A few words of advice: If you wake one day to discover that your finely wrought prose is being heralded throughout cyberspace, gloat about it on Facebook. InstaPinterTweet it. But do not read the comments.
A few months ago, one of my Scary Mommy posts was picked up by a website dedicated to family topics. It was a light-hearted piece in which I complained about embarrassing mommy lingo and the equally embarrassing output of various body holes. Notably, in the intro to my post, I mention that I didn’t become a mom until I was a few weeks shy of 37.
“Oh golly, I’m on the Internet,” I thought to myself, “I’ll finally be cool and popular!” So I gobbled up the comments, soaking in every effusive “LOL!”
Then, at the bottom of the thread, I spotted it, a comment that made my breath catch in my throat. To paraphrase: “We had all 3 of our kids by the time I was 32. How dare you endanger the life of your baby by waiting until you were middle aged to become a mom?”
I don’t remember the hour or so after I read that comment, but when I came to, an empty bag of Tostitos lay on the bed, my face was slimy with wrinkle cream, and I’d composed a lengthy list of synonyms for both “heartless” and “tit meat for brains” in my dream journal.
Every middle-aged, baby-endangering fiber of my being wanted to point out that, by her logic, my child would have been better off never having been born. But that emotionally constipated crab bag didn’t want to have a debate; she wanted to land the Internet equivalent of a sucker punch. Furthermore, I don’t owe some anonymous crotch snot an explanation for my procreational choices.
But, like it or not, Mrs. Mommier Than Thou got me thinking about what it means to have a child later in life. If my kid marries, I might enjoy our mother-son dance from the comfort of my Hoveround mobility scooter. And what if I have another kid? I may need a daily Geritol infusion just to survive the sleepless nights, the breastfeeding, and the toxically stupid judgment of self-righteous Internet thunder dumps.
Yet, given the chance go back a decade, to have my son while I was still in my 20s, I wouldn’t. And here’s why:
1. I like myself more. In my mid and late 20s, my bod was a rock — washboard abs, sweet guns, a butt of distinction. Now I have a frowny face where my belly button used to be. It’s all good though, because no matter how many obsessive hours I spent on the treadmill, I never caught up with perfect. At some point in the last 10 years, I gave up on my dream of becoming the world’s first short, pale, pear-shaped Victoria’s Secret model and instead focused on my family, my health, and my career. The funny thing is, my ass deflated, but my self-esteem got ripped. In my 20s, I wouldn’t have been prepared for the horrors that motherhood visits upon the body. And in the long, hard newborn nights, self-loathing is a miserable bedfellow. Yes, I wish my boobs would reanimate. But what I want more than a nice rack is to show my son that there is worth in pursuing what you love and in loving yourself for having the courage to pursue it.
2. I’m healthier. About a decade ago, the migraines I’d suffered off and on since childhood finally made a full-time commitment. What had been a bimonthly inconvenience became a daily descent into excruciating pain. Doctors jabbed, scanned, palpated, and medicated me. Then they sent me the $10,000 bill. It took me years, a loan, and a few strongly worded conversations with God before my health improved. I can’t imagine trying to mother a houseplant, let alone a newborn, when I was sick; there were so many painkillers in my system that “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” would have sounded more like “The Itchy Bitchy Schpiiiiiiider.” Nowadays, I’m an Amazon. Put some coffee in me and I can change a loaded diaper while doing the Hokey Pokey (true story).
3. I’m more financially secure. Quaint though it sounds to pop out a baby while one is in graduate school and self-employed, I prefer my present circumstances. In my 20s, I paid my dues — taking classes, working at low-paying gigs, putting in 50- or 60-hour work weeks. Had my son arrived back then, I would have been forced to choose between finding questionable daycare on my measly budget or quitting school and work. Thankfully, my son didn’t explode onto the scene (a birth metaphor I promise never to use again) until I was in my 30s, when I had more money and more work experience. After I became a mom, my employer valued me enough to agree to a family- and finance-friendly work arrangement: I telecommute 20 hours per week. This is the best of all worlds: I have enough money to pay for fantastic part-time daycare, I can continue to work and keep my skills up to date, and I get to spend more time watching my son throw metal kitchen utensils on our new hardwood floor and then cry when he trips over a garlic press.
4. I’m not as dumb. These days, I relish a night out with my husband or with a few friends. Give me a babysitter and a designated driver, and I’ll show you a woman who knows how to throw down at a neighborhood restaurant. “Another glass of sangria, ma’am?” Hell-to-the-yes (on the third Wednesday of every month)! But a decade ago, I’d be more apt to wile away an evening or seven in a dive bar, where I could sidle up to a drunken moonshiner named Dead Eye who insisted I was a “squirrel with a small brain” who should “run far, far away!” (Hypothetically speaking.) So, yeah, I didn’t always make sound choices in my 20s. I put adventure before personal safety. And though I occasionally pine for the days of (hypothetically speaking) chatting up colorful would-be murderers, I know that I need to be there for my son. This means putting money into a college savings plan and avoiding strange men with prison tattoos.
5. I finally met my husband. A decade ago, I didn’t even know that my husband, Shelby, existed. And, frankly, I couldn’t have given birth to my son without my husband; I’ve yet to master the art of spontaneously generating another human. It’s not just that Shelby is an amazing dad — the kind of dad who made pint after pint of baby food from scratch and who is more distraught than our boy during vaccinations — it’s also that our kid just wouldn’t be our kid without that 50% dose of Shelby genes. The kid is wildly independent, a bit easily frustrated, but always ready to tackle a new challenge, be it scaling a baby gate or fitting a golf ball into his mouth. That’s pure Shelby DNA. And, just like his dad, my son makes me laugh every day. So was waiting a decade for this family, the one I have right now, worth it? You bet your big, stupid assface it was, lady.
Related post: 10 Benefits to Being The Older Mom