A day in the life of an older(ish) mom

A day in the life of an older(ish) mom

It was one of those sweet moments of childhood: my 5-year-old was giving me a Mommy makeover.

I sat in our living room “spa” while she brushed my hair, applied pretend lipstick and handed me some plastic jewels to wear. She stepped back to review her work, and smiled.

“You’re so pretty,” she said, as my heart melted.

Then she tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and asked, with those big innocent eyes, “Do you like the gray to show or do you want to hide it?”

Pffft. The sound of my happy bubble popping.

Just another day in the life of an older-ish mom.

This column is for those of us who have had children later in life. Let’s say 35-plus.

The average age of American women having their first child reached a record high of 26.3 years old in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics Report. While most babies are born to women under 35, more women are waiting until their 30s and 40s to start having kids and fewer women are having their first kids in their teens and 20s, the CDC report says.

It’s a different experience from the moms who started in their 20s or early 30s.

You see the shock on their faces when they find out you’re 10 to 15 years older.

You don’t look nearly as good in active wear.

You worry about having the stamina to slog through middle-of-the-night feedings, chase after toddlers, navigate the rebellious teen years, stay awake until your kids get home at night.

Eventually you just hope you survive long enough to see them married and have kids before you head to the nursing home.

But there are benefits. I’m a much better mom than I would have been in my 20s. I picked up valuable lessons from friends and relatives who had kids before me. I’m less selfish. More patient. Tantrums did not faze me — much.

I worked long enough to establish a career and not miss it one bit when I took long maternity breaks and switched to a part-time schedule for eight years (sorry, boss).

Waiting made me appreciate their childhood years, the happiest time of my life. And now I'm too busy to notice those increasing aches and pains. Our kids keep us young.

In fact, research has shown that older moms are more likely to live longer.

A study published in 2014 found that women who had their last child after age 33 had twice the odds of living to age 95 as those who were 29 or younger.

It’s not that waiting to have a child makes you live longer; rather, researchers said they thought these women might have reproductive systems that age more slowly. So gene variations that allow them to have babies at an older age might be tied to longer life — a trait that would be good to pass on to future generations, evolution-wise.

Maybe we will see those grandchildren.

*  *  *

I asked three of my favorite moms about the pros and cons of having kids at a later age: Amy Armstrong, Champaign school board member and creator of “Larkin’s Place”; Judith Pintar, professor in the University of Illinois Slavic Department and Illinois Informatics Institute; and Micki Ostrosky, professor of Special Education at the UI.

Best thing about being an older mom?

Armstrong: I’m far more relaxed to let the kids spirits and souls shine. I don’t pick out clothes or try toBlog Photo direct their path if they choose to wear clothing that doesn’t match or make sense for the weather outside. Shrugging it off and allowing them to learn a lesson vs. me expending a lot of energy that comes off as controlling or arguing. I try to ensure they eat a balanced diet and I am very careful to pick the battle I’m going to fight but it won’t be over stripes/plaids, too many treats, or oatmeal vs. Lucky Charms.
I’ve worn my PJs to get kids to the school bus on time and I couldn’t care less who is bothered — and I bribe all bus drivers with cookies so they don’t care either. One more thing that is awesome: if you just keep having kids no one has any idea how old you are.

Pintar: There was never a moment that I wanted anything else more than I wanted my children. That wouldn’t have been true in my 20s, when my professional aspirations would have been in competition. Not having enough time for “me” when the kids were little didn’t matter so much after giving myself a couple of decades of undivided attention.

Ostrosky: Being more confident as a result of having more experiences in general, and being more financially secure. We wanted to have a family for a long time so when our miracle baby was born, we were thrilled. My husband and I had many fun years being an aunt and uncle to our nieces and nephews, so as we developed close relationships with them we thought a lot about parenting prior to having a child. We knew that there would be surprises along the way, but we were excited about having a child ... and we have enjoyed almost every single minute of it.

The drawbacks?

Armstrong: Drawbacks are few but major. It was hard on me physically to carry/birth/recover than itBlog Photo was when I delivered in my 20/30s. I worry that they won’t have me around as they age, but I’m in my 40s and my mom is in her 80s so I have that to remind me that it’s OK. It also is why I work out so much and take care of my mental/physical health so I can be around longer (although they may not want that HA!).

Pintar: Comparing myself to younger moms physically (as in youthfulness, attractiveness, and also in fitness). Looking forward and realizing I won’t have as many years with my kids as I would if I had been younger when I had them.

Ostrosky: While we are certainly older than several of our son’s friends’ parents, we have met many wonderful people through him and value those relationships. We don’t “feel” particularly older than most of our friends, and other than the occasional awareness of age differences when someone says something like, “I was only in grade school when that movie came out,” we really don’t pay attention to age. In reality our son probably keeps us feeling young. He certainly keeps us busy!

If you had to do it over, would you start earlier?

Armstrong: My journey was a long one wrapped in infertility and life changes so the choice wasn’t in my hands to start earlier. I may have given up sooner but to quote a famous song, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” I am so grateful for my four and each has taught me the most beautiful things in their own right.

Blog PhotoPintar: Well, yes and no. If I could have my same kids earlier in my life, maybe. But actually they wouldn’t be who they are, if I wasn’t who I am, so I think everything is perfect as it is.

Ostrosky: Regardless of when you decide you want to have children, sometimes it does not work out on YOUR timeline.

Advice for younger parents?

Armstrong: Younger parents have asked me off and on for advice but I have learned to not offer it unless asked. Everyone has to learn and make their own path.  Choices I’ve made along the way, good or bad, have come back as a way to show an example when someone asks.

Pintar: I don’t think I had any special parenting knowledge, and in fact women younger than me taught me a lot. I think I might have something to say to younger women about enjoying the heck out of their lives while they are young and before medical issues kick in as they tend to begin to do in our 40s.

Ostrosky: I think older moms can share their experiences with younger moms and also reassure themBlog Photo when things feel harried. I do believe that a mom’s temperament and knowledge has more to do with her comfort in parenting then her age. I have met some older moms who were anxious, less engaged and less confident ... and some much younger moms who appeared to have it all together in terms of parenting.

I think most moms (and dads, too) are pretty hard on themselves and continually ask themselves if they are doing things right and what they could or should do differently. Having a network of friends who also are parents sure helps! And, my 85-year old mom often reminds me that worrying about your children never goes away.


Julie Wurth blogs about kids and families and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Leave a comment below, or contact her at 217-351-5226, jwurth@news-gazette.com or on twitter.com/jawurth.


1. Amy Armstrong's girls dance to the bus stop.

2. Amy Armstrong, center, and her family: left to right, Erin, Chase, Brin, Larkin and husband Andy.

3. Judith Pintar with her son and daughter in 2003.

4. Micki Ostrosky and her son Cameron in 2015.


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