by Cynthia Wilson James…
Even with popular lists such as Hot Celebrity Moms and Famous Moms over 35 and 40, which usually include former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, singer Sheryl Crow, actresses Vanessa Williams, Halle Berry and Sarah Jessica Parker, there are lingering myths, especially about first-time moms over 35 and 40. If you are a first time mom over 35 or are considering motherhood over 35, take comfort. The myths may linger but they are far from being truths. Here are three of the most common misconceptions.
MYTH: It is unfair to a child to have older parents. Children will become orphans or have to take care of older parents, etc.
FACT: What is unfair is for a child to be raised in an unloving environment. I’ve talked with many adults who were raised by parents who neglected them. Fortunately, a grandparent filled the void with lots of love and care. I’ve never heard any of these adults complain or refer to their grandparents’ age.
I do believe that all parents, young and old, should have a plan in case they become disabled or suffer a long-term sickness. This will alleviate some of the burden for their children.
Interestingly, studies show current older mothers are better-educated, more stable, eat healthier, and get more exercise. Combined with love, a child soars in this environment.
Perhaps, the best response to this myth can be found in an article written that was featured nearly ten years ago in the May/June 2002 issue of AARP Modern Maturity magazine.
In this article Richard Paulson, M.D. chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Southern California School of Medicine said the orphan issue was overblown and pointed to a former patient who in 1996, at age 63 became the oldest woman in the world to give birth.
At the time of the article was written, the former patient was 69 and her daughter was five. Both were healthy, though the former patient was receiving help with childcare. Guess who was helping her? Her 90 year old mother !
MYTH: Mothers over 40 do not have the energy to attend to the needs of a baby or young children.
FACT: This misconception must have been created by someone who never was a caretaker of young children!
The average newborn or toddler will zap the energy of any mother whether she is 22 or 42. I’ve had healthy strong parents in their twenties complain about being exhausted after spending a day with their toddlers!
Let’s talk about newborns. The average newborn cries more than any new mom ever anticipates. The average newborn sleeps from 15 minutes to 2 hours before waking up for feeding.
Translation: The best scenario with the best baby. Mom gets to bed at 11:00 p.m. She is awakening at midnight by the sweet whimper of her newborn. She is awakened at 2 a.m. by the sweet whimper of her newborn. She is awakening at 4 a.m. by the crying of her newborn. Baby does not want to go back to sleep until 5a.m. You tell me what woman whether she is 25, 35, or 45 wouldn’t feel zapped after getting out of bed several times at night to feed or just to hold and comfort her crying baby?
The truth is taking care of a baby is hard work and does require lots of energy. It’s important to eat healthy and, every now and then, to allow people you trust to watch your little one for an hour or two while you take a break.
MYTH: Teenage children of older parents will be resentful or ashamed that their parents are not the same age as their peers.
FACT: The only thing you need to ease your fear about this misconception is a dose of reality. For the past three years, I worked at a diverse high school of 2000+ students. The students were from all racial groups and from advantaged to disadvantaged economic backgrounds. (I really enjoyed working with these kids.) Believe me, when I tell you that all teenagers think that their parents are old. In fact, most students think that young people who graduated from high school in the last five years are old!
As you age and your children become older, remember that most children go through rocky stages during their teens. This has nothing to do with the age of their parents. Hopefully, as an older parent, you will be able to use wisdom, love and patience to guide your child through the teen years.
Cynthia Wilson James, a former childbirth educator, is founder of InSeason Mom (www.inseasonmom.org). She gave birth at age 42 to a healthy daughter and again at age 44 to another healthy daughter. She provides affordable telephone consultations to expectant first time moms and women considering motherhood after 35 and 40.