My husband has more gray in his hair than many first-time dads. If you look carefully, you’ll see fine wrinkles in the corners of my eyes. Our two-year-old son is a compact bundle of energy, with golden curls, large brown eyes, and unmatched energy.
We have sometimes been mistaken for his grandparents. I used to tell myself it was because of his father’s hair, which started graying in college, but I’ve also faced such confusion when I was out alone with my son. I have learned to laugh it off, joking that sometimes I feel like a grandmother, but really, I’m his mommy. Still, each time someone says it, it hurts.
Families like ours are becoming increasingly more common. Women are waiting longer to have families, waiting until they finish not only college degrees but sometimes advanced degrees. Or in cases such as ours, waiting for a second marriage and a spouse more suitable to be a father. Other mothers have difficulty making sense of their own desires, and hold off on child bearing until they feel the biological clock running out. Some people wait because of career considerations, others because of insurance, financial or medical issues, and some have difficulty conceiving. Whatever the reason, there are more and more of us “belated mommies.” We should bond together.
Having children later was not unusual for my family. Both my grandmothers waited until they were about 40 to have their children. In my maternal grandmother’s case, she was too busy raising her younger siblings, a task which fell upon her, when her mother died. Not until her 30s, when she met my grandfather — who fell in love with her voice when she was a telephone operator — did she find time for her own life.
In the case of my paternal grandmother, she and my grandfather had been together for roughly eight years when she finally got pregnant with my father. I never asked her if this was by design or if she had difficulty conceiving. Tragically, my paternal grandfather died of a heart attack before she gave birth. So in the 1940s, when single mothers were devalued, she not only raised my father alone but was probably anywhere from 10 to 20 years older than most other mothers she encountered.
My story is different, but in some ways, it’s the same. A first marriage, at age 26, dissolved within a year, with our divorce finalized close to our second anniversary. It’s took a lot of false starts and personal growth before I found another man I wanted to marry. Even then, at 33 I did not want to rush into anything. Shortly after we wed, near my 37th birthday, he was laid off work, losing his medical insurance. Since I was a freelance writer and transcriptionist with no health insurance, we felt it was best to wait until he found a full-time job with insurance.
Luckily, I got pregnant with our little panda almost as soon as we started trying. It’s almost as if we simply willed our son into being, this despite the fact that we’d been warned that, as older parents, we might have more difficulty. I guess genes were on my side.
It is a wonderful miracle, bringing life into the world. It is challenging for all parents, but older parents face different challenges. All parents are tired, but older parents might grow winded faster. All parents hear unwanted advice from friends and strangers, but older parents also face rude assumptions. No one tells a young parent that they’re too inexperienced to have a child, but people seem to revel in hinting that older parents are unfit.
There are more of us “belated mommies” all the time, and yet too few of us are sharing our stories. I thought it was about time to change that.