while staying up through the night with sick and/or cranky babies and tending to the chaos of what children’s youngest years often bring.
I share this to provide a window into our world – the world of new older parenting. I share this because as I sometimes sit on the outside of the swirl of motherhood, I long to be on the inside. Like the kid in elementary school who is chosen last to be on the gym-team, many of us have wanted inclusion and support when we’ve felt no open door. The judgments abound; the critiquing is clear. But, none of us chose this path to be “selfish,” we just wanted to become mothers.
Our society is reinventing the family model stepping into the 21st century. We are doing so by making life choices which may not “fit” into what others think we should do, but by doing what we feel compelled to do, at whatever age feels right.
I write this to give kudos to the Campaign for Judgment-Free Motherhood.
In a world which engenders divisiveness at every twist and turn, I believe it to be fundamentally necessary for us to find solidarity both as women, and as mothers. Criticism, comparison and constant review only serve to alienate, and create separation and hierarchy. As women, we deserve better; as mothers we deserve to extend the same amount of love, support, inspiration and encouragement that we give our children, to each other. And… without judgment.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post in honor of our upcoming Moms for Moms Day. Join CT Working Moms & The Bump for Moms for Moms Day on March 4th. It’s a (mostly) virtual day to promote judgement-free motherhood. Get all the details here.