I was 18 when I had my first baby – almost 40 when I had the twins. A lot has changed since I did it all the first time around. Food comes in pouches now, cloth diapers have made a mad comeback, and there are all sorts of wonderful inventions that make it easier to have an infant. I’m a fan. As my grandmother likes to tell me – don’t let anyone lie to you about the “good old days”. Everything was harder back then. It was HARD raising babies.
But accoutrements are not the only thing different this time around. The biggest difference is me. Parenting when you’re 18 is a wild ride. In some respects, it was easier. I honestly didn’t know any better. I remember distinctly when I found out my first year at Barnard College that I was pregnant with my second child. Ophelia was 10 months old. “Whatever,” I told their dad dismissively while on the pay phone. “Two can’t be that much harder than one.” Ignorance definitely got me through that time.
Just how different is it being a mom at 40? Here’s my two cents.
1. First, let’s start with the obvious. You’re no longer the “young hip mom”. And if you try to be hip, you end up like this. No words. I can not.
2. You get tired more easily. We actually weathered the twins first year pretty well. We were tired, but I don’t ever remember being exhausted. That may because I now have brain damage from sleep deprivation, but hey. They were easy babies.
3. Your body doesn’t jump back. Honestly, it kind of just sits there – all obstinate. When I was 18, I popped right back up. Now that I’m 40, I’ve got these changes that just make me raise my eyebrows. You know how women will hoist their boobs in, and then UP? You know – bend and snap? Yeah, well that’s what needs to happen to my butt. There’s some serious spread going on there. Sigh. WTF? In and up, ‘tocks. Get with the program.
4. You have a strong sense of your mortality. I was 38 when my first two children were adults! Now, I’ll be 60 when the boys are grown. That’s retirement age! Having a child with special needs makes you particularly thoughtful when you’re older. August will likely never live alone. When he’s 40, I’ll be 80. His life expectancy is 65. That would make me 105 – ain’t gonna happen. These are the things I think about.
5. Parenting is the journey and the destination. When I was young, I was on fire. I went through wanting to become an architect, doing child abuse research, becoming a famous young writer, getting my Ph.D in spiritual ecology (I’ve got my acceptance letter for that one!), becoming a neurologist, moving to DC and studying American Relations. I could go on and on. God that was exhilarating. The whole world was there for you to craft. Today, I still have tons of interests and I’m still driven, but my family is my crowning piece of art. When you’re older, it becomes more about your relationships and less about what you’ll accomplish. Your family is your accomplishment.
6. You become a worry wart. I thought I would be an old hat this time around. I’m an experienced mom – I’ve successfully raised two children. Not so fast. I have this sense of dread and anxiety that often follows me around that I have to get bossy with to make it go away. I worry about accidents constantly. I think it’s because when you’re older, you don’t take for granted that things will be okay. Because sometimes, they’re not.
7. An intolerance for drama. Now that I’m older, I’m able to brush things off more and focus on what’s most important. Because I. do.not.have.time.for.petty. I’m able to quickly rid myself of drama and crazy.
8. More $$dollars$$. Now I can buy formula AND fix my teeth!
Being older can mean you don’t struggle as much with money. Raising babies when I was 18 was some crazy shit. It was Maslow’s Hierarchy all the way. Thank God for paper food stamps and WIC government cheese! You can raise happy healthy children on very little money, but it sure is easier when you’re stable.
And there you have it. 8 ways parenting is different when you’re older. Now, I’ve got to go downstairs and do some squats and give my butt a talking to.