It dawned on me just the other day, very belatedly, and somewhat shockingly, that when Mister Three starts school I will be turning the big 4-0 that year. I say belatedly because we have had a few family discussions along the lines of: “when he’s five you will be at university”, and “when he’s eighteen you will be in your thirties”. Yet somehow I never stopped to think that I will celebrate my fortieth during his first year at school. And that’s the shocking part for me. After all, I was the youngest mum by a country mile when my oldest started school. I was twenty-five. My older boys always had the youngest mum, and even my daughter still has one of the youngest mums.
So it got me to thinking: does age have anything to do with being a parent?
I had my children at 19, 21, 24, and 34. That covers three different decades, a lot of growing up, and massive shifts in personality, attitude, and mindset.
So let’s start at the beginning.
The best thing about being a young mum was the complete lack of worry and fear. I had supreme confidence in what I was doing, and no fear that everything wouldn’t turn out completely fine. Physically I had the energy and stamina to cope with little sleep and small kids. The only downside that I can think of would have been the lack of freedom, but that wasn’t really an issue for me. I was happy to be a stay-at-home mum. I also didn’t have a drivers licence so we walked a lot, which meant lots of fresh air for them and lots of exercise for me. I once added up the weight of both boys, their stretch limo pram, and the amount of shopping in the basket underneath, and figured out that I was pushing a whopping FORTY KILOS!
Fast forward to child number four, and while I was at my slimmest and fittest since before child one, my thirty-four year old body felt every bit of the pregnancy. All the bits I laughed off at nineteen had me groaning: sore back, tiredness, bad skin, heartburn, nausea, constipation, the works. I loved the pregnancy mentally and emotionally, but boy did I feel it physically. But the plus side to being older came after the birth. The patience. The hard won knowledge that he was actually running the show and not me. The mind-blowing awe and wonder at this perfect creation. Taking the time to appreciate and savour the whole experience.
So there are the physical bonuses to being a young mum, and mental pluses to being a bit older. I will own up and admit that I used to be a firm believer that having your children when you’re young is the best way to do it. Ah, the smugness of youth. I have since learnt that it’s so often not up to us to decide when. There are many older mums who thought their forties would be more about travel, freedom, and champagne, and less about nappies, vomit, and snot. My poor husband thought we were finished after number three, and it was a rude shock for him when I brought up having another baby. He had his sights happily set on holidays, sleep-ins and a motorbike. And how do you compromise on a baby? You can’t. But it worked out win-win for everyone. The sleep-ins are back, the holiday is happening in two weeks, and he got his bike earlier this year. Plus we have the sweetest child as well.
So my final conclusion? Like in so many other areas of our lives, age is indeed just a number.
And whatever age you do become a parent at is a lucky number indeed.