I recently bought a new stroller and car seat, and then drove three hours to pack up my daughter’s dorm room and move her back home from her freshman year in college.
My days are a mix of lulling a crying infant to sleep and Skyping soothing words to an 18-year-old, who just got her heart broken and in her words, is “taking a break from the Boy Mess Express.” Afternoons, I encourage a tentative rollover for a four-month-old and sing “Hush Little Baby.” Nights, I suggest easing into a college major change with summer school and watch Cee Lo Green on NBC’s new hit The Voice with my just-returned home daughter, Emily.
My life is a little unusual. Last fall, I thought I was just about to empty the nest when my youngest ventured off to college. Then suddenly my house was bursting with my college-aged son, his girlfriend, and four months ago, the arrival of their baby Rylee. My office—earned after years of transformations (from Thomas the Tank Engine wallpaper to Laura Ashley's "Little Bo Peep") is once again a nursery, with purple walls, giraffes, and a baby monitor.
I meet colleagues who had their babies in their 40s for lunch and they discuss preschool selection for their young ones. I’m praying my son lands the job as a paramedic. Others rib me with chants of “here comes Grandma.” Or “how does it feel to be a GRANDMA?”
A group of my workout buddies presented me with a T-shirt that reads: “My Grandma Does Triathlons.” And just a few months ago, while attending an awards ceremony for the high school I work with, a late 40-something consultant for the school shared that his wife was about to give birth any day. I shared that my granddaughter had just been born. We’re a couple of years apart in age. Who would think that for the first time in more than two decades, I finally have a peer with a same-aged kid to form an infant playgroup?
I’ve always been a little ahead of the curve. I had my kids in my early 20’s, the first in my group of friends, colleagues, and family by at least 10 years. My daughter Caitlin used to accompany me to the daily newspaper where I was a reporter, after my attempt to become the first “job sharer” dissolved when my co-worker returned from maternity leave for all of an hour before making a beeline home. The all-male team of editors rolled their eyes and whispered “I told you so” to each other, but I like to think that my naivete and youth helped me stay the course, eventually blazing a trail for the sea of part-time working moms and freelancers who make up that newsroom today.
When my twenty-something peers were traveling the world, I was having babies — three of them, and juggling a life as a full-time journalist while my then husband went to law school. I had baby spit-up on my shoulder while my newspaper colleagues were hiccuping themselves after Happy Hours that extended into the wee hours of the morning. I had babies to rush home to and pediatrician appointments peppering my work schedule. They bar-hopped and hit the health club.
I had lots of energy — and I needed it.
Those years provide a personal window into the young versus old mom debate, which is alive and well here on Circle of Moms. At one end is Christi T., who is 21 and a mom of one. She says, “I’m so tired of getting lumped into a category... I have bitten my tongue for a long time but it has gotten to a point where I am ready to explode. Yes, I know that I am a young mother (but) I am probably a better mother than most parents I know. Just because I CHOSE to have children at a young age does not mean I am a dingbat like some women my age." At the other end is Petra D., a 46 year-old mom with two kids ages five and three, who says “I find it hard to connect with much younger moms. I usually feel out of place with the moms who have kids the same ages as mine."
Sometimes I must admit a pang of jealousy hits me when I sit across the lunch table from my older mom friends, the ones whose kids are decked out in the finest designer clothes, with pricey strollers and the greenest of gear. I wonder if I would have been a better mom to my now teen-aged and young adult kids if I had been more mature and wise. Or if I could have given them more financially if I’d furthered my career before having them. I also wonder about my friends, and think about how patient and generous they must have had to be towards me over the years, as I juggled three kids, a job, and later, life as a single mom. I did not have a lot of time to be a super focused friend.
But I also know that being a mom is hard work at any age. In the end, young or old doesn't really matter. Either way there is challenge. And either way, your age is a gift. As they say, the grass is always greener. I think I could have been better, more thoughtful, more balanced if I was older and more comfortable with myself. But I also know I love my kids and always will unconditionally. I see my son and Ginnia loving Rylee with the same commitment and passion. They love her wholeheartedly, just as I loved and love my kids. Age doesn't matter, but committment does.
So is it better to have your kids young or later in life? In my situation, being a young grandma is a blast and a blessing. I look forward to heading out in my car (when I can wrestle it away from one of my kids) with Rylee in tow to the zoo or botanical garden, the park or pool, knowing that I’m on my way to a new and fulfilling life adventure. Who knows, maybe she’ll cross the finish line with me (in her jogging stroller) in a triathlon.
I’d like to think that will be more fun than her pushing me in a wheelchair.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.