I had my first child last year, a few months after I’d turned 45. I gave birth at an age when many of my friends were sending their first-borns off to college. Admittedly, for some of them, their first-borns may have been the result of poor planning or an “oops!” moment. Still, my husband and I (though he is six years younger than me) are taking on new parenthood at a time when most parents our age are looking ahead to diapering their first grandchild, not their own newborn.
I’m sure that when I was 25, if someone had told me that a 45-year-old woman maybe, just maybe, was wiser than me as a result of age and experience, I would have told that person to stuff it—except I would have used a less-polite term. But now, through benefit of that same age and experience that I didn’t used to think mattered, I now see that we older moms do offer certain advantages to our kids.
We’re better prepared for pregnancy. I’d never suggest that younger moms don’t want and love their babies. But we older moms are far less likely to have an unexpected or unplanned pregnancy so we have plenty of time and focus to get our lives ready for baby. I confess: I bought my daughter her first stuffed animal before I was even pregnant and we bought, and renovated, our home with a baby’s room in mind long before I saw two solid blue lines on the pee test!
We’re more likely to stay with Daddy. Of course there are no guarantees, but a new mom in her 40s isn’t likely to be in a “starter” marriage.Whether she’s in a more long-term marriage relationship or, like me, in a newish marriage with all the shenanigans of her 20s and 30s well (and thankfully) behind her, the fact of the matter is that the kids of older moms are more likely to be raised in a two-parent household. (I am 100% certain that if I’d married and had a baby with any of my boyfriends from my 20s and 30s, I’d be a single mom to some angry Goth teenager right now.)
We’re more financially stable. Women who have a successful career before becoming pregnant, or who are half of a two-income family, can obviously provide better for their children. Babies are expensive! And if I’d had one in my hardscrabble 20s, I’m pretty sure my daughter would be wearing a dishtowel as a diaper, while the spare one was hanging out to dry. For single moms who have babies in their 40s, they’re not likely to plan a pregnancy unless they’re sure they have the financial means to provide for a baby.
Read Related: Having a Baby After 35: Risky Business?
We’re more chill. I remember a young co-worker who brought her newborn to a business conference, yet freaked out anytime any of her colleagues touched the baby. (Hint: If you don’t want people touching your baby, don’t bring her to an event attended by hundreds of people!) I think that had she been older, she might have been less phobic about germs, dirt, and dog kisses. You want to hold my daughter? She’s all yours. Please hang onto her until I’ve finished dessert. I also don’t pack three changes of outfits and 10 diapers plus a sack full of toys every time we leave the house. And if the dog licks her on the face and then steals her cookie? Sorry folks, but I’m really, really okay with that.
We’ve got our sh*t together. Honestly, I’d feel sorry for any kid of mine born to me when I was in my 20s. I lacked self-esteem and self-awareness. I was obsessed with finding The One instead of focused on my career and inner happiness. I drank too much, though I like to think I would have kept a lid on that for a baby’s sake. But how many crappy boyfriends and crying fits and Mommy being too depressed to get out of bed would my child have been exposed to? I’m just talking about myself now—I know not all 20-somethings are the disaster I was at that age. But a lot of my friends were hot messes just like me, and none of us were ready to be moms. Now we can look back and laugh, and say, “That was a lot of fun, but thank God those days are behind us.”
There will always be a part of me that wishes I’d had children when I was younger, so that I’d have more decades to spend with them and (hopefully) my grandchildren. But I had my daughter at the right time and place in my life and, thankfully, with the right man. And I know that for me, at least, that means she’ll grow up more secure, healthy and happier than she might have if I’d had her 10 or 20 years ago.
Having said all that, I can think of one huge advantage younger moms have over us older moms: the energy of youth. My daughter is going into her fourth month of not sleeping through the night. And I’m sure a perky, 25-year-old new mom who hasn’t gotten a good night’s sleep for four months can’t possibly feel as worn out and irritable as I do right about now.