“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.”
I used to think this rhyme was silly. Why would an old woman have children? Mothers are supposed to be young, full of energy and zest, not old and haggard.
I read recently about a woman who just had her first baby at 50. She and her husband had tried multiple rounds of IVF cycles with no luck and had just implanted her last frozen embryo. And it worked. My pediatrician then told me about a friend of hers who married late in life and had her first child at 50…and her second child at 54. Unassisted.
It’s a different time we live in than the moms that came before us. Many women are finishing college and establishing our own professional careers before ever considering marriage, let alone children. We’re not necessarily marrying our high school sweethearts, settling in our hometown, and having Dick and Jane and Spot complete by 25. Instead, we’re having kids when we’re a bit more…worn…by life.
This “old mother” thing is personal for me. About a year ago, I attended a baby shower for a friend of mine. I had recently had Lola at age 35 and my reproducing friend was a year or two younger.
While we stenciled giraffes and clever sayings on onesies (my giraffe was saying “Yo, G” – because I’m a gangsta), another friend and I talked about Lola, and I gushed about how great it was to finally be a mother (even though I was very, very tired). And then, my friend left the room.
Another woman who was a bit older was sitting at the table and decided to voice her opinion. “I don’t know how you’re doing it. I had my babies at 24 and 28, and I was exhausted. And, let’s face it, you’re no spring chicken.”
I was stunned into silence. Who was this woman? And why did she want to hurt me?!?
My look must’ve tipped her off, because she immediately back-pedaled and said, “Not that you’re OLD, or anything” – unconvincingly – “I just can’t imagine starting out at your age”.
The truth was, Brian and I had been trying to have a baby since I was 29. And it wasn’t happening au naturel. Had there not been the miracle of modern medicine, and had there not been jobs that allowed us to afford the miracle of modern medicine, it’s unlikely that we would’ve become parents. (There is no white sale on the miracle of modern medicine). Fortunately, we were blessed with Lola – albeit a bit later than planned.
Still, I’d never thought of myself as an OLD mother. Not until that fateful day, with a half-stenciled giraffe staring me in the face and a vocal stranger at the table telling me I was no spring chicken. (If you look up “elderly” in the thesaurus, one of the synonyms is “no spring chicken”).
Since Brian and I would like to have another baby before my eggs dry up and blow away in the wind, I began thinking of this “old” mother thing in a new way. There had to be benefits to having a child a little later in life that you don’t get to experience when you have a child fresh on the heels of high school, broke and unseasoned by life’s ups and downs.
Less overlapping PMS in the house.
I know what I’m talking about here. My parents had three girls, a female cat, and a female dog. (That’s a lot of estrogen floating around in a small space).
My Dad was a jogger. I’m convinced he realized early on, when three girls popped out, that he had better cultivate this skill in preparation for the “perfect storm”. The “perfect storm” occurred approximately once a year when my mother and my sisters would be PMS’ing at the same time. (I was the youngest of the three and had not yet experienced the ‘joy’ of being a woman, but even I could sense something sinister was afoot).
When the “perfect storm” hit, the air in the house became charged and heavy, pressing down on all of us. No one spoke at dinner. Any rogue sound – a fork scraping a plate, a loud slurp – caused time to stop as everyone glared at the culprit, who averted his or her eyes. Sometimes, someone would drop their silverware on their plate, scrape back their chair loudly and storm out of the kitchen, followed by a bedroom door slam. No one was sure why, and no one asked. This was nature, and nature was cruel. And a little psycho.
As the youngest, I was still at the point where skating around the kitchen with maxi pads stuck to the bottom of my feet was appropriate and good for a chuckle. I thought they were shoe sole inserts and was always confused that the woman on the package was walking barefoot in the ocean. Even at a very young age, I knew this was a marketing miss for shoe soles. (Later, when I understood what these things were, I still thought it was a marketing miss. It would’ve been much more accurate to show her shoving a man’s head underwater as she smiled into the sunset).
I considered myself Dad’s lookout in those days. He worked a lot and was usually in bed by 9:00 so he could get up and train (jog) at 5 a.m. During those quiet dinners, I watched carefully for warning signs and was prepared to scream “RUN, DAD, RUN!!!” should anyone’s head begin spinning a la “The Exorcist”.
When Lola hits that age, I’ll be on my way into menopause. I’m not saying that will be all rainbows and butterflies – but Brian’s knees aren’t very good in his mid-thirties, so I’m not convinced his jogging skills would do him much good should the “perfect storm” occur in our household. He’d have to curl up in a fetal position in the corner and try to avoid notice until it passed.
You change my diaper, I’ll change yours. I think this transition is much easier if the time lapse between the two events is shorter. When the inevitable time comes that Brian and I need Depends, the innate sense of obligation will be harder to ignore because it really wasn’t that long ago that her diaper leaked mustard poop down my side in the middle of Target. (I plan to continually remind her of this to keep it in fresh perspective).
You can expand this concept into avoiding the nursing home entirely. If you time it right, your kid will be ready to leave the nest when you start needing assistance feeding yourself, grooming yourself, and pooping. (You gave them gross, mushed up prunes to help them with constipation. Old people love prunes. Coincidence? I think not).
No more separation anxiety for child or parent! They move out of your house, you move into their guest room. Everyone wins!
Think of the possibilities: You helped them brush their little bitty teeth as they squirmed and fought you. Now, they get to help you soak your dentures! You clipped their little fingernails as they cried and cried. Now, they can clip your hardened, yellowed toenails and dodge rogue toenail bits flying towards their eyes! You force-fed them vegetables – now, it’s YOUR turn to throw the brussel sprout on the floor and scream “NO!” through the frustrated tears rolling down your red, wrinkled cheeks. It will be nothing for you but macaroni and cheese, by God!!!
Your midlife crisis will coincide with their awkward early teens. Around age 12/13, I went through a midrift phase. I wore a LOT of halftops. My sisters used to give me a lot of crap about this one gray halftop, a favorite of mine. They’d say things like “Are you ever going to wash that thing?” or “That thing could stand up on it’s own by now.” Or “Do you have a gray halftop I can borrow? Oh, no. You don’t. Because you’re wearing it. Again.” I know they just said these things out of sheer jealousy…that shirt was badass.
I also had a half top that sported black and white stripes and said “NAVY GIRL” in sparkly rhinestones on a silver pleather background stitched on the front.- I used to wear this shirt to the skating rink on Friday nights. Man, I wish I still had that shirt. I would so ROCK THAT in my 50’s.
See, my goal is for the second coming of my midrift phase to coincide with my daughter’s awkward teenage years. (While the thought of showing my middle makes me cringe right now, by then, my mind will be going – so sharing my fupa with the world will feel like I’m doing everyone a favor).
I can see it now – I’ll pull up in the carpool lane at school, jump out in my teensy top and lounge against the hood of my minivan, blaring “Ice Ice Baby”, letting it all hang out. When she comes out with her friends, I’ll wolf whistle and say stuff like “The boys can’t keep their eyes off me. Looks like your Mama still has it!”
She’ll grit her teeth, orthodontia headgear going tight, acned cheeks going redder. She’ll slink over and crawl into the backseat, curling up on the floorboard. Mortified. But, in the end, she’ll thank me. She’ll thank me for using my golden years to raise her instead of wearing designer fanny packs and going on cruises to Cozymel. She’ll thank me for listening to my Walkman way too loud when I was young so I blissfully couldn’t hear her sass. She’ll thank me for accepting myself as I am, so she could learn to accept herself. She’ll thank me for being an old mom.