12 May 2014

The Truth about Being an Older Mum.

Channel 5 rang me recently - would I like to comment on whatever-it-was-in-the-news-that-day slating becoming an 'older mum?'  They'd like to send a film crew round about 4pm.

'Sure,' I said.  'But don't you want to know what I'm going to say first....?'

The researcher stopped in her tracks and, as is usually the case, sounded about school age.  She'd thought her work was done, she'd got herself a nice easy little coup and all that was needed now was my address.  But having wasted my time on more than one occasion prior to the possibility of this one, I pressed her.  She tutted and sighed, put on her best patronising, begrudging and 'suppose so' voice, but eventually acquiesced to hearing my opinion, which was words to roughly this effect:

'Behind every first-time older mum is a history of heartbreak, that rarely does anyone set out to have their babies at such a late age as I did (41 and 45), that I wouldn't recommend waiting until early forties, or even late thirties to have children, that I and those of my friends who have had children 'older' without exception wish we'd had them when we were younger, that we all agree we might even have had more and regret running out of time, that we seem to struggle to a greater degree with the broken nights than our younger counterparts do, wishing we'd not trotted out tonnes of miles on treadmills in our twenties.  We can't distinguish between what's peri-menopausal and natural parental exhaustion exacerbated by tantrumming toddlers.  There were no medical complications whatsoever with either of my pregnancies and my miscarriages were more to do with other matters.'

This threw the whippersnapper rather and, within half an hour, the predictable call came - that the film crew was suddenly unavailable.

Funny, that.

It seems I was supposed to bang the drum for older mums.  They had presumed that I would want to wax lyrical about how great it is to be one.  

It is great to be an older mum but only because it's great to be a mum at all.  I'm not against it in principle - I am one - but would I personally advocate planning to be one?  The truth is that, no, I would not.

It's great to be an older mum because it's great to be a mum at all.
Those of us who came to motherhood late feel very, very lucky.  We suffer more separation anxiety than our children ever have or will.  We are definitely more clingy, more likely to spoil our children and we worry.

We worry that we will never live to see our grandchildren.  We worry that we won't be able to get up from the floor when playing trains / cars / Lego.  And we worry when we fail to locate our age-related reading glasses in time for a bedtime story or, more crucially, in order to be able to see properly to cut our kids' toenails - because we *might* have learned that when we try to wing it without our specs, we *might* accidentally stab the eldest's big toe, then with one hand nursing his foot and the other yanking loo roll to stem the blood, we *might* pull a bit too hard, elbowing him in the nose slapstick style and he *might* never forget, let alone forgive, us for also failing to stifle our laughter.

We also worry when we can no longer take them with us to watch whilst our Eyebrow Threader works on us because she's now all over our face and it doesn't do to alarm them like that. We worry about our by-now-acquired-penchant for decent wine and our indecent consumption of it.  And we worry when their three little words whilst we absorb their cuddles are 'You're going wrinkly!'

Although I treasure my travelling days and the life I lived before my children, would I trade it all in to, instead, gain what would be that extra twenty or so years with them?  The truth is that, yes, I would.

Something a teenage researcher organizing a stupid TV stunt could never comprehend.

What are your thoughts on first time older mums?

Thank you to all of you who voted me into the semi-finals of the Writers Category of the #BiB Awards.  You have given me a real lift.  If you'd like to see Older Single Mum in the finals, please find all the details for the next stage HERE!

60 comments:

  1. I had my first at 27, then 30, then 32 and I have the same worries, will I see grandchildren, etc. I'm very glad I did not wait longer, just for the energy level required when have 3 young ones. At the same time, even at 52, if I could have another right now, I would.

    By the way, that is a lovely photograph you have posted.

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    1. I think those are lovely ages to have children - to have lived quite a bit, have experience and age to bring and I have no doubt you'll see your grandchildren. If it were possible and I was not single, I would also have loved / love more children! Thank you for commenting and mentioning the photo - Google seems to have accessed my photos and this is one of the first ever digital ones ever taken so it comes up all the time! X

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  2. Great post - I'm an 'older mum' - first at 36, second at 40 - the only reason was because I wasn't in a rush and I didn't meet my husband until I was 29, went to uni late, got started on a legal career late, bought the house late, and had the children late. I remember realising during my first pregnancy how late it was - all the medical blurb tells you that you're an older mother with promises of all sorts of potential medical problems that come with that, and it did worry me - but I have to say c-sections but otherwise no problems later, I don't regret it, and I don't wish I'd had the children earlier - I honestly think I'm a better mum now than I would have been back then. The only regret I have is that I may not be alert/well enough or even around for any grandchildren, particularly if my children do what I did and leave it late.
    Btw, I found a great pair of magnifying glasses which are great for nail clipping, tweezering, and for reading the side of packets! :-) Oh the joys.

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    1. Better late than never eh?! I agree about being a better mum because of being older and am brainwashing my sons into marrying a good woman and having kids young! Thanks for the tip about the glasses! I consider you kin :)

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  3. Nice one, that showed that whippersnipe! I had number one at 33 and number 2 at just 39 and noticed the difference. Mostly in my creaking back!

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    1. Talk about a waste of my time! I'd rather give her ten minutes than two hours with a film crew and it not air - as has happened before. All they want is a name to say what they want them to say or they don't bother. I get the creaking back, I do! Thanks for commenting :)

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  4. As long as you love your children and do your best by them it shouldn't matter how old you are when they're born! Who cares how old you are or were or will be - I bet you're an amazing mum

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    1. I agree with you Mary. I just feel I will miss out on so much of their lives in the long run and thank you for that x

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  5. Touching yet humourous at the same time. How DO you do it, Anya?! Love this post x

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    1. Thank you Tania. I don't really know what I do! I just write from the heart and it comes xx

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  6. I love that you have been able to write this, extremely serious topic and emotion post with humour. All I can say is that TV bird lost out big time! And always remember the old saying - Age ain't nothing but a number.xxxxx

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    1. Thank you Lynsey and yes, she will have aired a biased piece or nothing. Young people always say that about age ;) xx

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  7. Very well said! I agree with every word. The only advantage i can think of about being an older mum is that I still get all the cuddles and hands-on love while my friends' kids are all over the world. On the other hand, some of them have grandchildren starting to come along so they win again.

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    1. I thought of you as I wrote this post and knew, if anyone, that you would get it! X

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  8. Having had my two daughters relatively young, I cannot really give an opinion.
    All I know is that a child who has a loving Mum, whatever her age, is a lucky child. xx

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    1. That's a lovely thing to say Katia, thank you xx

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  9. I was 34 when I had my first and 38 when I had my second. Now, at 39 with a child that gets up at 5am every day - I am feeling the pain. I too wish I had started younger, and if I had, maybe I would've had more. One benefit of being an older parent is that I'm not mourning for a social life I'd never had. These days I'm more than content to nod off on the sofa when the kids are in bed!

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  10. So many fors and againsts but we know we're lucky to have or boys at all! X

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  11. You describe it so well; I had my first at 30 and third at 38, it seemed perfect for us at the time, now I feel so old and seem to be planning retirement when I could still have a child still living at home!

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    1. I think they're lovely ages to have children and perhaps I feel older because being on my own takes its toll - I just want more time with them! As for retirement? Never gonna happen here lol!

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  12. It's foolish of the programme not to wish to feature your views, so eloquently and heart-rendingly expressed. I imagine most older mothers have children late more through circumstance than intention and those inclined deliberately to delay should be aware of the costs you describe. Having witnessed your nenergies, though, I'd say it's quite likely you'll be welcoming great grandchildren on your 100th birthday!

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    1. Thank you Anna - they just wanted a particularly slant and I wasn't going to give it to them. I'd love to reach 100!

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  13. Brilliant post Anya! :o). Well that silly researcher lost out didn't she - more fool her - and I thought that was what good journalism was all about; finding the real story. The reason I had my first and only child at 39 was purely circumstance - I didn't meet Younger Dad until I was thirty three, and was in a full on psychotherapy training. I am also glad I had mine at a later age, I honestly don't think I had the emotional maturity in my twenties although I would have had a lot more energy! Personally, I have no problem with later parenthood.... at the end of the day, something could happen to us at any age so I try not to let the whole 'being a grandparent thing' worry me too much.

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    1. Ps.... sorry! I completely forgot to give you kisses.... here are some kisses XXXXXXXX

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  14. Thank you Sarah. If only the journalism I encountered was like that! Everyone has a story / reason for later children - which is what she missed I think and regarding grandchildren, you're right. I just want to be there for my kids when they have theirs, so they don't struggle like I have! And thank you for the kisses too - much appreciated! XXXXX

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  15. Oh Anya what a brilliant, honest post from you I found touching too (my threader has her work cut out and I'm 33)-but so important to be truthful about parenting rather than fit some political agenda. You rock but I knew that already x

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  16. Well said Anya ... the toe nail cutting part made me smile, one thing I just can't do with or without the glasses ... I had my daughter at 47 3/4 , I was incredibly blessed. We laugh, we love, I'm still breastfeeding 2 years later and I can't imagine life without her. Funny, I don't miss the going out or the wild old times, somehow I'm totally in the now of the joy of having her. Yup sleepless nights are grim but to be honest I think I cope better now than I would have done when I was younger ... this is where I want to be be... re grandchildren and so on, if she has children as late as I did I'll be nearly 100 ... we'll see, for now I cherish every day, I'd love to be able to have the privilege of helping her with her children (if what's what she wants or where she gets to in her own life), but whether I live to be 100 or 51 remains to be seen ...

    re eyebrow threading, she comes too for my twice a year body overhaul and enjoys pottering around while I'm being tortured!

    re the whole media thing I've had that too from TV, radio and the press, if the story is too good it's not what's wanted ... the perception of older parents that's perpetuated is one of aged crones, terrible treatment on NHS, disgusted friends and family, shockingly bad pregnancy and inability to join in children's games ... I've not experienced any of that and nor have any of the older mothers I know ... I wrote about it in Huff Post recently and the piece was picked up by Kate Silverton who said she'd experienced the same thing ... ultimately we're all Mums doing what we can for our children.

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    1. Thank you Ellie. You obviously understand and are amazingly blessed to have little Hope so late, as you appreciate. We don't see the good stories in the press coz they dismiss people like you and me, but we'll get there eventually. Thanks for such a lovely comment xx

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  17. I'm tired all of the time and my patience is on a knife edge, whereas once upon a time I was ALWAYS called "Lovely Lisa" because I was known for having shed loads of patience. Sometimes I wish I could introduce Aaron to that me, he would have LOVED HER! Crying as I type this.
    L xxx

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    1. I always introduce you as the lovely Lisa and Aaron loves you exactly as the beautiful patient mother that I have seen you be with him. We all beat ourselves up about how we are - he LOVES you anyway. Big hugs XXX

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  18. Having children is a huge decision and it would be lovely if we could find the 'right' time to have them but I have come to the realisation that there is never a 'right' time. I do wish that Channel 5 had listened to you and presented a balanced piece rather than constantly being sensationalist xx

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    1. Thank you Kirsty - and you're absolutely right - there's no perfect time, yet I wonder if there's actually a wrong time in the long run either? xx

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  19. Alas in most cases where tv looks for people for a program they already have a pre-conceived idea of exactly how the person should feel and the things they want them to say before they even speak to them. Really sad I know. Good for you for telling it like it is and they didn't want to go down that road then it's their loss.
    I find having a child now a lot harder than I did in my early 20s, but in other ways I feel more grounded and life-savvy x

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    1. That's what's so sad, but hey ho. And I think you're right about having children older - we are more savvy, but definitely more knackered! x

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  20. That told 'em didn't it? good for you for pushing and not have them wasting their time. I struggled to have children with Paul and like you I wouldn't promote leaving it till later for those harrowing times.
    Great post Anya

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  21. I had my daughter at 37 and at 41 my husband and I are trying and hoping for another one, though admittedly we are struggling a bit to conceive. There are times when yes, I regret about not having children earlier. But the truth is, thinking about my past life right now... At 20 there was no way I could've done it. I've just graduated from UNI, my 1st job job, no relationship and was living with 3 other girls I worked with. At 30, I had a good career but I hated my life and was bored with my job and no steady relationship. I met my future husband at 34. Got married at 36. Then the rest they say is history. Having written all that, I think I made all the right decisions. While it would be such a big bonus to have another one, given the chance, I don't think I would want to change the way I did things or would I?

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    1. I'm so glad things have worked out for you - there's really no wrong way and I wish you all the best for a sibling! Do let me know how you get on. I've always found I fall pregnant on a wheat free, sugar free, dairy free diet, if that helps!

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  22. A really interesting post Anya and I have to say that I was classed as an older mum (or the lovely term geriatric mum that they use) when I had my fourth child and I was 39. I do believe that they way life and society is now, more and more women will have babies into their forties and why not? Yes, there are worries that come with that but there are always worries however old you are. I would have another now if I could.

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  23. What do you expect from the TV. They only want it if it'll sell ad space.
    They would hate me on TV as they'd see nothing more than a grump! In my eyes though parenting is good but darned hard work. If only it was as glam as some of the media portrays it to be!

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  24. What a lovely pciture of you and yours, Anya. I decided to have kids later, but earlier than my mum did; mainly because she said as you - that if she had had her time again, she wouldn't have waited so long! Being an older mum brings its own challenges, just I suppose, as being a younger one does. The only thing that gets us all through it, is the wonderful children we are blessed with. Well, usually wonderful anyway! ;-)

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  25. This is an amazing post Anya. Good for you staying strong and telling it like it is. No doubt they'll find someone else who will be more willing to fit into their pre-conceived ideas for a story, but you can hold your head high knowing you weren't a part of that, and you are doing so much through your blog to let people know what the experience of being an older mum is truly like xxx

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  26. What a shame they didn't come and film you - you'd have been brilliant and it would be great to hear different perspectives on things rather than just a sound bite.

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  27. I agree with Rebecca it would have been an interesting show

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  28. Great posts! I think that we all have kids when we can and want. earlier or later. age should not be something to worry.

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  29. Fabulous honest post, I had my girls at 34 which of course is not that old but I worry about whether my parents will get to be at their weddings. I do like your quote about it being great to be an older mum in so much as it is great to be a mum full stop! Mich x

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    1. Thanks Mich - and that hadn't even occurred to me!

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  30. There's an assumption that *all* women have the right man lined up at 22, and that they're shilly-shallying around having careers and whatnot until they're 40. The truth is, there are multiple factors that affect when you have your children, and very many of them are not in your control. If you do have them late, are some aspects easier and some harder? I'd say yes, and that they are not always what you'd expect, and they are different for every woman. I believe am in a good place to comment: I had one at 24 and one at 41, so I have done it both ways.

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  31. Thank you Rosie. Yes, there are lots of assumptions about having made choices rather than circumstances dictating them and the media perpetuates this, particularly by not running interviews such as this one. Thank you for your comment and your having had two children at both ends of the spectrum must have given you / give you the best (and worst!) of both worlds!

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  32. Wow, thanks for this refreshing account of what it's like to be an older mum. I am always in awe of single parents and have no idea how they cope with all that life flings in their direction. No one starts out with the expectation that their relationship will fail after having kids, whatever the reason and sadly, this has happened to many of our friends.
    Is there ever a good time to have kids? I'm not sure.

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    1. Thank you Izzie. I think that early 30s is about right - time to have lived a little, secured a property perhaps, and not be too knackered or wanting to be going far at night!

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  33. I love this post so much Anya. My (limited) experience with TV is that the script is pretty much written first and then they cast around it... so good for you for standing by your beliefs. Shame for them that they decided not to show what is a reality for so many people. I had Z the day before my 36th birthday, which was perfect for me. I would not have been emotionally mature enough in my twenties and I did not meet my husband until I was 32. However, our journey for the sibling has been a story of heartbreak, as you know. I'll be at least 41 if we do have another now, and that was not something I would have planned if the choice was mine xxxxx

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  34. Thank you for your support Sarah, and yes, I know you've struggled and suffered, which is the point she didn't want to air, as you so rightly point out xx

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  35. Oh Anya, I've never thought about it that way. My husband and I always say we wished we'd done a lot more travelling pre children and it would've been good to have been more financially stable before having kids too, but I guess we just never know where life will take us and there are benefits and negatives to being a young and older Mum.

    Sorry the TV company was so rubbish. xxx

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    1. Thank you Emma. It's great to be a mum at any age - something we are privileged to be and nothing else in life can give us the same fulfillment - you'll be able to enjoy yours for longer and get on with your travelling later! Thank you for your comment xx

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  36. There's lots of advantages to being older when you have kids, for me it was financial stability and partners that stick around, plus being more patient. And I'm not sure if I would have been able to withstand the broken nights better if I'd been younger anyway. Thank you for sharing this.

    Found you via Mumsnet linky.

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    1. I'm a much better mum for having my children older Julie, but I miss them for the time I didn't have them, if you know what I mean?!

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  37. It was nice reading this and getting a different perspective on motherhood and the feelings and doubts that come with it. I am currently a mother to be, 22 years old, and doing it as a single mother. I am often faced with many fears such as securing the future of my son and I by finishing my education. I worry about being able to help my son grow into a happy, whole person. I am aware of what I am giving up, and have assumed that older mothers have it easier. The truth is, it is not easy for either! And yes, the best part is just being a mom.

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    1. Thank you for commenting. It's wonderful to be a mother at any age and your son will be born a happy, whole person! It's easier to keep them that way when you can be happy and whole yourself - wisdom that comes with age, so if you can look after yourself, your son will be fine. I'm sorry to see that you'll be a single mum, but, it has its advantages - it's far easier without any conflict or expectations of people that aren't met and I wish you the very best. Please let me know how you get on xx

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