3 Ways Older Moms Need Support
When I was pregnant at age 29 with my first child, I leaned heavily on my new best friend, Christina, who was expecting baby number 2. Her boys were 15 months apart and she managed babies like they were the easiest things ever. She even provided childcare for two other boys almost the exact same age as her own.
I, however, had none of that inherent mothering knowledge that some women possess. I had not babysat when I was in high school and my only sibling was three years younger than me so I never had any responsibilities taking care of her.
So when I needed guidance, I called Christina. She still recalls some of our early conversations. I would call and ask, “What are these onesie things? Do they wear those by themselves? Why do I need so many? Are they just shirts?”
I also had help from my mom and sister when I came home with my oldest daughter. I could hardly get my sister to leave my house when Emery was a newborn. She vacuumed, cleaned, and hung around keeping me company.
I needed all that help. All moms need help to get through the adjustment to life with a newborn.
Fast forward 13 years to an unexpected third pregnancy at age 42. Yes, I had to rearrange my life expectations and make some mental shifts (see this blog), but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t need the same type of support I had with the first two girls. I had this. Surely, I had this.
Oops, not really. I had no idea I would need more support with a late-in-life baby.
Why is it that older moms need more support than they expect? One word, fatigue.
Yes, you’re tired when you’re young pregnant. But you’re exhausted when you’re old pregnant. I’ve never been as bone-weary as I was during that pregnancy. (Well, maybe when that baby became a newborn, but it’s pretty close).
If you’re The Older Mom in your group of friends, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re that mom’s friend or family, here are some reasons she needs your support now more than ever.
An older mom, is wait for it...older. Obviously. But if you’ve never been older yet in your life, you may underestimate the effect that a decade can make. The difference between the energy level of a 33 year old mom and a 43 year old mom is substantial.
Think of it this way - Who has more energy? Your kitten, your three year old cat, or your ten year old cat? Simple observation of the arc of life illustrates how much we slow down as we age.
And there’s a reason athletes rarely play into their 40’s. I remember when I was young watching sports and hearing the ages of athletes and thinking surely they didn’t get that physically worn out that young. Then I aged and understood it much better.
Even with an easy pregnancy and a baby who sleeps perfectly, anticipate an exhausted mom, whether it’s you or a friend.
So if you’re the mom, ask for the physical help you need. Don’t think that just because you’re “older and wiser” that you should have it all together.
And if you’re the friend or family member, offer to rock the baby while mom takes a nap. Clean her house or pick up some groceries on her way home from work.
Adjusting to motherhood challenges our perceptions of who we are and what we want from our lives. Make that adjustment when you’re the oldest mom sitting in the pediatrician’s waiting room with an infant and you may wonder how in the world you’re at this place in life.
And, just for good measure, your hormones are having a field day with you. The hormonal changes that normally affect women post-pregnancy can be exacerbated if you’re an especially older mom who is beginning to enter perimenopause. It’s hard to separate out exactly what is going on with you, so prepare yourself.
If you need professional help, do not hesitate to seek it. If you have an established relationship with a therapist, consider having an appointment scheduled for yourself for after the baby arrives.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to get out to an appointment, consider the therapeutic texting apps to help meet your need for voices to help you out.
And reach out to your friends and family before you get desperate. Again, they may think you’ll be such a pro at parenting if you’ve had a child before that you won’t need them. Make sure they know it might be even tougher than it was when you were younger.
Life doesn’t stop when we have children and our households have to continue to run, even if a little less than optimally efficient at first. Know that you will need help to keep up with the regularly scheduled household obligations, especially while your brain is foggy and tired.
Before the baby arrives, go through your calendar and mark everything that needs to get done while you’re recovering from delivery. If your older children are involved in activities, arrange their transportation. Enlist any drivers in the household, extended family, or neighborhood to help.
If you don’t have someone who can help with grocery shopping easily, have an online order filled out with a local grocery store that offers delivery. All you’ll have to do is hit “order” when the time comes around. No thinking or planning involved.
Put as many systems in place as possible so you don’t have to think much. Your mental energy stores will be used up quickly keeping up with the baby’s schedule and all that goes with that adjustment. Don’t clutter your brain with simple tasks that you can delegate or prepare for ahead of time.
Just because you’ve done this baby thing before or you’re older and more “mature,” do not fall into thinking that you will have it all under control.
We older women like to think we have it all together, but we need support and help as much now, if not more, than we did when we were younger.
If you have ways you have managed a new baby as an older mom, please share them. Our peer group can be relatively small, so let’s keep building it.