I always knew I wanted children. When I was a little girl I played with baby dolls and nursed puny, infant animals to health and vigor. As I grew older my parents had more children, I was the perfect, built-in babysitter, and had a natural, easy way with little ones. But wanting babies one day and actually finding the right person to have them with are two different things. Sometimes finding the right formula (perfect time + intense desire x the correct baby daddy) can be difficult. So you find yourself like I was. Thirty years old, divorced, sitting in my parent’s spare bedroom alone with my cat, wondering what happened to my life.
Thankfully I did find love again, and it met all the right calculations. And even though we weren’t even kinda close to ready, we certainly became ready when the flame got turned up on high in the way of a positive pregnancy test and the baby that followed. We were madly in love with parenthood, and before we knew it we added a couple more ladies to our passel of girls. Fast forward ten years and the joy keeps growing each day.
This morning as I drove to work I thought about how happy I was with life, and as minds tend to do I pondered on the possibility of how things could have gone differently. What if I had married my college sweetheart (who’s my husband now) at nineteen when he first proposed, and then we had started our family straight away? I mean, I’m certain we would be extremely blessed and happy like we are today, but I’m not sure it would have been quite as sweet. Let me explain.
One thing that brought these thoughts to my mind this morning was the echoing words from my father-in-law. My in-laws had traveled into town to visit with us all week, and as we said our goodbyes last night he had taken my head in his hands, kissed my cheek, then looked intently in my eyes and said, “trust the Lord, and He will steer you in the right direction.”
I had smiled at his words, so true and full of love. Since his son and I had dedicated ourselves to following Jesus, life had taken on a fullness and even simplicity that it had never held before.
I responded to him, “it took us a while to get our heads screwed on straight, but I think we’re headed in the right direction now!”
Then he replied, “well, y’all certainly got it figured out sooner than it took us!”
I thought about all this as I drove to work this morning. My in-laws were awesome folks, and I couldn’t remember a time they weren’t amazing examples, but perhaps he had meant during the “tough years.” You know what I mean if you’re a parent. It’s those rocky, ever-changing years of young babies and sleepless nights. It’s those years that you beg the long day to hurry by, but look back and wonder why the months zoom by so cruelly. It’s those younger years, those tiring years of early parenting that show you what you and your marriage are made of. Sometimes you feel like passing ships in the night between colicky babies and the morning alarm for work. It’s so easy to get stressed beyond the max, it’s too easy to sweat the small stuff, too easy to miss the joy in the seemingly mundane, and so hard to simply enjoy the moment.
There was still a lot I had to learn in life, but looking back I was astounded at what the years had done to me. I had matured in ways I didn’t even realize I needed to mature in, and I had grown personally more than I could have ever fathomed.
I wish I could remember who said it, but I once read a quote that stated, “children don’t become tolerable to be around until about the age of thirty-eight.”
As a forty-something woman reading that, I had laughed, naturally, but more-so because of the truth it held. If only I knew at sixteen what I knew at twenty, and if only at twenty I realized the things I had figured out by thirty. But in all honesty, my life was a total disaster even then! I thought I was getting somewhere by thirty-two, but even reading a diary entry or blog post from when I was thirty-four makes me shake my head in shame. What is it about years and life experience that changes everything?! Isn’t it wonderful that we never stop learning the lessons life gives?!
Having the privilege of hindsight makes me think that I started a family precisely when I should have. I mean, I certainly can’t see my crazy, twenty-something self keeping anything alive for more than a week. I barely kept myself above ground. I wasn’t the epitome of good decisions, after all. But seriously, I’m grateful that I had my children later in life. It’s easy for me to see how raising babies at forty was best.
For one, I got all my wild oats sown, so to speak. By twenty I had already traveled out of the United States and even lived and gone to school abroad. By my mid-twenties I had served my country in a time of war, sailed across international waters, and totally (and finally) figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up!
I had partied myself into a stupor (too many times to count), blacked out, passed out, fell out, and whatever else you can think of. I had gotten arrested, done things in New Orleans that stayed in New Orleans, gone clubbing with Russian strangers who couldn’t speak English, and played Truth or Dare challenges we can’t even discuss in this forum. I popped pills I wasn’t 100 percent certain of their origin, drank flaming shots, and flashed strangers at a strip club. I’ll stop before I shatter anymore innocence. Suffice to say, I tried living life to the fullest by whatever means necessary at the moment. I’m no better for it, if anything I have regret, and you’ll never find me wondering if there’s more to life than what I see in front of me.
I’ve been the life of the party. Now I’m more content to quietly sit at home with my family. While there’s nothing wrong with going out with friends, that’s something I don’t even do. I did enough going out already to last me a lifetime. I don’t feel as if there are areas of life undiscovered for me, I don’t long for greener pastures. I’m content (abundantly so) with something as simple as a sunset, and I’m never so happy as when I watch my children play. I don’t feel like something is missing, or like I had my youth stolen from me. I don’t need to seek sweet release after a rough day at work; my best release is found in a hug from my three year old.
And then there’s my career. I had the privilege to attend college for a cumulative five years with no responsibility for anyone but myself. I was able to spend the time discovering my career path, the time to pursue my studies for it, and even the time to work extensively in my field. I was afforded the freedom to try different areas of my vocation to determine what suited me best, never feeling stuck in a position because I needed to support someone else. By the time I started a family I had found fulfillment in my career. I was able to fully devout myself to motherhood when I desired to do so, not because I had to out of necessity. I didn’t give up one for the other, and I never felt as if I did. I was able to embrace motherhood, feel confident and seasoned in my vocation when I went to the bedside, and not let one interfere with the other. I was able to separate the two, and more importantly, find peace and joy in each piece of my life.
But aside from traveling, being a prodigal child, and getting an education, I also went through the natural transition we all do as we age. I was able to grow in confidence and appreciate who I was as an individual. I was able to finally see that it didn’t matter what other people thought of me, how they did things, or how I performed in comparison. As I grew older I was able to see that God created me to be precisely me, and that I was perfect to Him. Utilizing this mindset made being a mother so much easier. I didn’t expect perfection, and especially not someone else’s idea of what that meant. I worried less and enjoyed more.
Being an older mom gives you a special perspective. You no longer worry about the little things, and you laugh easier. You can relax in your good credit score, financial stability, and stress-free life. Most of the time, anyway. Wink, wink.
Being an older mother opens your eyes to appreciate your own mom more, or in my case, the other women in my life who fill that role. I’m able to see how special it is to have family, their advice, and willingness to help. I don’t take a critique or correction/suggestion as a personal affront to my parenting style. I’m able to see the wisdom others have and not think I’m less for knowing less. Nowadays everyone gets so offended! But us forty-something mommas are just sitting here sipping our tea. Mmhmm.
I’d never say my way was the best way for someone else, but I do feel it was best for me. I can see precisely how beautiful parenthood has been to me as a middle aged woman. I appreciate my role so much, never taking it for granted. Is parenting still hard? Of course! But I never let that overshadow the blessing of it. I think that’s a perspective that’s easier to obtain with age.
Yes, being pregnant as an older woman was hard. Heck yeah, I’m tired. But then there’s how young I feel. Something about having babies in your forties is like a fountain of youth. In the past week I went down two killer water slides and gleefully screamed as I rode Orlando’s tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster. My daughters keep me young, and most days I don’t feel “middle aged” like my years on earth proclaim. The benefits of having babies in my forties are too many to count. So, I just count my blessings instead.