It seems no matter how much we all WANT to get along (and I think we do), we women find something to fight over when it comes to parenthood. Whether it's stroller versus Ergo/sling, working versus staying home, or organic versus conventional, it seems like there is always something to argue over and proclaim our way is best. And babymaking age is no different.
This came up recently on a listserve I am on when one mom tried to start a group for "older moms." Things became heated by the end with some people trying to define "older" as 35+ and others trying to define it as 40+. Then someone else wanted to start a young mom group and the whole thing kind of devolved.
But what is an "older mom" really?
Officially, the average age at which women in the U.S. have their first child is 25.2. This is according to a 2003 National Vital Statistics Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but that number doesn't take into account where you live. For instance, where I grew up (Ohio) at 28, I was old(ish)/average for a first pregnancy, but in Boston where I live now, I was practically a teenager by many standards. It was isolating at first.
In the new moms groups I joined, I was always the youngest, sometimes by more than a decade. I felt snubbed and rejected very often, and I know now I wasn't alone. Parenting also addressed this in an article last year in which they discussed how isolating it can be to be a new parent on either side of the age spectrum. According to one 24-year-old mom in the article:
I run into older moms who just assume I'm a bad parent because of my age. It's not hard to tell what they're thinking.
That was exactly how I felt when one mother in my group put her hand on my arm and asked me gently if I knew my baby "had to be in a car seat now" (she was in a sling). When I told her that, of course, I knew that, she sighed and said, "You never know with younger moms." Later, I was at a park with my friend who was a 26-year-old mother of twins. Another mother with children the same age, who was clearly in her mid-40s, came up to us and told my friend she was far too young to be a mom to twins. Who does that?
Until recently (um, I guess I look older now?), every time I took my daughter and son out, someone inevitably asked if I was the nanny. To them, it may seem like a compliment, but I would cringe. It automatically put distance between me and other moms.
Things have changed and I now happily have mom friends at all ends of the age spectrum. I am still on the young end of moms with children in my children's age group, but it feels less isolating and weird now.
It really never should have been in the first place. The fact is, we ladies have a wide range of childbearing years, but a mom is a mom is a mom. Age shouldn't really be something we comment on at all. If the younger moms have more energy, they also have less money (typically) and less of a career/education (my husband was still getting his PhD when we had our children), whereas an older mom is more established and has more money (often) and can provide material things a younger mom may not be able to.
There is good and bad to both sides and whatever you choose to do ought to be right for your family. No one else's. We really CAN all get along.
Did you experience judgement on either end?