Tag Archives: aging

8 Ways Parenting is Different When You’re Older

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.

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Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

 

8. More $$dollars$$. Now I can buy formula AND fix my teeth!

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Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

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.

 

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

There’s nothing that makes you feel younger or more on fire than when you’re trying to decide what to be when you grow up. Or, if you’re already grown up, what you want to do next. It’s just pure magic.  I’ve been having a blast these days trying to decide what my next career will be – trying things on for size, without being wed to one single idea.

In my world, I love to deconstruct and reconstruct. I’ll never get tired of re-inventing myself – my only regret is that there are only so many times that I can do that throughout my life. When I was younger, re-inventing myself meant selling everything I had and taking my kids and moving across the country. I’d get tired in one place, or irritated with what I’d built, and to solve the situation, I’d move. Moving was my panacea. Now, I’m older and wiser. Running is not an option. Reinventing myself these days means a refinement, not a reconstruction.  To take parts of myself that aren’t working, or – more often – have just run the course, and re-imagining them.

I left a ten-year career one month ago. I did so for two reasons. First, I did it because Steph and I worked so hard to have these boys, and damned if I’m going to miss all the good stuff.

The second reason I left my career is because I wanted to do something new. I was terrified of time marching on, and finding that I was 50 – unhappy and unfulfilled. I wanted that fresh feeling you have when you’re 17, and browsing all of the college catalogs, looking at the majors, and trying to decide where you will go, and what you will be. Everything is up for grabs – nothing is out of reach.

When I went to Barnard back in the early nineties, we didn’t sign up for classes online. That was FAR too modern. We used what was called the “Pencil Book”. It was called that because you would circle all the classes you were interested in – classes like Major American Authors II, or Theorizing Women’s Activism, or <insert what makes you swoon here>.

I would spend HOURS AND HOURS devouring the pencil book. Broke and lonely in New York City, I would circle and re-circle classes that I wanted to take – subjects I wanted to explore, and possibly become an expert in. I dreamed of a huge life, filled with adventure, deep thoughts and meaning.

It’s weird to think that I’m already 40 now. That the choices I’ve made have kept some doors open, and closed others, forever. I have to be honest and say that I rather liked being 17 and having all the doors open!

But….the beauty of being older is that you’ve determined which doors don’t serve you. The ones that do matter start shining brighter and brighter. Your job is to discern. To figure out which are most important to you. To decide which doors – if left unopened at the end of your life – you will regret. Everything else is just fluff.FairyTaleQuote

Over the upcoming months, then, I’ll have to stay focused on what’s most important. To understand that when considering all the things I can be when I grow up, the “no’s” that I give are even more important than the “yesses”, especially at my age. If I don’t say no liberally, my plate will be full to overflowing, but with the wrong things.

Who knows what I’ll be when I grow up – I’m not sure anymore that there’s one *right* answer. But, as I try things on for size over the upcoming months, I’ll pretend that it’s my Barnard Pencil Book, and see which things make me feel most alive.

 

 

On turning 40 – A video for my future self

I’m sitting here in a hotel room in Chicago on my last night being a 30-something. Tomorrow, I’ll be 40. I’ll be honest, it kind of makes me choked up. But in a good way. Here’s me, looking not a day over 39  after a visit to the fake nail and eyelash booth at the expo.

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JIMENY, that is one giant picture of my face and I certainly did NOT airbrush any blemish or pore.

 

From now on, when I worry about what other people think or being judged, I’ll just remind myself, “Hey! You’re in your 40’s. You’re not supposed to worry about other people’s opinions! Fuck off!”

When I worry about my derriere being an inch closer to the ground, I’ll just think “Hey, Heather! You’re a 40-something! It’s ok for your body to change, and soften. It gets tiresome being so hot all the time. It’s time to live on the down-low, out of the spotlight.”

When I worry about not being able to take the fabulous European vacation because I up and quit my career at age 39, I’ll remind myself “Hey, woman, you’ve had times in your life where you’ve been fortunate and times when you’ve had nothing at all. Stuff will come and go. It’s your family that counts.”

So, I took the liberty of recording a very rough video for my future self. I figured a video  – taken at the end of a long day, with red eyes and frizzy hair – was a good way to capture myself as I entered my 40’s.

Here’s my little video. Happy 40’s to me!

PS. WTF YouTube. It’s like you demonically look for the most unattractive still to showcase. Whatev. I’m (almost) 40 now. Whodahell cares!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKY6FpHVnUQ&feature=youtu.be