I wanted to be a mom, but I was waiting for a sign to show me it was the right time to have kids. This sign needed to be something momentous and grand so I’d recognize it instantly — like the alarm on my biological clock ringing loudly enough for my dogs to hear. I waited for my signal. I waited so long that I almost missed my childbearing years. On my 38th birthday, when the stacks of flaming candles threatened to melt my ice-cream birthday cake, I figured that was sign enough.
Once I had my son, it didn’t occur to me what being an “older mom” would mean. Sure, as a 40-year-old mom, I might need a little extra sleep or maybe I’d be behind keeping up with the younger crowd’s latest vernacular, but I didn’t think I’d feel like a total grody old poser. Then I started interacting with moms who didn’t need their toddler’s help getting up off the play mat, and I began to realize there were definite differences being the “old” mom on the playground. And now, the best I can do is try not to feel feel completely “cray” about it. (My five-year-old says I’m using that right?)
1. Going to sleep with/before your kids
During the newborn phase of motherhood, I was so tired that I once licked butter out of the inside of our refrigerator because I couldn’t summon the strength to go to the grocery store. All the advice I’d gotten from younger mom friends had been, “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” but I was nodding off when the baby was awake. Finally, when my son and I found a workable sleep schedule, I put him to bed early and went to sleep when he did. I took no luxurious bubble baths after a day of hanging with my kid, because I was asleep as soon as the last lullaby was sung — sometimes before.
2. The Babysitter Blues
Most of the time, I live in an ageless bubble. Sure, there are some real deep lines that appear across my forehead when I’m scowling at my cupboard’s lack of Oreos — but I feel totally awesome in my ever-youthful Reebok high tops. I forget that I’m the older mom dropping my kid off at school until life steps in to remind me just how old I am. Case in point: “Hi! I’m your son’s Kindergarten teacher this year,” the bubbly young woman said. “You used to babysit me!”
Time to trade in my new Reeboks for some old mom jeans.
3. Serious tech woes
The days of my little guy asking me to fix his broken toys are gone. Today, my five-year-old is doing the fixing. When my phone decides to cut me off from the world-wide-web or whatever, it’s my son who comes to the rescue. I watch his tiny hand swipe to different screens and give me back my good-as-new phone. Later, I’ll ask him to help me with the remote control.
4. Replacing “hot mess mom” with “hot flash mom”
Waiting to pick up my Kindergartener in the dead of winter, I’m hot. I’m sweating. It’s not because my coat is too warm or I’ve just worked out (I’m still too tired for that); it’s because I’m in the middle of perimenopause. I’m having a hot flash, and I can feel the sweat dripping down my face onto my sensible turtleneck. Then, a younger mom walks up next to me, and now there’s no avoiding the small talk — or the sweat freezing like icicles hanging from my nose.
5. One-and-done, no question about it
“Mom, will I ever have a brother or a sister?” my kid asks when I least expect it. He and I discuss his deep thoughts on the subject. There are occasions when he’s wistful about the prospect of a sibling, as well as times when he confidently declares, “I’m happy to be the only kid here.” We’ll continue our open-hearted talks whenever he should need, but my ovaries and I have already spoken. I’ve made peace with what they’ve revealed: I know deep down that I’m too old to give my kid a baby brother — only a puppy.
6. Please tell me it’s not Alzheimer’s already
These days, I find myself losing my train of thought in mid-senten…um, what was I saying about Oreos back there? Oh, right.
My old-mom brain is hard at work trying to remember when I took my last nap, and my short-term memory is suffering. I may have had three playdates with a certain family, but I’m still trying to recall their names. Luckily, my five-year-old is great at remembering — and super-great at whispering names into my ear.
7. Not even pretending to know who Cardi B is
When younger moms roll up to carpool wearing what I rolled out of bed wearing in college, I feel my age. Being “on trend” isn’t always my bag. When talking to younger parents, I definitely assume “Marshmello” refers to a food rather than a trendy DJ who was born in 1992. Oh, and who is spinning songs by singers whose names sound like workout classes at my gym (“Oh, I though you were asking if I liked the Cardio B workout…what’s a Cardi B?”). I know, I sound like I’m old enough to be their mom — and the thing is, I probably am.
Still, the wish I made on my flaming birthday cake at the age of 38 came true in spades: I love being a mom. I may take more naps than my five-year-old, but I wouldn’t change the choices I’ve made that led me to being a mom later than I’d expected. I’m thrilled that I can take all my extra years of wisdom and use them in parenting my child — if I could only remember what it was I learned in the first place, that is.