My husband and I were both 44 years old when our only child was born. Our daughter is now 15 months old and we’re 45. We’re the oldest of the parents among our daughter’s Montessori classmates. Her teachers are young enough to be our own children.
See, this is the kind of mathematical comparing I do all the time.
When I was pregnant, my obstetrician referred to me as being of “advanced maternal age”. I accepted that. Being knocked up at 44 put me in a certain high risk category. But in all of the excitement of our pregnancy, I didn’t put a ton of thought into the “advanced parenting age” aspect of the situation.
So now that the dust has settled and we have a full year of parenting under our belts, I’ve had time to reflect on both sides of being a more “mature” parent — the joys as well as the fears. Let’s start with the good news.
1. We’re more emotionally stable. While parenting may no doubt put some on a fast track to maturity, I know that I would not have been a good parent in my younger days. I was too self-absorbed, too immature. My priorities then were completely different than my priorities now. Finally, in my mid-40s (I’m a late bloomer, what can I say), I find it much easier to put the needs of others before my own. I recognize that the children really are our future (cue Whitney Houston). And I do not take this responsibility lightly. I am more patient and flexible. I am less controlling (because I have learned it is futile!). I am much more resilient.
2. We’re more intellectually equipped. Let’s face it, although it seems like the children and young adults of today are incredibly bright and savvy, there’s a certain amount of wisdom that comes with age and experience. Because of all that I’ve lived through in my 40+ years, I’m more than a little wiser than I was in my younger years. I don’t sweat the small stuff nearly as much. I have learned to ask “how important is it?” before burning too much energy over something relatively trivial. I am smarter in choosing my battles. And I bring that “larger picture” perspective into my parenting.
3. We’re more financially secure. Having worked since I was 15 years old and having (literally) paid my dues, I’m no longer living paycheck to paycheck in a rented apartment. I have a quarter of a century’s worth of contributions in my 401(K). My husband and I are fortunate to be able to provide our daughter with a warm home, a yard in which to play, and the benefit of a good education. In addition to the necessities, we can also afford to hire a sitter when we want to give ourselves a night out. And once she is old enough, we’ll also be able to take our daughter on trips and give her a broad range of cultural experiences. These things would have been much more of a struggle for me had I had children in my younger years.
4. We take less for granted. When I was younger, I felt that I had nothing but time. That I’d get to that important thing “one of these days”. I don’t feel that way anymore. I want to get the most out of my time with my child. I want to experience things through her eyes. I want to be hands-on. I place much more value on life in general now. And having thought I’d never have a child, I’m grateful every day to be a parent. My husband and I still look at each other frequently and marvel, “we have a kid“! At my age, having a child is a wondrous gift, not a burden with which I have been saddled.
5. Kids keep us young. Right now, people probably assume that my husband and I are younger than we are because we have a young child. Our “peers”, those parents with children the same age as our child, are considerably younger. And I imagine that our daughter will be keeping us current with music and trends way longer than might otherwise have been the case. We can’t sit around in rocking chairs … we have a toddler running around!
As for the less positive side …
1. We will become elderly while our children are still young. This is a tough one. If we’re lucky enough to live to a ripe old age, we’re going to be reallllly ripe when our daughter is still relatively young. When she graduates from high school, we’ll already be in our 60s. We may miss a lot of things that younger parents get to enjoy: seeing our child become a parent; becoming grandparents; seeing our child succeed in her chosen career. Or even if we do live long enough to see these things, we might not be able to enjoy them as much as we would if we were younger. And it’s not just about what we’ll miss as parents. Our daughter may lose one or both parents while she’s relatively young. And she’s an only child, so she could literally be without an immediate family at that point.
2. There is a potentially huge cultural gap. There are already some things I just don’t “get” (one small example: the allure of Justin Bieber). I can’t imagine how this list will grow once my daughter is a teenager and I am pushing 60. (This is where #5 on the positive list will hopefully come in handy.)
3. We’re tired. We just don’t have the energy we did in our 20s or 30s. We tire more easily. We have less stamina. Most times a night in sounds way more appealing than a night out. Once our child is old enough to play sports, getting out in the yard and practicing with her will be more of a challenge for us than it would be for a younger parent. How we’re going to keep up with this child (much less stay one step ahead of her) is already a source of anxiety for me.
4. People will think we’re the grandparents. We’re the same age as some of our child’s friends’ grandparents, so at some point, I’m sure it’ll start to look like we’re the grandparents. At that point, though, we’ll probably be too tired to care.
5. We may become a burden on our child. This is probably the fear of every parent, but doubly so with older parents. It’s hard for me to see my own parents age and they are only 26 and 32 years older than me. I don’t want my child to ever have to worry about my health or well-being, but the odds are that she will, and at a much younger age than her peers.
All things considered, I have no regrets over having a child at my age. I believe that the good far outweighs the negative. But we definitely just have to be more mindful of appreciating every minute of the present, and carefully planning for the future, ours as well as that of our child.