I used to say that things get better with age; certainly, I felt like I got better with age because I was more mature, more accomplished, had lived more of my life and seen what it has to offer, and was more aware of what really counts.
This was true until it came to having kids. I started my journey as a mom later in life – I was two weeks shy of 38 years old when my twins were born. Already, this put me in the “Advanced Maternal Age” category even before I left the gate. When I had my kids, I didn’t think anything of my older age because I tend to look and sometimes act younger – I was healthy and energetic, and in my mind, I rationalized that I was in a better position to be a mom because of all of the items I had listed above.
However, despite how I felt and what my outlook was, there were several truths that could not be avoided, simply because of a silly number.
I don’t always relate to other moms – moms who are in the same life stage as I am tend to have children who are already in their teens; moms that I met in mommy-groups or through my kids’ school tend to be a fair bit younger than I am. While I generally will talk to anyone and really like getting to know new people, invariably, it means that at some level, I don’t always relate to my mommy counterparts and do sometimes feel left out.
On a superficial level, I look worse than my counterparts – age is age. My face is worn, my hair is turning grey, and the biggest blow is that it’s difficult to lose weight. In the past year alone, I have put on over 15 lbs for no real reason (my doctor claims “stress” and “age”) – I eat better than I did 10 years ago, run almost 30 miles per week, and I PUT on weight??!! Although it’s superficial, it does feel a little unfair. I know that in a room full of moms of kids my children’s age, I look worse for the wear and I’m extremely self-conscious about it.
I worry about leaving my kids with no emotional legacy – a few weeks back, I posted this post about leaving a legacy. Statistically speaking, I and my husband are more likely to experience some sort of health crisis than younger parents. At 40, I was launched into the category of people who should be pre-screened for various illnesses (based on age), and EVERY single twinge or pain sends me into a massive internet search for reasons why I might be feeling that pain. The truth is that if/when I experience a health issue, my kids will be younger and less independent than they would’ve been had I started earlier, and I worry about the impact this will have on them.
I not only worry about my children; I worry about my parents – because I am older, my parents (and my hubby’s parents) are also older. I wrote this post a while back about aging parents and of being a member of the sandwich generation. In the back of my mind, while I am tending to my kids, I am always worrying about either set of parents because, let’s face it, they are not spring chickens.
I’ll be working until I’m 60 – I’ve committed to putting my children through college – this means that I’ll be working until I am about 60. 38 years old + 21 years old at time of college graduation = 59 (just a few months shy of 60) by the time I am financially free of tuition payments.
While I’m more confident and organized professionally, people don’t always empathize with my home situation – I’ve progressed to a level in my career that’s consistent with someone who has been in the work force for over 20 years. Most people in this category have children who are older and more independent than mine. While people are generally open-minded, they don’t always understand why I can’t, on a whim, be on a call before the kids go to school or until after they go to bed. I’ve gotten the (joking) “half day” comment or the tone of annoyance when I’ve had to timebox my working hours so that I can attend to my children.
I’m a “number” in a system full of statistics – I’d be willing to bet that aside from my weight, I’m healthier than I was 10 years ago. Yet, when I tried to increase my life insurance and health insurance benefits, the system defaulted to the year of birth as the hinging factor for coverage; labeling me as higher risk than I had been when I first took out the policies. This meant that obtaining the incremental coverage required me to pay more, limit the upside, and jump through hoops with a multitude of medical tests.
The simple truth is that if I had to do it again, I would have rewound the clock and targeted a half a decade earlier to start my family. Although the experience has been nothing but wonderful, the upsides of being older than most would have been about the same at 33 and 38, while the downsides of being 38 vs. 33 are significantly increased. This is what being an older mom looks like, and it is what the truth looks like.
This piece is part of a week-long CT Working Moms blog series.