I’m waiting outside the school doors to pickup my three-year-old from preschool. Other parents trickle in, finding a spot to stand on the sidewalk. Most of them have one thing in common—they’re young.
And I have one question. When did I become the old mom in the group?
To my left is a cluster of moms—half of whom are pregnant. Some of them are pushing strollers, while others are hand-in-hand with a toddler. To my right are even more parents, most on their phones. I’m guessing they’re on Snapchat or something cooler that I have zero awareness of.
Some of the moms are on trend, while others are, like me, are still in their workout clothes. But the commonality stops there. I’m only carrying my car keys and cell phone. I don’t have any other kids with me, because my other three children are older, from a tween to a first grader.
I let myself go there. You know, a place of feeling envious of moms who wear lipstick, moms who know each other from play group, moms who are discussing the adorable backpack they saw on Insta yesterday.
My judgment session comes to halt when the school doors open and my preschooler runs toward me squealing, “Mommy!” I scoop her up into my arms and cover her face with kisses. Then we head toward the minivan, and I buckle her into her car seat.
On the drive home, my daughter is occupying herself with a magnet doodle board. I get ten minutes of thinking time. It dawns on me how completely ridiculous I was being while waiting for preschool dismissal. When I really contemplate where I am in life, being the old mom in a group is actually pretty great.
Since my preschooler isn’t my first kid—nor is she my second or even my third—I’m not constantly questioning my parenting. After all, I got to experiment with the first three kids. At this point, my parenting is down pat.
I have made up my mind—like a stubborn old woman—when it comes to discipline, vaccines, technology time, extracurricular activities, homework, and chores. I don’t take my parenting quandaries to total strangers on the internet to see what they think about my choices.
I’m not over-analyzing a comment from my mother-in-law—who, by the way, is actually awesome and I’ve learned to appreciate her. I don’t care what the neighbors think when my kids wrestle each other in the yard and then my son decides to pee on the bush.
I love not toting around a ten-pound diaper bag or pushing a wheeled contraption with buttons and levers, also known as a stroller. No more bottles, extra outfits, or baby wipes. My kids can buckle themselves into the car and make their own sandwiches. It’s freaking glorious.
Every single rash, sniffle, or low-grade fever my kids have isn’t worthy of an after-hours, emergency call to the pediatrician. I don’t get my upset if my one of my older kids gets a C on a spelling test or has a squabble with their that-day BFF. I don’t take these things to mean I’m failing as a mother and my kids are doomed to a life of mediocracy.
I also don’t worry about how other people parent. I don’t give one damn about how you feel about circumcising, formula-feeding, vitamins, or homeschooling. As long as your kid is safe and loved, good job, mom. I’ll be over here minding my own beeswax. It feels good—really good—to focus solely on what my kids need and not what other people think my kids need.
When I was a brand-new mom 11 years ago, I remember that suffocating realization that my newborn was dependent upon me for everything and I really, really didn’t want to screw up. I did what many new mamas do—checking on my baby throughout the night to make sure she was breathing, asking Dr. Google which brand of diapers was the least toxic, and whipping up homemade baby food.
I have empathy for the younger moms. There’s so much uncertainty and so much noise. There are many parenting “experts” and opinions—and it’s so damn exhausting to always be questioning your mothering. The worry is relentless and just when you think you’ve got a handle on your toddler, you find out you’re going to have another baby. And your toddler decides to start biting—because, why not?
There’s so much moms of younger kids have to constantly consider. Potty training, fine motor skills, socialization, teething—just to name a few. New motherhood is exhausting.
When my oldest was four, I also had a toddler and a newborn. Those years were a blur—and I remember them only because I took a thousand photos a day of the babies. The demands were never-ending. I went from serving snacks, to wiping bottoms and noses, to picking up toys and wiping up spills. Repeat. Meanwhile, the entire time I was worrying if I was doing things right or was I royally screwing up my kids?
Being the old, experienced, confident mom now is truly a relief. Yes, I still have many years of parenting to go. Yes, there are new challenges that lie ahead. Yes, I still have moments where I wonder if I’m making the best choices for my kids.
But overall, my attitude is rather simple. My 11 years and counting of parenting has taught me an important and simple lesson. You do you, I’ll do me, and we should all mind our own business. Because, don’t we have enough on our plates without judging what’s on someone else’s?