GUEST BLOG POST: Fitting In and Making Friends as a "Later" Mom – by Melissa Stanton, author, The Stay-At-Home Survival Guide
I never thought I was a particularly old new mom. At least I didn’t before my husband’s job relocated us from the New York tri-state area, where I had lived and worked for most of my life, to a rural suburb in a state some 200 miles away.
At age 38 I suddenly found myself in an oversized McMansion-style home in a newly-developed golf course community. Having left my career in Manhattan and a valued circle of friends in my New Jersey town, I was now spending my days alone with three children, including a five-old-boy and seven-month-old twin girls. It was a tough transition.
For one of my first outings to the neighborhood’s kiddie pool, I enlisted the aid of a teenager who lived next door. When we arrived, three toddlers were in the pool under the care of three high school-age girls. Many families in the community had au pairs or regular sitters, and to my dismay I had already discovered that most of the women my age were done changing swim diapers; their children were school-age and some were the mothers of actual adults. For instance, my immediate neighbor and I were the exact same age. As we became friends and shared our life stories, we realized that when I was starting college as a 17-year-old freshman she was newly married and eight-months pregnant.
While the neighborhood’s stay-at-home moms my age did their housework, shopped, lunched and exercised during the day, I was juggling diapers, bottles, naps, feedings, mommy-and-me classes and half-day Kindergarten. Most of the women who had babies the same age as mine were both younger than me and at a different stage of life. They were starting their families, while I was finished, way finished. They had gladly left the workforce while I still struggled with mixed feelings about having done so. We didn’t have a lot in common.
As I sat in the kiddie pool with my kids and Christina, my 18-year-old mother’s helper, I overheard one of the nearby teenagers refer to herself as “Mommy” while she spoke to a boy who looked to be about two years old. “Is that girl that boy’s mom?” I whispered to Christina. Yes, she confirmed, that “girl” was the mom—and the other two “girls” were the moms of the other children. The young women were about a year older than Christina and had been a year ahead of her in school.
It was horrifying to realize that, at age 38, I could not only be the mother of the four teens in my presence, I could be the grandmother of their children, who were older than two of my children!
Within three years of that kiddie pool outing, my aforementioned friend became a grandmother herself, as did a few other neighborhood women in their early 40s. In my new community, teenage and young parenthood seemed to be a family tradition. Previously, the only teenage mother I had ever known was a relative who got pregnant during her freshman year at college. That unintended pregnancy, which caused my cousin to drop out of school and live with her parents as a single mom, was a big deal and, for a then-14-year-old me, a big lesson: Don’t become a teenage mom!
As soon as we could, my husband and I packed up and moved again, to a very different area less than 10 miles away. There were lots of things we didn’t like about the house and neighborhood we had chosen under the duress of house-hunting long distance with newborns. (We did not high-tail it out of dodge because of the young moms, and grandmoms.) But what the experience reinforced to me is that, as a “later” mom, it’s helpful to have the companionship and support of other “later” moms. As a mom of any age, it’s important to have within your friendship circles women who can relate to your experience and daily reality.
When I surveyed women for my book, The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide, one of the respondents described how she had been part of a playgroup that consisted of moms who nursed exclusively and made their own baby food. She didn’t do either (in large part due to exhaustion) and felt out-of-place among those women. So she made a concerted effort to establish connections and friendships elsewhere. I did the same, and it worked.
Prior to becoming a mother of three, Melissa Stanton was an editor at LIFE and People magazines. She is the author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-tested strategies for staying smart, sane, and connected while caring for your kids (Seal Press/Perseus Books) and a contributor to the book Courageous Parents, Confident Kids: Letting go so you both can grow, published this month by Spark Press. For info., visit http://www.reallifesupportformoms.com/.