The Good (And The Not So Good) Of Being An Older Mom

by Stephanie Gruner Buckley
Originally Published: 
A girl leaning and whispering something to her older mom

Let’s start with why I’m an old mom. I was busy. I was a journalist. I didn’t want to change diapers or stay home at night. Then one day, I woke up at 40 and said to my husband, “It’s now or never.”

Miraculously, five months later, the time was now.

The Good

I know who I am.

I was incredibly lucky to have a baby — as I saw it — right under the wire. Then I became a mom and realized that having a child later in life has its advantages. Unlike in my 20s and 30s, in my 40s, I knew who I was. I wasn’t trying to raise a child while growing up myself.

I have more time and patience.

While I’m far from the perfect mom, I have more time now than I would have had before to make a good effort — and also time to read books about how to improve. I’m not necessarily patient either, but certainly more so than I would have been while also working as a reporter on deadline.

I can afford time off.

Because of my husband’s work, I could literally afford to take time off after my baby was born. What’s more, because I had worked for two decades before having a child, I had skills and contacts, meaning taking time off was less risky. There was a greater chance I’d find work again.

I can afford help.

We hired a nanny, Ia, who was a marvel. She adored our daughter. I’m convinced that had a car come careening onto a sidewalk, and she had to choose to save my daughter’s life or her own, she would have picked my daughter.

Early on, I learned how best to employ Ia. A friend, Patty, who also had kids later in life, advised: don’t feel guilty about not doing everything. Pick the things you want to do — like bath and reading time — and really enjoy that time together. She said I shouldn’t beat myself up for not changing every diaper. That was great advice. I was a far better mom for not being an exhausted mom.

I’m less rigid and more fun.

As older parents, my husband and I are both less hung up on rules. This might have been true even if we’d had kids earlier. But I think the confidence to do things your own way comes with age. We had friends who had kids when they were younger, and they were obsessed with schedules. Before we had our own child, we’d think nothing of showing up unannounced at their house at bath time. Mistake. You could throw the entire operation off for months just by drinking a glass of wine in the doorway of the bathroom.

My husband and I let anyone stop by whenever. If a bath was skipped, so be it. Weeknights were fine for dinner parties. We generally stuck to our daughter’s bedtime, but that didn’t mean our night was over too.

I’m also more fun, I think, as an older, more relaxed mom. My days of trying to be cool (if ever those days existed) are long gone. I don’t mind looking foolish. This makes it easier to sing with my daughter or copy her dance moves on afternoon walks. Just yesterday, I had a cameo role in a TikTok video. I did a weird bunny hop across the screen. My daughter rewarded me by posting it with the tagline, “I have the coolest mom!”

The Bad

I’m old.

I have to stretch more, and when I don’t, I risk pulling a muscle when I pick up my daughter. I tire more quickly and need more time to myself to recharge. Sometimes I think the greatest pleasure of motherhood is a transatlantic flight for business: just me, a glass of wine, and a tiny movie screen.

I’m older than other parents.

I may be more confident, but for some reason, I’m not okay with being older than other moms. Worse, I like to think I pass for younger when I probably don’t. I once lied about my age. I was at a school quiz night at a table with other parents. It just happened to be my 50th birthday, something I wasn’t advertising. But somehow it got out that it was my birthday. A friend, who is more than a decade younger than I am, asked if it was a “special birthday.” Surrounded by parents and teachers and imagining all of them singing and toasting me, I lied and said “no” before quickly steering the conversation to something else. I like to think it wasn’t entirely a lie. There’s truly nothing special about turning 50.

I’m tech unsavvy.

I’m one more generation removed from my daughter’s tech world. I simply don’t appreciate life online as she does — having to take endless photos for her Instagram account and feigning interest in her Roblox house’s design. I’m not sure I’d be interested even if I were younger, but at least I might relate better to online life and be more enthusiastic about what she creates there.

I think everyone notices I’m older (and I’m not okay with it).

There was the time at the doctor’s office when the nurse asked my daughter: “So, who do we have with you today?” And I assumed it wasn’t because I look nothing like my daughter but because of my age. Or that time visiting family in Alabama when we went to a water park (pre-Covid). I was chatting with adults who were roughly my age. At some point, I realized they were all grandparents, and they realized I was the mom. They looked surprised and a little bit sorry for me.

I guess I should end by saying, I’m not sorry that I’m an older mom. I feel fortunate.

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