What It’s Like to Be an Older Parent

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Becoming a parent in your late 30s and early 40s can be tough—or a blessing. It depends whom you talk to. I know what it’s like to become a parent later in life because I didn’t become a mother until I was 39. If you had told my young self that would be the case, she’d probably think that was good timing too. Turns out that the number of American women having kids after the age of 35 is growing. Why? Career first, kids second? Travel and partying first, family after? I’ll leave other journalists to speak on this, and the Wall Street Journal will do. For me, I was ready, and then it happened. How about you? olderparent1-fb So, what’s it like for me to become a parent later in life? I feel younger. I thought it would make me feel older, but I actually feel the opposite. She makes me feel young again: I read kids’ books, we go to playgrounds, I find myself rhyming because it makes us both happy, I’ve become more childlike, goofy, fun. But my body doesn’t—it’s aging. While I feel emotionally and spiritually youthful, excited, ready to take on the world, this 40-something mama’s body that partied before having a child cannot lift 30 pounds (weight of my 3-year-old) for very long. My back has gone out three times in the last year or so, and the only one to blame is myself. Having someone I need to look out for possibly another 20 years or so has made me more motivated than ever to physically get into shape, so I can chase this kid when she runs from me (it’s kind of embarrassing not being able to catch a 3-foot-tall person on the playground) and pick her up when she’s down. I often feel desperate, fragile, vulnerable. This might be just me versus being an older parent, but I’m more sensitive to the world like never before. Even threatened. Hopefully this is a stage. olderparent3-fb After living half of my life feeling kind of invincible, the streets I used to walk late at night before, the vices I used to partake in, the choices I used to make . . . feel so dangerous with a child in the mix. I can’t even watch super violent and bloody movies or watch the news anymore because I’d much rather go to sleep dreaming of unicorns and rainbows than feeling even paranoid about how the world out there could threaten my child. I am jealous of young mothers. Because I want more kids and time is ticking, and those young parents in general will likely live long enough to become grandparents. I couldn’t do this parenting thing without animals. Yes, my husband is pretty awesome — I know I’m fortunate to have a supportive partner in this parenting journey — but having three animals to care for (and provide comfort to me) also has helped versus being extra burdens. They have made my daughter take on a pint-sized parent role. She realizes this family doesn’t revolve around her or me, and that we are responsible for these animals because they can’t feed themselves. And this is a related and the most surprising feeling of them all . . . I don’t feel like my child is the biggest priority in my life—she’s one of them. The thing about becoming a mother, for me, is that it can’t always be about her. Sometimes the priority is a work deadline, helping my parents and sisters, a friend dealing with loss, me recovering from loss. Does this realization come with being an older parent? I don’t know, but that’s how I feel. And maybe everything I feel is what any person who loves someone so much, regardless of age. Are you an older parent or old at heart? What does it feel like for you? olderparent2-fb  

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