Today is my 41st birthday (yeah!) and I have two children – aged three and six. I don’t know if it’s because of my increasing years but I have been thinking more and more about the differences between young and old mums. How would life have been different if I’d had my children in my early 20s? Are there any advantages to being an older mum? After much thought (and a few conversations with older and younger mummy friends) here’s what I’ve concluded:
- I am pretty tech savvy but when I was at primary school there were no computers and even by the time I go to university there was only one computer room in the library. I may be getting to grips with my smartphone but I can’t help thinking younger mums are just naturally more in tune with what their kids are likely to get involved with online
- I am tired ALL the time. The first two years of my youngest’s life were spent in a sleep-deprived Zombie state but even now when he does a full 12 hour stint every night I feel the need for a nap most afternoons. Oh to have the energy of youth!
- I was brought up in the 70s so childhood to me means playing outside whatever the weather, making your own fun and using your imagination. I want the same for my kids which is probably unfair when they have so many new and exciting calls on their time and they are growing up in a world which seems more dangerous. Our perception of the world has changed a lot and maybe those born in the 90s can’t being to dream of the same freedoms for their children as I imagine because they never experienced it
- My friends who had kids in their early 20s are now flying off on amazing couples holidays, taking up new hobbies and staying out late. I am facing the endless trials of potty training, becoming a mummy taxi, starting school and I’ll be nearly 50 before we hit the teenage years. Is it better to party hard when you’re young and live life to the full before you drown in responsibilities or have my young mum friends got the right idea, getting the worry out of the way early and then PARTY?!
- Us older mums find it so much harder to get our pre-pregnancy figures back. I don’t know if it’s my metabolism slowing down or just the realisation that life’s too short to say no to cake but no matter how much exercise I do I can’t get my pre-baby figure back. In contrast young mums just seem to pop back into shape. Their eyes glisten, their skin glows and the worry of having little ones doesn’t seem to cause as many wrinkles – youth has a lot to answer for!
- My kids know all the moves to the Birdie Song, Superman, the Conga, Whigfield’s Saturday Night and the Spice Girls’ Stop Right Now! Golden knowledge you just don’t have if you’re young!
- Young mums don’t get accused of ‘leaving it too late’ or ‘putting their careers first’. Nothing drives me madder than when people accuse me (and other older mums) of putting our careers before staring a family. With me it simply wasn’t the case. I didn’t meet my husband until I was 30 (and kids came along when I was 34) and believe me I was kissing a lot of frogs until I met my prince. I could have settled at 21 , 24 or 28 but it wouldn’t have been right and God knows what mess I would have ended up in. Some of us older mums were simply waiting for Mr Right before we had kids – we just weren’t lucky enough to meet our ‘one’ in our 20s. I love my career but no job satisfaction can compete with the love of child. To suggest it is a trade off is insulating to so many women who weren’t happy to settle for second best or to rush in to something that wasn’t right and just bided their time
- My career has been on self-imposed hold for the past six years with certain opportunities closed to me. I am fully supportive of all women who make informed decisions about their lives – those who want to work full time and those who want to stay at home and do arguably the hardest job of all. I chose to work part-time once I had kids (I know I am lucky to have that choice) but it’s a double edged sword. I can look back at all I achieved in the workplace before I had kids and be really proud but when I am ready to get back into the rat race will I be seen as an out of touch dinosaur? I’ve found it impossible to switch off my ambition and I can’t help thinking young mums are lucky to have a clear run at their career goals once they’ve done their nurturing early on.
So as I blow out the 41 candles on my cakes and watch my little ones opening all my presents what have I learnt? I don’t know if young mums have it easier or if life experience gives us older mums the edge. Whether you’re raving in Ibiza with your daughter or wondering if your next holiday without the kids will be a Saga job, the most any of us can do is to give our children all the support and love we have – and in that case age is really just a number.