One of the downsides of having children late in life (43 and 45 in my case) and being an older mum is that there comes a time when the age differential between you and other mothers becomes noticeable to your kids, even if there is no judgement in their observation.
One night, a few years ago when I was approaching my 50th birthday, Caitlin said to me whilst doing her ablutions – “50 is an awfully big number isn’t it. What do girls do at 50?”. I was at a momentary loss to give her an answer.
She wanted to know when she would become a big girl and I could see her mind working out where to place us both on a scale of age. She is also becoming aware of the concept of death and that we do not last forever.
Hubby and I are determined to keep young (ish), fit and healthy so we are around as long as possible for our children. There are those (many of them other women) who would say that having children at such a late age was an act of extreme selfishness and whilst I can see their point, it’s a little late to turn back the clock and to deny our two the myriad of wonderful experiences that life can offer if you have the get up and go to, well, get up and go.
In any case, is having a baby ever an act of altruism? I’ve been asked if my kids were an accident if the conception was ‘entirely natural’ and if I was overcome by the raging tick of my biological clock.
Manners seem to go out of the window when quizzing a woman about her fertility. I am well aware that I have been incredibly lucky and always counsel any younger woman who asks that the younger you can have your kids the better, simply because over 35 your guarantee of conceiving a child, at least easily, is not set in stone.
Of course, I am apprehensive about my two being picked on for having ‘older parents’ and particularly for having an older mum. Whilst I am not one of those 60+ first-time mothers who has bypassed the NHS and had IVF in Italy if I look around at the other mothers at the school gate, some seem to have barely left school.
More comfortingly, however, there an equal number who seem closer to my own age. It is often said the older mothers have more patience. Hmm. Let me tell you it’s potentially tougher if you do not make sure you keep your energy reserves up. I always say that when you get pregnant the only thing you focus on is the safe delivery of your child.
Perhaps I’m not a ‘tiger mother’ because I certainly did not think about the impact on my daily life or what my approach to my kids’ education would be. I had visions of swanning about in fields full of poppies, like an Amish version of the Flake advert, wearing Laura Ashley with my baby strapped to my breast, whilst pointing out flowers, birds and butterflies and singing like Stevie Nicks.
Sleep, good nutrition, exercise and stress management all take on a heightened importance when you’re an older mum. Supplements, both food, herbal and vitamins can help. Meditation, mindfulness and just taking a break can help you maintain your equilibrium.
Actually, I am less concerned about other people’s views about older mothers than I am about my two twigging that I may not be around quite as long as some of their friends’ parents. But there are no guarantees in life, are there? Caitlin loves to count the days down to her birthday but I have told her that every day is special and to make the most of each one. And as I approach the big 55, I try to remember to tell myself that too. Plus, Stevie Nicks is now 70.