Recently, a British woman stirred up a lot of drama with an article she wrote for the Daily Mail about being too selfish to have had a child at 43.
She says crazy stuff like she doesn't enjoy playing with her daughter (now three), won't take her swimming because she’s afraid of messing up her pedicure and that their quality time together is spent in coffee shops where her daughter plays on her phone while she reads the newspaper.
Of course hundreds of people blasted her and called her a bad person, but I don’t agree -– I just think she isn’t meant to be a mother. And even though I feel so sorry for her daughter, part of me quietly understands.
I also had a baby at 43 and sometimes really struggle with being a mother in my 40s. I love my daughter more than anything -- she's beautiful, smart, charming and funny as hell. Most of the time she’s the best thing ever, but there are moments when I feel trapped and resentful and like I want to run away and never come back.
Until I had her, my life was pretty fabulous. I was a writer/editor at a great non-profit and owned a beautiful apartment in NYC that overlooked the Hudson River. I kind of knew my biological clock was ticking, but in NYC no one really thinks about marriage and kids until their 30s.
I met my husband at 39 and by then I was ready. We married two years later and knew we needed to get the baby thing going pretty quickly. I got pregnant and before I knew it, was living in the country with a husband and daughter and my life wasn't mine anymore.
Becoming a parent is mind-blowing for everyone, but I think it's harder when you're older because, as the British woman says in her article, you've become extremely set in your ways. Motherhood meant giving up everything as I knew it.
Even marriage was a tough transition for me because I was so used to being on my own. I wanted stuff to stay where I put it and not where my husband moved it to. Early on, we had epic battles about silly stuff like putting the tag closure thingie back on packages of bread (he never did and it pissed me off because 1) without the little tag, I wouldn’t know how old the bread was and 2) it would go stale more quickly with all that air getting in).
I missed sweeping the floor and knowing it would stay crumb-free until I dropped something on it myself. And it annoyed me to no end to reach for a glass of iced tea only to find he’d finished it.
But that’s the kind of stuff you can work out with an adult spouse -– separate bathrooms and closets can heal a lot in an older marriage.
It’s different with my daughter. She needs what she needs and while we’re teaching her how to be independent and ultimately do things for herself, I pretty much always put her first. I chose to have her after all, and knew I was willing to do whatever was necessary to take care of her, which doesn't mean I like it or ever really will.
It probably didn’t help that I stayed home with her until she was five and went to kindergarten. For all those years, my entire life was completely about her. In the beginning, it was breastfeeding, which was literally giving of myself to her on demand. Later, when she learned to walk, it seemed like all I did was chase her. Everywhere.
Once when she was around three, I met some friends at the mall for what was supposed to be a nice lunch while we pushed our kids around in their strollers, but as soon as we got there, my darling girl wanted OUT and then took off running.
She went all the way to the other end of the mall and then turned around and ran all the way back. I chased her like an idiot, waving at my friends as we flew by. I was so tired by the time we were done, I packed her up and we left. I barely said a word to my friends, let alone had lunch.
Even now that she’s older, she still constantly wants my attention, especially because she’s an only child. I dress up like a princess and go to tea parties far more than I care to and pretend to love playing Barbie for the umpteenth time when I'd much rather read a good book, by myself, while I sip a big glass of wine.
When you think about it, if I’d had her just 10 years earlier, she’d be 16 now instead of six and I’d be almost done. I could sleep in because she’d get breakfast for herself or was out spending the night at a friend’s house instead of having to wake up at 7 am like I do every single morning –- including weekends -– because she’s an early riser and likes to come to our bed to snuggle and play on my iPad.
And I wouldn’t be pulling out my hair over first grade math homework and passing it off to my husband because I’m just too old and exhausted to focus on regrouping numbers -– whatever that means.
And I definitely wouldn’t feel like a game of Twister is a sadistic punishment. I’d also have a lot more in common with the moms of her friends and classmates who are often 20 –- if not more -– years younger than I am.
The really crazy thing I never say out loud is I’m old enough to be my daughter’s grandmother. Luckily (for both of us), because of great genes and lots of anti-aging products, I don’t look my age. No one ever suspects how old I am and so far it hasn’t been an issue for my daughter.
I try not to think about what it will be like when she really is 16 and I’m pushing 60. I’m taking care of myself and hope to be around for a long time. More than anything, I want to us to be cool (as we can be when she’s an insane teenager) and for her to feel like she can talk to me when she needs to. I can’t watch the VMAs because I don’t know who most of the artists are, but I keep up with technology and fashion so maybe we’ll be OK.
Now that she’s in school, I’ve been reclaiming my life. I’m in a graduate writing program –- something I always wanted to do but never had time for. Sometimes when I’m sitting in class, I realize I haven’t thought about my darling girl in a couple of hours, which feels strange but kind of exhilarating and even a little normal again.
Honestly, if I had to do it over again, I never would have waited so long to have a kid, but I can’t imagine my life without my daughter, so all I can really be is grateful.