Reflections of a Later Mom by Margaret Hart
Most days I don’t think of myself as a “later” mom, just as a mom trying to do her best. But I have to be honest, there are days, and certain occasions, when being a later mom is top of mind. Lately, it seems, I’ve had more occasions than usual to be reminded that I came to parenting a little later. And it’s gotten me thinking…
When I was younger, my parents encouraged me to follow my passions. When I graduated from high school, they provided me with the opportunity to follow my dreams and attend college. After graduation, they were supportive when I chose to pursue a journalism career in New York City. And when I was on the cusp of turning 30, I lamented to my mom that many of my close friends were already married with children. She would always reassuringly say, “It will happen for you when the time is right.”
Up until that time in my life, I wasn’t overly concerned with getting married and having children. I always accepted that was a direction my life would eventually take and, as my mother had said, it would happen when the time was right. All I really wanted was to be successful in my career, and to have fun! I didn’t have any trouble meeting men, so I figured there was plenty of time for marriage and family.
As a young girl making her way in the city in the early 1980s, I first lived at a well-known residence for young women called The Roberts House, in Murray Hill. I met a diverse group of women who came to live there from all over the country and the world. We were all pursuing our dreams. Many girls were attending local colleges; many were starting their first jobs; and many had come to New York City with the specific goal of pursuing a husband. These girls would go to nightclubs and restaurants, and to certain parties and events, with the sole intent of meeting a single, wealthy guy. As if that was the panacea for a happy life: find a rich guy, get married, and have kids. I though those women were pathetic. Didn’t they have any other goals in life?
As my close girlfriends became young, fist-time mothers, they would often tell me they thought my life in Manhattan was exciting, and their lives were boring. Some even said they wished they weren’t tied down with kids. When we got together, they would proudly display photographs, and we’d laugh about potty training and the difficulties of finding a babysitter. As time went by, the photos and the discussions followed school accomplishments, ballet recitals, home runs and braces. I would talk about how much fun it was to be single in the city, or about my new job or promotion, my travels to exotic destinations, and about all the interesting and celebrated people I was meeting. I was flourishing in the fast-paced life, and hoping to become a star in my own right! And in the back of my mind, I thought that one day I would settle down.
What’s had me thinking lately, is the dichotomy between me and my childhood friends. Their kids are in college or graduating from high school, and we are at opposite ends of the parenting spectrum. They are becoming empty nesters, beginning to take more frequent vacations, and partying with friends on weeknights, instead of just weekends. I’m up to my eyeballs in homework and chicken nuggets weeknights, bruised knees (and egos) on weekends.
So I drift into reflection about what my life would have been like had I followed a path like theirs. What if I married and started a family soon after high school? Or college even? How many kids would I have? Where would I live? Would I be happy?
When I think about what it means to have become a parent a little later in life, often there are unanswered questions. I know it’s normal to reflect on your life. And I know I’m not the only one who has thought about what might have been, if their life had taken a different path. As a later mom, I sometimes wish that I had come to parenthood just a little earlier. I want more time to be a mom.