You Sure Waited a Long Time to Get Started by Melissa Swedoski
It’s a tricky business, this later motherhood life. On the one hand, you feel so supremely blessed to have this child(ren) who you can love, hug, snuggle, cuddle, nourish, teach, inspire, support and laugh with, when you perhaps thought you never would.
But then there’s the trick of time. You feel just a little tired. Not because of your children, but because of your age. Forty years is a long time. A whole lot happened from 1970 to 2010, and a whole lot happens to a body over the course of 40 years. Your back hurts a little bit when you get out of bed. Your body’s just a little bit sore getting up off the floor after extended play time. Your eyes burn throughout the day if you don’t get at least six hours of sleep.
Most days, my children make me feel young again, with the romping and frolicking and giggling, lots and lots of giggling. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to be married to a man 13 years younger than me, who helps me remember that there is still plenty of fun to be had. But sometimes on a lazy Sunday, I’d just like to read or watch movies and squeeze in a nap. Instead, there’s playing to be done, outdoor adventures to be had, a swimming pool to be used.
I’ve never felt particularly old as a mother. I like to think I have a fairly youthful outlook on life to begin with. But I can tell you exactly the day that I did feel old.
Last fall, our youngest daughter, then a 6 month old, was battling a recurring case of bronchitis. She was misdiagnosed several times, requiring several trips to the doctor’s office. At one of the visits, our older daughter fell asleep, so she and dad stayed in the car in the parking lot. She is not the daughter to try and wake up if she’s not done napping.
The waiting room is mostly full. This office has bench seating along the walls, with chairs in the middle of the room. I’m sitting on the bench with our daughter, with another woman about five feet down the bench from me. She’s the person who talks loudly in a quiet office, and from the conversation, I can tell this is her grandchild, and she did not expect to be in this office this day. At some point she says to me, “That baby is so cute. Look at those eyes. Are you the grandma?”
Being the studier of human behavior that I am, I see some people flinch, some people look away, and a few people smirk. “No, I’m the mommy.” But she didn’t let it go. “Really? I don’t see how you gals do it. I was done with all that business by the time I was your age.” Try to imagine this in a Texas twang, loud enough for a full waiting room to hear.
I nodded. She turned to no one in particular and said, “I just can’t believe that. I mean, how do they do it? My daughter had a baby at 32, and I thought that was old. Did she say how old she was? Did you say you were 36?” I pretend not to hear this, and I notice that now, people are physically shifting in their seats away from her and/or dropping their eyes to avoid contact. At some point, after continuing to mutter something or other, she said, “I guess I wasn’t supposed to ask her that.” Who says good manners are dead? Thankfully, our name was called and I could move on with my life.
Why did this make me feel old? Not because of what she said. It was pretty obvious that she wasn’t cool with older first time moms, but trust me, I don’t need anybody’s approval. That’s not my bag. It made me feel old, because as I glanced around the room, I WAS the oldest first time mom in the room. I had absolutely no cohorts. No one who could relate to the awkwardness (or the hilarity) of this situation. No one who could begin to know what it was like to be asked, “Wow, you waited a long time to get started, huh?”
Yes, I waited a long time. But standing here now, looking at these faces, it was just the right amount of time.