“Who’s your favourite boy band singer?”
I’m asked this recently while sitting at a table with a group of moms at a nearby drop-in play center. I contemplate my answer, making sure to keep an eye on my two-year-old son who is running around, clutching a plastic farm animal, clearly enjoying our weekly visit.
Jonathan Knight from the New Kids on the Block, I decide silently.
“AJ, for sure”, one mom blurts out.
“No way,” another one pipes in. “Nick Carter, he was definitely the cutest.”
They laugh. I laugh too. I keep my answer to myself. They are talking about the Backstreet Boys and I’m about a decade past that.
Just the week before, I listened while a few moms reminisced about how they spent their childhood Friday nights watching 90s classics like Full House and Family Matters. Already a teenager by then, I was too old for such family sitcoms, having moved on from boy-bands, hulled up in my room contemplating life and listening to Pearl Jam and Nirvana.
I gave birth to my first child at the age of 37 and my second the day after I turned 40. I am an ‘older’ mom.
It’s not the way my husband and I planned it, but that’s the way it worked out.
The truth about being an older mom is that sometimes I’m out of step with my peer group. While friends and siblings my own age are immersed in a haze of hockey practices and dance classes, I’m busy googling potty training or packing knapsacks full of diapers, sippy-cups and goldfish crackers. They shudder in horror when I mention that my toddler still wakes at night. “I don’t miss that!” they tell me.
Conversations with friends who are just a few years older focus on lippy teenagers and rising university costs. They complain about irregular cycles and peri-menopause while I’m researching daycares and dealing with the remnants of postpartum body changes. It’s sometimes an odd dichotomy to balance.
The other truth about being an older mom is that it has turned out to be one of my life’s biggest blessings. I spent my twenties and most of my thirties doing what I wanted; establishing my career, traveling, and spending quality time nurturing my relationship with my husband. I am, without a doubt, more patient, less selfish and a lot wiser than I was a decade ago. The long journey to have my children, although challenging, also helped to shape my perspective on parenting. No matter how or when your children come to you, they are a gift to be cherished.
I experience moments of hearing “Do you know how old you’ll be when your kids are teenagers?” that are balanced with “You’re so patient with him. I don’t know how you do it.”
The butt-wiping, car-seat strapping and night-time rocking I do during mid-life motherhood is also balanced by the fact that I was able to take a long hiatus from my teaching career to enjoy things like walking my four year-old son to school and volunteering on his class trips. An opportunity I may not have had when I was younger.
It makes perfect sense to have your children sooner than later, as a woman’s fertility is time-sensitive. But for some, when you have your children is not a choice. And for others, it’s exactly that — a well thought-out decision. One that may involve finishing school, establishing a career, or finding the right partner —all of which can better prepare them for one of the hardest jobs they’ll ever take on.
For me, the greatest gift of older first-time motherhood has been the ability to let go of timelines. So often we suffocate ourselves with time restraints, cut-off points and rules dictating at what age we should accomplish which milestones. These restrictions can lead to anxiety and feelings of failure when, in essence, each person’s path is unique.
Not too long ago, I ran into one of my former students at the grocery store. No longer a tween, she’s now a woman with a child of her own. We hugged in the middle of the baby section and she introduced me to her toddler, all smiles and legs dangling out of slots in the shopping cart.
“Is this cutie yours?” she asked, turning her attention to my cart and clasping my son’s hand.
Instead of focusing on the the fact that this woman, who was more than a decade younger than me and one who I once nurtured in some capacity, had a child the same age as mine, I simply smiled back at her. “He sure is.”
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.