Meet Later Mom Jancee Dunn


AGE: 50

RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Married 

RESIDENCE: Brooklyn, New York 

CHILD’S NAME/AGE: Sylvie, 7

I write books, magazine articles, newspaper articles, and children’s books. Visit janceedunn.net.

What was your road to parenthood like?  It took a few years for me to get pregnant. I had anticipated that my pregnancy would be tough on my body at my age, but it really wasn’t, which was kind of nice. I had the usual back pains, and so forth, but nothing beyond that. I gave birth the week before my 43rd birthday.

How does being a mom influence your work?  I’ve become so soft and sentimental, my writing has no edge anymore! And I’ve also learned to compartmentalize pretty efficiently. I write from 9-3, while my child is at school. I hunch over the computer and barely move except to rummage in the kitchen for snacks (when you’re a freelance writer, you eat constantly.) I don’t look at celebrity gossip websites like I used to, I don’t text friends—I just work. Then at 3, I close the computer, pick my daughter up at school and it’s Mom Time.

What inspired you to write about parenting?  Well, there’s so much rich material!  I just loved the universality of it, how we’re all in the same club and have similar experiences. I love when strangers who are fellow parents joke with you when your kid is doing something embarrassing. I remember when my daughter was a toddler and had a Category 5 meltdown in an airport, a lady walked by, gave me a sympathetic look and said, “It gets better.” Then she kept walking, and said over her shoulder, “And worse.” Which I loved.

And even just personally, I have kept a journal since my daughter was born, and I try and just jot a few things down every week or so. Because you really do forget everything.

What advice would you offer to multi-tasking overwhelmed moms?  Before I wrote my book (How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids), I was sort of amazed at how I never articulated what I needed. I would get mad at my husband for not helping out with childcare and household work, but I rarely said, ‘this is what I need you to do.’ Instead I would just fume at him, or rage that I was “doing everything around here.”

Also, this is obvious, but take some time to yourself, even if it’s 20 minutes to take a walk! I have so many friends who are stay at home moms whose husbands say, ‘I need the weekend to recharge, sorry.’ But then the moms are never off the clock. If they were in a union, they’d get at least a half an hour break for a full work day. Try to leave the premises, if possible—if I try to take a bath, my daughter joins me and announces that we’re taking ‘me time’ together.

Do you think it’s tough for women to balance parenting, a personal life and professional pursuits?  And, if so, how do you achieve balance?  Who do you turn to for support?   I do. Again, it’s really hard to cultivate a sense of entitlement — that you, too, need a personal life, and time with friends, and pursuits that sustain you. I am adamant about having a family meeting on Saturday mornings (as boring and un-sexy as that is) and negotiating time trade-offs with my husband. I book a fitness class and pre-pay it. I make a plan with a friend and get it on the calendar. And I make sure, when I have free time, to do things for myself, as hard as that can be — to make sure it isn’t ‘contaminated,’ as one social scientist termed it, by a mother’s impulse to do something useful for others, like pick up some new socks for the kid.

What do you see as the positives and challenges of having a child at age 35 or over?  The challenge is that I am the oldest parent in my child’s class. One parent is 30, and I am now 50. We have different cultural references, and sometimes that can make me feel like Grandma Moses.

But there are so many positives. I am more patient (or is it simply ‘more tired?’) I was so ready for parenthood. I am more aware that time is fleeting, and thus more determined to savor each day. I am less reactive and have a sense of humor that comes from experience. I trust my instincts, whereas if I had become a parent in my twenties, I would have cared very deeply about how I was being judged as a mom.

Has anything about being a mother surprised you?  What do you love the most about it, and what is the most challenging?   I’m surprised that I am the softie and my husband is the disciplinarian — I assumed it would be the other way around. Also, again, that I am so sentimental, which was not the way I was at all pre-parenthood. When I dropped my child off for the first day of kindergarten, I was crying so hard that the teacher had to comfort ME. Then she gently asked me to leave, because I was upsetting the children. But I love being a sentimental mush-ball.

The most challenging aspect is that time has sped up for me, so as an older parent, it has become even more fleeting. These last seven years with my daughter have flown by, and I am already feeling sad about her leaving for college. She’s in second grade! So I’m really trying to work on not dreading her leaving, which is not healthy for me. Or her! If I cling neurotically onto her, I guarantee she’ll go to school overseas to get away from me.

What do you most want to teach your child?  What have you learned from her thus far?  I most want to teach her to be kind and sensitive to others, and it seems to be working so far, because what I have learned from her is to assume the best in people. I often ascribe a diabolical motive in others —someone didn’t text me back, they obviously hate me—when it’s often not the case.

Have your parents offered any particular parenting advice that has really resonated with you?  Don’t overthink things and trust your gut.

Do you have any particular memories from your own childhood that inspire you to make memories with your child?  I really loved cooking with my mom, and baking, so I bake a lot with my own child. We have a tradition that I made up on the spot called Lazy Saturdays, where we loll around in our pajamas and bake cookies all day. I have a really easy homemade bread recipe that I make on weekends for breakfast, too. Sylvie requests it, and says that she loves the way the whole house “smells cozy” when bread is baking.

What words of wisdom would you like to share for someone contemplating motherhood over age 35?  Your life experience will make your parenthood experience richer. If I could go back and time everything and have it go exactly the way I wanted, I’d still choose being an older parent. All the turmoil of my younger years is gone, and the freedom from that makes more room for me to be a good parent. Best thing I ever did.

 

  1. One Response to “Meet Later Mom Jancee Dunn”

  2. Hi I’m 49 now and me and my partner are trying for a baby I’ve had 3 previously with my ex husband
    Is it possible for me to get pregnant
    I’m still having my periods x

    By Paula crawford on May 2, 2017

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