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Younger Mother/ Older Mother

Younger Mother/ Older Mother

September 1, 2006

I have been both.

I am 37 years old with a 1 yr old.

I was 25 years old when my oldest was 1 yr old. (Which I realize in certain parts of the country is not considered young, but here, where I live, it is. People still ask me if my oldest children are my sibings. And I should probably admit that I am more tempted to say yes now than I was back then.)

I read a news story this past week that comapred older mothers to younger mothers and talked about the pros and cons of each choice. While I am not exactly what they were talking about in the story (a news story which I can no longer find online and think perhaps it must have been a dream), older meant putting off childbearing until you had already established a career and done things *other* than being a mother. I definitely notice a difference in how I parent now compared to how I parented when I was 25.

1) I am old and tired now, damn it. For example, I am much more likely to let them tear everything out of a cabinet, splash their watercolor paints everywhere, or play in a mud pit. The reason… it is entertaining them for a longer amount of time than it will take for me to clean it up later.

2) When I was younger I didn’t worry as much about my children’s safety. I mean I worried about the normal things like falling down the stairs, or being run over by a speeding car that happened to jump the curb and drive 100ft across my lawn and run us over, or being trapped in a car under water and not be able to break the window and free us. You know, normal fears.

Now that I am older, I find that I worry all the time that something is going to happen to my children. Perhaps as a result of facing my own mortality, or maybe my own craziness has just gotten the better of me. It’s hard to say.

3) I don’t worry about small stuff. I look at my almost 12 yr old and realize he doesn’t want to drink from a bottle, have me wipe his butt (in fact he would be horrified if he knew I even mentioned he had a butt), or sleep in bed with us. I figure eventually the youngest ones will feel the same.

4)I allow them to do more for themselves at a younger age. Did you know that 5 yr olds can be taught to make a pot of coffee? Yes they can. There isn’t anything overtly dangerous about it since it isn’t hot until you turn it on and that is supposed to happen after you are done with the grounds, water, and filter. We have had a few more broken glass carafes than I would like. But it is worth it. (See number 1 above)

5) I don’t worry as much about what other people think. When I was a younger mother I felt like I had to prove my competence. I see this in my niece who just had her first baby. She goes out of her way to prove how she is a perfect mother and needs help from no one. Now I am more than willing to let my children go out to the grocery store wearing combinations of pajamas, bathing suits, and tutus if it will make them happy. I am no longer up for fighting over things that don’t matter. And I no longer have the desire to be perfect. It took too much energy. (See number 1 above)

6) I forget things. Or it could be that my children have me convinced that I forget things with the way they constantly tell me, “But you said x,y,z yesterday.” And I am left scratching my head and wondering did I really say that I would buy him a motorcycle and let him build a ramp in the front yard for doing tricks.

I am sure that there are other things that are different bewteen how I am as a parent now and how I was when I was young(er). But all this typing has tired me out. I need a nap. Hopefully by the time I am done sleeping my 5 yr old will be finished juggling his hand grenades in the middle of the highway and be able to fix me some damn coffee.

Posted by Chris @ 10:02 am  

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  1. Ursa says:

    I loved this post. At 29 yrs old and having my first child who is 1 yr old I definitely feel old. I am “guilty” of everything on your list and I just started childrearing gig. :) I have to agree it is a lot easier doing the job not trying to be perfect.

  2. Colleen says:

    My husband is the youngest of six hellions. I asked him once how his mom handled having him as a kid (she was 35 when he was born), he just said, “She was tired and she picked her battles.” When you ask her now about parenting, she just says, “I had six kids and none of them are in prison.”

  3. ali says:

    i don’t know if it’s more of an age thing…or more of a “how many kids you have” kind of thing. i am still pretty young, 28, but i’m on my third child…and i realize that i’m such a different parents than i was 5 1/2 years ago when my first was born.

  4. Julie @ Telluride says:

    I agree with you Chris, I never used to allow help from anyone - because everthig needs to be “perfect” - now I realize there is no such thing. It may be getting older, or just realizing that the towles can go into the linen closet differently…

    Or, maybe my OCD is camling.


  5. Jean says:

    My first daughter was born just shy of my 20th birthday (unbelievable, I know). I am now 46 and my ninth child is almost 3. Parenting now is SO MUCH MORE FUN than it was than. Actually, I’m finding everything is better than it was than. Marriage, friendships, intimacy…

  6. Shelly says:

    I was just shy of my 37th birthday when I had my first (although I did have step kids) and am 39 and ready to go any minute with #2. (I wish, it will probably be more like next week.) I appreciate motherhood more now than I would have in my youth because I have fought it out in the career trenches and just found more peace in chasing my 2 year old - even though it’s a much harder role than coporate exec….

  7. Pieces says:

    Oh, yes. You have captured it perfectly. The head scratching, the hand grenades…right on target.

  8. Meg says:

    Dang it. I’m a young parent and I wish Sophia was old enough to fix me coffee…in a few years, I guess.

  9. owlhaven says:

    I was 20 when my first was born. Now I am 39 and my eighth child is 1. I know I do things somewhat differently now. I get a twinge when I realize the 8 year olds haven’t gone on as many field trips for homeschool as the bigger kids did, etc… But I definitely think I am a wiser and more relaxed parent. So maybe it balances out…


  10. Lori says:

    I have a 14yo, 3yo, 1yo. My 14yo always reminds my husband and me that we are soooo easy on the little ones, I just say that you were our guinea pig(then I get an eye roll)
    I know that we are more laid back and easier parents now!

  11. DK says:

    I was 36 when my first bio child was born, but had been raising 2 for 12 years, and I agree that the worry you feel just increases with knowledge of the big bad world.
    At 24 I didnt even use a carseat, but then my little 5 speed stick wouldnt go more than 35 mph…have times changed so much?? On the other hand, now I have a carseat in each vehicle and every gadget known to woman to babyproof. Also the OCD has improved, toys are now allowed OUTSIDE of the bedrooms and often stay out for DAYS. And yes, it is ALOT more fun now.

  12. InterstellarLass says:

    I’m convinced that babies absorb brain cells too while they’re in utero. That’s what makes us feel so befuddled and confused after we have kids!

  13. bluepaintred says:

    I was younger , having my last baby, before you had your first LOL. I got my tubes tied at 25

    is there any danger when they are pouring the water in the machine? as in spilling and what not or do I just unplug the machine first? my oldest is almost seven and we jokeand tell him to make coffee, but if your five year old can do it, i might as well teach mine!

  14. shaz says:

    wow… old mom vs young mom, or just old mom vs new mom? I am 28, and on my 3rd child… I guess I am still considered young, but I am tired too! very tired! But I can see that if I were 10 years older with 3 kids under 4 my husband and I would not be able to handle it! I had never imagined myself being a mom at 24, but now I am happy to have kids while I am still young.

  15. Suebob says:

    My mom was 35 when she had me, her sixth child. After reading your post, I realize why I often go out in swimsuits, pajamas and tutus. No one ever taught me not to. LOL.

  16. Dot says:

    My friends always ask me HOW I do it with s.i.x. kids!!! But what they don’t realize is that I don’t unload the dishwasher anymore, I only put clean clothes away for myself, dh and the baby. My 10 yo can make scrambled eggs, pancakes and mac & cheese. All of the dirty laundry is brought to me. I even get help sorting. The list goes on, because it has been 6 months or so since I have had to clean their bathroom. I think thru teaching our older children how to do things, we are learning more than we realize (good and bad).

    And I am right there with you on the age, I had my first when I was 24 and I am now 39.

  17. jody2ms says:

    I had my first son when I was 29, so I guess I was neither an older mother, nor a younger one. I was a freak though in regards to my son. Good Lord, I was so overprotective. Every….little….thing was a drawwwwwwwma.

    I am certainly more relaxed now with my kids. The thing I do that I dislike the most is, I don’t get down on their level and play as much as I used to. I think I do with Mia a bit more than with the boys. That could be because I don’t play Pokemon so when they start talking about the game, cards or little Pokemon, I glaze over and am clueless. And Bionicles bore me to tears. Sitting through Bionicle the Movie was the single most torturous 1 1/2 hours of my life. I do try and get involved in their interest in animals and hiking etc.

  18. The Lazy Organizer says:

    I think new mothers try so hard because everyone treats them like they’re idiots. They are idiots. They don’t know anything and they know it. And they’re sick of it.

  19. Heth says:

    Great post Chris. My first was born at 17 and I’m 29 and our sixth is a one year old. Who knows how many more there are for us, but I notice a lot of the same things you mentioned. Today my two little boys are going to the grocery store with painted nails. Their little sister was getting hers done and they wanted to join in the fun. So who cares what the little old ladies say! The boys look fabulous.

  20. Susan says:

    My mother had her first at 25 and her last (me!) at 45. According to the oldest sibling, I had it wayyyyy easier than anyone else in the family. And so my siblings loved to jokingly refer to me as Baby Favorite. My mom always said she was too worn out by the time I came along to enforce as many rules. She also said I kept her young.

  21. Lilly says:

    One benefit of being an older mom is that just around the time small print starts to be unreadable, your kid learns to read. My son was my proud fine print reader until I finally admitted the need and got a pair of glasses.

    I waited until I had pursued a career to it’s ‘top’ before I had a child. I found out without a doubt that the value of the career was only a tiny fraction of the value of having a child. If I did it all again I’d like to try starting a family a lot earlier… But a good thing about having kids after a career is that you don’t harbor illusionary regrets over what you might have been if you’d taken the career path.

  22. Brigitte says:

    I think the insecurity is just from being a first-time mom, rather than the age. By the time my mom had the 4 of us, she’d just turned 25, while I was almost 41 when I had my baby, so I’m always comparing young and old mom stuff - there are pluses and minuses both ways.

    There’s an article on it at:http://www.parenting.com/parenting/article/0,19840,1328888,00.html

  23. cassie-b says:

    I had 2 children - 7 years apart in age (not by my choosing). It was like raising an only child twice, and to be perfectly honest, I did lots more volunteer kid stuff with the first, and had more annoying pets too.

    Both have their benefits.


  24. Christina says:

    Could be age and experience as a combination, I know that I’m a much different mom now at 33 with 3 kids then I was at 27 with 1.

  25. Novaks8 says:

    I am the same way.

    I was 19 when my oldest daughter was born and I am now almost 38 (21 days) with a 2 year old.

    I still find myself feeling young when with other parents and have to remind myself that I am the same age or older than they are!

    I guess I got so used to being a young mom…

    I expect that when my baby starts school I will be much older than some of the mothers I meet.

    It’s a weird feeling.

  26. Erin says:

    I don’t know if I’m young or old as the 31 year old mother of ~almost~ three. I guess I fall in the middle. But as Charlotte from “Charlottes Web” said, my children are my magnum opus. I did nothing to compare in my former, childless life.

  27. Debbie says:

    I read somewhere about the different stages of motherhood:

    The first child: drops his dummy and you immediately rush to the steriliser to decontaminate it.

    The second child: drops his dummy and you run it under some hot water.

    The third child: drops his dummy and you suck the dirt off with your own mouth.

    The fourth child: drops his dummy and has to take it out the dogs mouth himself…

    Is it age or just experience?

  28. Antique Mommy says:

    Well I am certainly relating to this post. I’m 46 with a 2-year-old and I’ve taught him how to crack eggs for scrambling and make toast. Am still working on the coffee.

  29. peepnroosmom says:

    I was a younger mother when my 11 yr old was born (24) and now I’m 36 and have a 1 yr old. There are definitely differencs in the way I am raising them. It is like having two only children. Their lives are totally different. I almost feel like the first one was practice and the last one is “for real”. Like I can fix some of the mistakes I made with the first one and do better with the younger one. That sounds crazy, but that’s how I feel.

  30. Zana says:

    My mom had my three brothers before she turned 25 and I didn’t come along until she was 38. My brothers and I joke about having different parents. My parents were a lot easier on me but the younger version of my parents that my brothers had did a lot more fun stuff– camping, fishing, horseback riding, amusement parks etc… My older parents took a lot of naps :-) And now that you mention it I can remember making omlets for myself (and others) for breakfast by the time I was in first grade…

  31. JustLinda says:

    I was 18 when I had my first and my 5th one was born the year I turned 40.

    I wrote an essay on this topic… mind if I link? I find my experience maps to yours pretty closely… much more laid back and aware of things now.

    If the link is breaking rules, please feel free to delete…


  32. Jennifer says:

    OMG you are so funny it’s killing me. I missed the millionth visitor while I was away on vacation. So not fair. I totaly wanted to win! And I could have given you my parents’ address in the continential US and picked up my prize in October when I am out visiting. So there. I totally should have won.

  33. Nikki says:

    I’m very much a younger mom of 3 boys (my oldest was born 6 days shy of my 19th bday and my youngest when I was 22).
    My own mother is like you and fits both categories. I have 3 siblings and we are spread out across the years. My older brother was born when my mother was 16ish and my little sister was born three months before my middle son, just ten years ago. I kid my mother that she’ll be in a wheelchair before Cheyenne graduates high school (Mom just turned 55).
    I would imagine that there’s certaubkt a difference in parenting at such ends of the age spectrum.

  34. Stephanie says:

    I had my first at 18 and my seveth at 39. The oldest two could microwave at 5 yo. We joke everything takes 20 seconds. But with all the help the littles can’t get close to a heating appliance.

  35. mommyHAM says:

    I’m 27 and my oldest just started kindergarten. I feel like I’m regarded like a teen parent in comparison to the other mothers, who are 7-10 yrs older than me!

    But…I’m much more confident now than I was when I started the motherhood gig 5 yrs ago.

  36. Susan says:

    I want that coffee-making five-year-old.

  37. Trivial Mom says:

    The best advice I got from my mom when I had my daughter was “pick your battles.” I’ve taken this more literally than just what my almost two year old will wear to the store. I pick my battles with household chores too. If the house is semi-clean once a week, I’m doing well. Call it lazy if you want, I call it sanity. With our second coming on Tuesday (at the latest) I’m glad I’ve already got this philosophy in place. Being perfect is overrated.

  38. judi casey says:

    i, toohaveexperienced both ends of this spectrum, with my first born when iwas 24 and my last (twins) born when i was38.
    what a difference in parenting style!
    you definitely learn not to sweat the small stuff. and you expand the definition of small stuff to include everting short of murder.
    i am no longer concerned with how others perceive me or the kids-when i was a young mother i was always aware of others’ perceptions- now- if the twins are wrestling on the grocery store floor and everyone is staring and shaking their head, i just stare right back at them and say, “aren’t they cute”?
    and there is no longer the idea that the kids should be perfect-
    we are SO over that!
    of course,i did feel bad when mike went to kindergarden and the teacher told me how proud we must be of mike’s artistic talent and i coluld only smile blankly at her because after 5 kids i had put away all writing implements with the twins because i could not bear the thoughts of daily wall scrubbings- mike had never drawn much of anything at home. a twinge of guilt buoyed by the realization that his talent was there and even my lacksidasical parenting could not take that away from him.
    pros and cons to everything.

  39. earthami says:

    Maybe it is just #1 and the others just follow. I didn’t have my son until I was 35, and not for a big career or anything like that just cause. I know I had more confidence in myself at 35 than I did at 25.

  40. Anne says:

    I had my 1st kid at 28 and have learned a few things myself -
    1) don’t sweat the small stuff (who cares if she’s playing with the phone bill…she’s not strong enough to rip into it and it’s keeping her quiet so mommy can finish her blog entry)
    2) kids suck brain cells. I FEEL stupider now than before my 1st pregnancy. Maybe it’s just becuase now, my head is so FULL of other things.
    3) Being a SAHM does not mean I’m sitting on my couch, watching The View and eating Bonbons. It’s draining chasing after kids and keeping up a house while juggling all of the everyday crap that goes along with mommyhood.
    4) Mommy needs a break regularly. Hubby gets to have intelligent conversations with other adults on a daily basis. Me? I have aggrivating conversations with a 1 year old. Fun!

  41. mothergoosemouse says:

    Chris, I love how you have the perspective to compare and contrast your approach to parenting over the years. Quite reassuring, both in terms of what I already let slide (e.g., the mismatched outfits and tutus) and what I SHOULD let slide (e.g., the mess-making which functions as great entertainment for them).

  42. Damselfly says:

    This is great! As a mid-30s first-time mom-to-be (enough hyphens for ya?), I too wonder if I’m simply too tired to parent. But now I realize I will just be the pajama-and-tutu type of parent. Thanks!