The New Mommy Wars: Older Moms vs. Younger

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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?

 

learning, a mom's life

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kelli... kelli0585

Yes, I did.  I was 24 years old when I had my son.  I had never even changed a diaper before.  None of my friends were parents.  Only one couple I knew actually owned their own house, and they were in their mid 30s.  Everyone rented.  That was in Austin. 


When I moved back to my smaller hometown, it was the norm. People here start their families way earlier. 


I was in a particularly sticky spot;  in Austin, single moms, though rare for my age of 24, are pretty well accepted.  In my hometown, it's obviously looked down upon.  I never fit in with the other parents.  I was certainly not one people would take seriously for parenting advice, either.  Even though I'm educated, successfully breastfeeding, and had a well mannered child. . . It didn't mean a thing, if I didn't have that ring. 


I also looked like a pregnant teenager and was pretty small, up until the 7th or 8th month. I couldn't win!

nonmember avatar Cynthia

I understand the feelings of being "snubbed" for your age by other moms. I live in suburbia. I chose to marry at nearly 20, buy my 1st home at almost 22 and have my 1st baby at almost 23. Followed by my 2nd at almost 25 and my 3rd at 28 1/2. There are MANY moms in my neighbourhood that started their families in their mid 30's. I used to get very strange looks all the time. Since then I've made some wonderful friends with kids similar ages to my own kids, but the mom's range the spectrum. I am the youngest of the group but we all bring great things to it. While some have some more years and money, others are more into watching deals and sharing about all the wonderful new products that come out.

butte... butterflymkm

I had my DD at 19 and I always knew I wanted to be a young parent so the risks of abnormalities would be lower and so that I would be able to relate to them better. My children will be going off to college when I am still in my forties so I don't think I missed out on anything. I will be able to travel and do those types of things when I am older and presumably have more cash to be able to afford them. I did recieve some negative feedback from people, but I brushed it off. Now I am finding out that I may not be able to have anymore kids because I have cushings disease so I think having my DD young was a miracle:)

Amyin... AmyinMotown

From what you describe, it seems like the problem is between "moms who are jerks cand can't keep their noses out of other people's business" and "moms who aren't." And personally, I tend not to approach younger moms when I am out and about because I am afraid they'll judge ME for being old and not as cool. And my "new parents group" experience was the opposite of yours. All of our group members were  young, newly married, and very into the whole suburban Gymboree-SUV-SAHM thing. The only ones older than us (we were in our mid 30s) were LOTS older than us and phenomenally wealthy.

nonmember avatar cakedots

I had my only child at 22. Granted I was on the younger end of things I still received tons of negetive looks and comments, some people coming to me and saying how sad it is that a teenager would ruin her life with a baby. I'm 25 now, my son is three (I look my age now thanks sleepless nights!) but I STILL get negetivity from the 35+ moms. It's really pathetic, I'm good mom, I have a great child who is well provided for, who cares how old I am?

JustL... JustLikeMyMom62

I was 32 before I had children, I wanted to finish my Masters...and people often told me to "hurry up" and I wasnt  "getting any younger"   Now I get you need another one -- before I get to old!  I am 34.  I have learned to tune these things and focus on what is right for my family. 


 

nonmember avatar devotedmom

I was 20 with my first, and 22 with my second. I'm 23 now, so I haven't been at it that long! I didn't ever feel judged by older moms, but I worried about it anyway, mostly that I wouldn't get taken seriously. Both mine were not planned, so I guess I probably do fit a stereotype if I were to be judged, but I still didn't want to be. One of my best mom friends is 38 and we get along fabulously! I can be honest with her about my feelings or fears and she doesn't treat me like I'm way younger- it's nice! Mostly when it comes to "older" moms, I feel like they know so much more than I do...not necessarily about parenting, but about life in general, and sometimes it is kind of intimidating.

xavie... xavierlogan09

i'm considered an old mom. i'm 24 almost 25. my son will be 2 when i'm 25. everyone i know had children as teens or in their early twenties. some people think i'm too old to be a first time mom because by time my son is an adult i will be in my fourties. then i have other people telling me i'm sooo young. people are never satisfied. 

xavie... xavierlogan09

also i get a lot of crap for being unmarried by older moms. i don't know what that has to do with my being a good mom.

KTMOM KTMOM

I was 20 when I became a mom.  I honestly didn't really hang out around many other moms at all until my son was a bit older. I am sure there were moms that made judgements or assumptions at some point,  but none that have really stuck with me.  My friends are now anywhere in the age range of 20 on up to mid 40s and we all respect and love each other and can ALL gain great advice and input from each other.

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