The Insecurities of Being an Older Mom

Midlife Motherhood

SG Buckley

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Photo by Alexey Shikov on Unsplash

Having a baby post 40 is challenging enough without people thinking you’re a grandma.

I’m at a deli counter in a grocery store when the woman slicing my roast beef asks: “Is that your baby? Or yours for the day?”

“I know,” I say, “she looks nothing like me.” To which she replies: “Oh, I guess that’s it…”, in a way that suggests that’s not it at all.

Only later does it dawn on me she was questioning whether I was the baby’s grandma.

Another time I’m pushing my daughter in a stroller and an actual grandma with a baby stops for a chat. She says our neighborhood is full of grandmothers caring for children. As I walk away, I wonder if she thinks I’m one of them.

When I tell friends these stories, they say I’m being hypersensitive. They say no one can guess my age, and who cares anyway? What matters is how I feel. Besides, it’s not like I’m the only older mom out there.

The average age of first-time moms has risen from 21 in 1970 in the US to 26. In other countries, like Greece, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Japan, Spain and Italy, it’s 30-plus.

Women are delaying parenthood to pursue careers — including A-list celebrities like Rachel Weisz at 48 and Laura Linney at 49 — or are worried about rising costs of childcare and housing. In England, the number of middle-aged women having children has nearly doubled over the past two decades.

While I may not be alone, I feel insecure about my age. Sometimes I don’t handle it very well.

Once we were at a doctor’s office when my daughter was maybe seven. The nurse looked at her and said: “So, who do you have with you today? Is this mom or grandma?”

My daughter laughed. I snapped back: “Why ask that? Wouldn’t it be better to assume I’m the mom? If you were wrong, I’d be flattered.”

She said she was sorry, but I felt like a jerk.

Why am I so touchy? And why do I keep apologizing for my age?

As my daughter has gotten older, people make fewer comments. And yet, I still feel the need to justify myself.

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SG Buckley

Writer, editor, parent. Former staffer at Quartz, WSJ and Inc. magazine.