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6 Things to Know About Being an Older Parent

One mom shares her story about raising kids in her late 40s.


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Hello, my name is Kathryn and I just turned 50. I’m seriously not sure how that happened. One day, I was 25 with unlimited energy. The next thing I know I’m in constant need of a nap.

I need to complain to someone. The management? Apparently, my parents are to blame. When I was 39, I became the single mom of a darling newborn foster boy. He’s the light of my life and now my adopted son; he’s nearly 11 and almost as tall as I am.

As a mom in my 40s with one kid, I was tired. So tired. I decided to compound that with a midlife crisis at the age of 47 when I took in another sweet foster baby. For an extra challenge, my second son was born addicted to heroin and therefore had a lot of trouble sleeping. 

Now he’s almost three. I’m 50 and will need to work until I’m 70 to get him through college. Perhaps a sports car would’ve been a better midlife crisis option, but definitely not as cute.

So, I’m an older parent. Let me clarify that: an old-as-dirt parent. When my youngest son starts first grade, I will be 53. The other kids’ grandmas and I can hang out on field trips.

Demographics show women are becoming mothers later in life more often. Due to IVF and adoption, many of us moms are just plain old. So if you run into one of us, here are six things to know:

1. We’re tired. Not “Oh yawn, I feel fatigued” tired, but “I need to be in a coma for a month to catch up on my sleep” tired. Bring us coffee, or in my case, a fountain Coke.

2. We’re not the grandparents! How nice that you gave birth in your early 20s. I was in no way ready to be a parent at that stage of my life. 

3. We aren’t that fazed by the small stuff. Older parents have lived a bit. We’ve seen how life plays out for our friends who had kids at a younger age and watched them figure it out. We’ve also sorted through a bit more of our own lives and don’t freak as easily as we would’ve in our younger years.

4. We can do math. Yes, I know how old I am and will be when my youngest graduates high school (65). I cry at the thought that I might not live long enough to meet my grandkids. I don’t need you to remind me. I consciously made the choice to adopt these kids and give them the best lives possible, and each other. Tomorrow is guaranteed for no one. Live for today.

5. We are the “Sandwich Generation,” caring for kids and elderly parents. In addition to caring for my boys, I’m also the power of attorney and healthcare surrogate for my 89-year-old father. He has Alzheimer’s and in 2009, I had to put him into a (very nice) assisted living facility. A few months ago, his condition worsened and he had to move into a nursing home. It’s both awful and heart-wrenching. I have to balance working full-time, doing his Medicaid application and helping my fifth grader with math. I’m always pulled in different directions. But despite my dad’s dementia, he loves when his grandsons visit.

6.  We’re less judgmental. Most of us won’t get into “mommy wars” on Facebook. There are more important things to worry about, like when we can take our next nap.

So, the next time you see an older mom at the park or on a field trip and are tempted to ask: “Are you their grandma?” DON’T. Instead, bring her a caffeinated beverage and chat about the kids like you would with any other parent.

Kathryn Quigley is a journalism professor at Rowan University, freelance writer and mom of two boys. When not on Facebook, she’s listening to U2.

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