The Truth About Late-In-Life Motherhood

I recently got a request from a well known publication to write a short piece on older motherhood.  I have responded to enough of these kinds of requests in the past to know they aren’t really looking for illumination. They are looking for inflammation. They are looking to stir up women who have (for whatever reason) delayed motherhood against those who have not, which creates drama, which creates traffic. But not illumination.

So I decided I would just skip all that and lay out the truth about older motherhood as I see it, right here.  It doesn’t mean what I’m saying is universally true, it just means this is how I see it based on my own experience and world view.

You may be surprised to find that the truth about older motherhood, as I see it, is that it ain’t ideal.

It’s a blessing.

It’s sweet.

I’m glad I didn’t miss out on it.

Better late than never…

But ideal it is not.

I didn’t really choose to be a late-in-life mother, that’s just sort of how the chips fell for me.  If I had the chance to do it over again, and I had a choice in the matter, I would have started my family much much sooner — if for no other reason than I would have liked for Sean to have known me when I still looked like myself.  And given the benefit of time, I might have liked to have had another.

The truth is that there are ups and down, pros and cons, no matter when you have children, whether at 24 or at 44 as I did.  But in hindsight, and as I look around, 24 seems a more ideal scenario than 44, if I am to be honest.

Why?  Maybe because younger motherhood is more in keeping with the harmony of the universe.  Fertility belongs to the young, it always has, even though thanks to modern medicine we can now prop that window open longer.  All the same, having children younger rather than older increases the odds (although does not guarantee) that you will have healthy children, that you will live to see them grown and that you will get to enjoy grandchildren.  And obviously reaping the benefit of those odds is more ideal than not, and who doesn’t like better odds?

But mostly what makes 24 more ideal than 44 is those extra 20 years of being a mom that you might get, that I won’t get.  There’s nothing I did from age 24 to 44 that I wouldn’t trade double to get more time with my kiddo, even on the worst of days.

But it’s not even about what’s ideal for me right now.  It’s about what’s ideal later for Sean, when under the very best of circumstances, age will catch up with me.  Health issues are inevitable as we age, let’s not pretend otherwise.  And when Sean is a young man, when he is in that exciting season of getting his life started, he will be stuck dealing with the complicated issues that go along with aging parents (if we’re still around), issues that AD and I are just now having to address with our own parents.  That’s part of the less than ideal package of late-in-life parenthood that they never talk about.


Better late than never, but in my view, better is not so late — better for both mother and child.

Whining Is Not A Strategy

There is an old saying that we all know:  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

In other words, those who complain the loudest and the longest and in the most annoying repetitious way possible —  get what they want.  Except from me, then no, they get nothing.

My policy is this:  I don’t negotiate with terrorists or toddlers. Or those who behave as such.

At the House of Antique, if you are whining, the answer is automatically NO.  If you continue whining, you will get the Antique Mommy fish eye, which has been known to stop a charging rhino in it’s tracks.  And if you still insist on whining, well let’s just hope you’ve got your salvation plan worked out.

It would seem that whining is built into children, as a survival mechanism, as all children try it out at one time or another.  Which, now that I analyze that, it would appear as though I am devoid of the instinct to see to the survival of my child.  Yet?  So far, so good.

Some people are gifted in their ability to tune out annoying noise, and those people become teachers.  I can’t think or have a conversation if the TV is blaring, and the leaf blower makes my eardrums ache.  But I would take 1000 leaf blowers over one 40-pound child whining PleasepleasepleasePLEEEEEaaaasssee-PUH-leeeze-Uh!

Sean is a super bright boy and he figured out early on that whining and saying “please” in various intonations four hundred times in a row was not going to work with me.  I think he tried it out once or twice, and after he fully recovered from the sting of the fish eye, he moved on in search of other more civilized candy-getting tactics.  Back in the day, when he was my grocery store boyfriend, we’d pass a kid who was whining and he’d just keep licking his Tootsie Pop and shake his head as if to say, “Whining – what an unsophisticated strategy.”

Last year, I was doing a project in Sean’s classroom and this one particularly energetic boy jumped out of his seat and ran up to me and started jumping up and down waving his hand in my face (which is a good way to lose a hand) and started in with the PickmePickmePleasePleasePleeeeeezPrettyPleasePickMe!  Sean came to my rescue (or maybe he came to the boy’s rescue) and nudged him and quietly said, “Dude.  She won’t respond to that.  If you’re whining the answer is automatically no.”

I gave the boy a my crazy lady half smile-half fish eye and he slunk back to his seat.

If Mother Teresa Had Shopped At Walmart, She’d Just Be Teresa

I love the Mother Teresa quote which says, “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

I would like to be like Mother Teresa, to be able to say that my life is a love letter to the world, but some days, I’m afraid my life looks less like a love letter and more like graffiti.

The other day I went to Walmart to pick up just a few things, and is always the case, when I walked into the store there was no one in the checkout lanes.  The lanes were so empty you coulda gone bowling.  The cashiers were standing in the main aisle chatting and looking around hopefully for someone to checkout.  Ten minutes later, when I had gathered my few things and headed towards the lanes, they were backed up, three deep.

But that did not matter, for I was in a love-letter-writing-to-the-world mood.  I stood in line behind a lady who was apparently stocking up for the apocalypse.  But what did I care? I was all love, peace, patience, kindness, yada yada —  I was busy browsing the September issue of Good Housekeeping (the one with Meredith Vieira on the front; I’m featured somewhere around page 150, in case you care).

Now let me pause here and say that someday I am going to write an entire series on grocery store etiquette, but for now, I will just tell you that at the top of the list of grocery store do’s and don’t is this:  Don’t crowd the person checking out.  They own that space until they have been cleared for takeoff and pushed away from the checkout tarmac, so BACK OFF.  I hate it when I am not even done loading my stuff on the conveyor and the person behind me starts putting their stuff on.  It makes life complicated.  As well, don’t stand right beside me when I am paying.  You are not welcome in my space at that time, so please, step off.

So since the lady in front of me was the current owner of the conveyor, I politely left a reasonable 12-18 inches between the end of the conveyor and me.

As I was standing there, flipping through the pages of Good Housekeeping, I sensed a cart was very close to my backside.  Apparently my backside has some sort of extra sensory perception, my backside has ESP.  So I turned and looked and sure enough, there was a cart there, with only a whisper of airspace between my Hanes yoga pants and this cart.  But again, I was feeling the Mother Teresa vibe, so I didn’t turn and shout, “BACK OFF BUSTER!”  I just kept reading.

And then I heard this very large middle-aged man behind me grumbling loudly. “You are a complete idiot!”  I turned again, anxious to find out to whom he was directing his ire and boy was I surprised when I found out it was ME.  And my first thought was this:  I am glad my kid is not here.  My second thought was this:  Wha?

He continued his tirade against me, describing me in inventive and colorful terms.  That was a day brightener.

I finally figured out that what I had done to upset him so was that I had not moved forward 18-inches and sidled up next to Apocalypse Lady to watch her write her check.  He was upset because he had to stand at the end of the aisle and not next to the gum rack.

I was stunned.  In my years of shopping at Walmart, I’ve encountered the occasional less than pleasant electric cart lady, but never has anyone behaved so aggressively towards me.   So in an effort to smooth his ruffled feathers, I said to him, “I’m really not trying to upset you, I just want to give the lady ahead of me her space.”  But he didn’t care to hear my thoughts and provided an exhaustive description of the content of my character.

And frankly, I didn’t know what to do.  I felt like opening up a can of Antique Mommy whoop bottom on him. I felt angry. I felt intimidated. I felt scared. I felt like crying. But at no time did I feel like writing a love letter with God’s little pencil.

So I just turned away and ignored him as best I could and tried to convince myself I wasn’t terrified.

When it was my turn to checkout, I put my few things on the conveyor, anxious to get checked out and get gone.  I had picked up a water bottle for Sean that did not have a price on it, and for a split second, I was tempted to insist on a price check, just to gig him. But I didn’t.  The urge to flee trumped the urge to gig.  So I told the cashier I didn’t really need it and I would get it another time.  That was as love-lettery as I could muster.

As I left the store, anger began to overtake fear, so I stopped by the manager’s station and told her what had happened and pointed him out.   And then I high tailed it out of there, anxious to get home and get some sympathy from Antique Daddy.

As luck would have it, when I pulled out of the parking lot and onto the lane that passes in front of the store, Mr. Asshat was coming out.  And he notices me in spite of my clever disguise of sunglasses.   He stops in the middle of the of lane with his cart and blocks my car.   He bares his teeth at me, like some kind of animal, and then punctuates his point with his middle finger.  Wow. What an awesome display of manhood. His mother must be so proud.

So then I did what I’m sure Mother Teresa would have done.  I stuck my tongue out at him.  And then I sped home taking a circuitous route.

Yes indeed, Mother Teresa’s life was an inspirational love letter to the world. Then again, Mother Teresa didn’t shop at Walmart.

There’s A Good Reason Driver License Pictures Are Bad

Because I have super sharp powers of observation, I quickly realized that things probably were not going to go well.

You see, as I pulled into the parking lot, it was jam packed with cars.  Most of the cars were missing hub caps, some had windows covered with garbage bags secured with duct tape and others were missing the passenger seat.  And their owners were loitering in the parking lot smoking cigarettes.  Not that my car is new and fancy by any means.  But it does have hub caps and windows and all the seats.

So I artfully wedged my car into the last remaining spot, sucked in my gut and then I turned myself sideways and slithered out of my car and into the parking lot of loiterers, ostensibly there hoping to do business with the Texas Department of Public Safety.  Just like me.

I got a letter several months ago saying it was time to renew my drivers license!  I put that exclamation point there to imply I was on a fun adventure.  Did I convince you?

I procrastinated for two months but finally I could procrastinate no longer; I had to go.

I checked the website to make sure that I knew exactly where I was going and that I had everything I needed.  I needed ID, I needed proof of my social security number or a passport,  and most importantly, I needed to pay them $25 either with a check, cash or a Visa credit card. Check, check, check.  I had all those things.

I did not need proof of insurance or vehicle inspection or voters registration or any other hoop-jumping papers.  I realized that I would have a long wait, but I didn’t want to wait an hour (An hour! Hahaha!) and then have my number called only to have some clerk tell me I needed some sCrap of paper that was at home.  So I made every effort to secure all the required documents as specified on the web site.  I think ahead.

I made my way through the dirty parking lot and into the dirty building which was at or near the maximum occupancy rate.  There was not a teaspoon of air to breath that had not already been breathed by someone else.  I am more than a little claustrophobic and I felt myself getting a little woozy.  But this had to be done.  Finally it was my turn to get a number. It was number #80.

With pleading eyes and a wavering voice that implied I could go postal, I asked the young man behind the desk, please sir – is there was any way, any way at all, that I could do this any other way?  I was on both knees in the prayer position, head bowed, hands clasped, begging for mercy, intercession, a miracle, anything, anything at all.  He looked at my letter and my driver’s license and yawned.  Yes, he said, I could make this go away over the phone and then he wrote a number down across the top of my official DPS letter and handed it back to me.

“Really?!  Are you sure?” I asked incredulously.

He nodded.

I was elated.

But I also knew, deep in my heart, that he was wrong.

Nonetheless, I was going to enjoy my delusion and false elation for as long as I could.

I took my paper with the phone number, waded back through the icky parking lot of discarded diapers and cigarette butts and wedged myself back into my car and went home where I dialed the number, followed all the prompts and was told I could not complete my transaction over the phone and that I should present myself in person at my local DPS office.

I groused and stomped about and heaved heavy sighs of exasperation that my false elation was false.   I whined and complained to AD (who is immune to my whining and complaining).  And then I cursed the DPS and all of big government in my head.  And then I got back in my car and drove to another DPS office 20 miles away.  I believe that is the definition of psychosis – when you do the same thing hoping for a different result.

When I got to this DPS it was much better!  The parking lot was reasonably clean and I was able to get out of my car without first vaporizing.  I peeked in the windows of the building and there was hardly anyone there! This was going to be GREAT!  I followed the signs which pointed to the entrance several doors down.  When I walked through that door there were 632 people inside all of whom either a) were talking loudly in a foreign language on their cell phone or b) had a screaming baby standing in their lap, or c) both.


So, once again, I made my way to the front desk and got a number – 49!  That was pretty good, much better than 80.  I would just have to wait it out.  A chair even opened up; no one made a move for it, so I snagged it and sat down.  I pulled out my iTouch and started a game of Scrabble.  An hour later I looked up and they were on numbers 986, 343 and 299.  Clearly I did not understand their numbering system, but then again this was a system engineered by the same people who bring you the IRS, so it made sense in that it didn’t make any sense.

I looked up another hour later and they were on numbers 37, 461 and 128.  At about that time, I noticed a message flash on the screen that said they only accept cash at THIS location; no checks, no credit cards.  That was not mentioned on the website or by the person at the window who gave me #49 two hours ago.  I panicked for a moment wondering how much cash I had on me.  If I had waited there two hours and couldn’t complete my transaction because I had $24 but not $25, I might blow an artery.  Luckily I had the dough and so I breathed a sigh of relief and went back to playing Scrabble for another hour.

Finally, three hours from the time I arrived, #49 was called. I jumped out of my seat and fist-punched the air. Woo-hoo! I ran up to the window like I was on the Price Is Right. Come on down!

The gal behind the window found all my documents to be in order.  She asked me to take a vision test which worried me a little bit because after playing Scrabble on my itty bitty iTouch for three hours, I was just about cross-eyed. She apologized that she didn’t have any Clorox wipes to clean the eye machine.  I was disgusted to have to press my face into the same machine that everyone else had pressed their germy noggins into but I just went to my happy place and read the fifth line as requested, which is hard to do when you are holding your breath.

She then had me stand behind the blue line and smile for the camera. I didn’t even bother to put on lipstick. I wanted the DPS to see what they had done to me.  I forked over $25 and I was outta there.  If I was lucky, I would get my official license in the mail in six weeks.

I hold out little hope that will happen efficiently or timely or even at all, because you know, the postal service, DPS and the IRS are all brought to you by the letters U, S and A.  But I choose not to think about it for six-weeks.

I went home and took a Silkwood-style shower and prayed that Jesus would come back before my license expires again.

* * *

I love my USA I do, I do, I do. I hate the exasperatingly inefficient bureaucracy.

Will Jupiter Be On The Test?

A week or so back, Sean and I were driving home from somewhere just as the sun was setting and the moon was as big and orange as I have ever seen in my entire life.  It was such a wondrous sight, that I pulled the car over to gaze upon it.

“Wowee Sean!” I exclaimed. “Look at the moon!  That is awesome!”

We rolled back the moon roof and looked up at this giant golden orb that seemed to hang just above our heads and threatened to drop right into the car.

Sean, although impressed, was not as astonished at its magnificence in the same ignorantly blissful manner as I.

“Mom,” he said, “The reason the moon is so orange right now is because of Jupiter.”


“Yes. The moon, as you know, does not generate light on its own but reflects it off nearby planets.  Jupiter is orange and it is close to the moon right now, and that is why the moon looks so big and orange.”

“Yeah.  Sure.  Of course I knew that. Who doesn’t know THAT?”

“How old are you anyway?  Aren’t you supposed to be, like, seven?”

So then, yesterday, when the school sent home a letter saying that if Sean missed any more school this semester a “review” committee might determine that he can’t graduate 1st grade, I laughed out loud.

Yes,  I laughed loud and long.  Right after I smoothed all my ruffled feathers back into place.

Television, Lofty Ideals and The Pitchman

Back when we were pregnant and studying fervently for our advanced degrees in parenting, we came across this article which suggested that children under the age of two should not be allowed to watch any television, none at all.

Their theory was that the electronic medium of television alters the tender brain chemistry of toddlers and could play a role in some of the sensory issues that beset our children today, issues that we haven’t seen so much in previous generations.  That seemed like a reasonable hypothesis to us and so we went with it and it has served us well.

Not only do we think this policy has benefited Sean’s ability to focus and recall, but until he started public school, he had no idea what Transformers were or who Sponge Bob is.  And that, no doubt, has saved us a few bucks.

Surprisingly, we got a lot of push back on our no-TV stance from well-intended folks who couldn’t believe that we would deny Sean his right to Elmo.

“But Sesame Street is a good program,” they’d say mournfully as though we were withholding milk, “They can learn so much!”

Whether or not Sesame Street and Barney and the others are good or bad or somewhere in between is debatable.  But this is not about the message.  It’s about the medium.  Big Bird is not the issue.  The issue is the unrelenting barrage of imagery and noise that is television that screws with the brains of babies.

When we tried to explain this, that we were not Big Bird haters, the response was “But there are a lot of good shows for kids on television! They can learn to count!”  And I had to assume their inability to form a logical counter argument was that they watched television before they were two.  And I rest my case.

When Sean was about four, we relaxed our stance on television a little bit, but not much.  Now that he is older, our concern about the electronic nature of the medium has declined an itsy bitsy bit, but our concern over the message has increased exponentially.  We go to a lot of trouble to monitor and limit what he watches, but still, the crud creeps in, and boy is it sticky stuff.

Well, last week, we had the flu at our house and our highfalutin’ stance on television went right out the window. (And yesterday my stance on never wearing my PJs and robe to drive Sean to school also went out the window.  I can no longer sneer at those robe-wearers. This flu has been rough on us.)

Sean came home from school sick with the flu on Friday, about 10 days ago.  He was sick on the couch until the next Thursday and then I was sick on the couch Thursday through the weekend and then AD took his turn on the couch.  Sean watched television the whole time he was sick and then whole time I was sick.  We have watched more television in the past 10 days than we have in the past seven years.   He was still only allowed to watch movies and Animal Planet and Discovery and Myth Busters and Word Girl and his usual mild semi-educational fare, definitely not any network crud, but still – a lot of television.

And at one point, I noticed I was developing some seriously sour feelings towards Flo, the Progressive chick and the State Farm guy with the weird forehead and thinking how ugly and annoying their kid would be.  It was about this time that Sean called to me from the sofa.

“Mom, can you come over here?”

I leaned over the sofa to feel his forehead.  Was he feeling worse?

He looks  up at me and tenderly reaches for my face.

“Mom,” he says, “ProActive could get rid of those red spots you have on your chin.”


“It renews, revitalizes and repairs in just three easy steps.  You can order it on TV.”

“It works in as little as three days.  Katy Perry uses it.”

“Who’s Katy Perry?” I ask.

“I don’t know.  But you can get your money back if you’re not completely satisfied.”

I think they need to emend that study to report that not only does TV alter brain chemistry in children, but there is also the real danger that your kid will turn into Billy Mays in just 10 short days.

I guarantee it or your money back.

Martha, Self-Restraint, Best Business Practices

Whatever your feelings are about Martha Stewart, you have to admit she’s a good business woman. She built a media empire and became a zillionaire in the process, although not entirely by playing by the same rules as the rest of us middle-class schmucks, but that’s another story.

So then the other day, I passed through the living room where AD was flipping through the channels and there was Martha on the television speaking to someone in her usual snotty and condescending tone.

It didn’t really catch my attention because Martha always speaks that way, even when she is talking about turnips. But then I heard her trashing Rachael Ray and I just had to stop and find out what crime Rachael had committed against Martha.  Were Rachael’s bed sheets not Egyptian cotton?  Had she used canned green beans in a recipe? No. It turns out that Rachael does not even have a garden!  What kind of low life does not even have a garden?  Show of hands?

Now I’m not Rachael’s PR lady and neither am I her detractor, I’m just saying Rachael is very popular.  Lots of people buy her books and magazines and watch her TV shows. My point is that she is loved by millions and my guess is that most of those people are the same people who buy Martha’s crap stuff.

Then last night as I was dozing off, there was Martha again on my television, this time going off on Sarah Palin.  Martha was dripping with contempt and saying some really ugly things. And again, I’m not here to sing the praises of Sarah or tell you why she is the devil, because everyone seems to have already made up their minds on that.  I’m just saying that millions of people love her.  And wouldn’t you agree that a lot Sarah’s fans are probably K-Mart shoppers? Or Sears shoppers or wherever Martha is hawking her wares these days. Obviously, I don’t keep up with Martha.

For a woman with a head for business, Martha’s lack of  self-restraint mystifies me. I fail to see what benefit it was to Martha to vomit the feelings she has towards Sarah and Rachael all over middle America, thus alienating most of the very people who fill her coffers.  Were those thoughts that simply could not go unexpressed?  Did it endear her to her customer base? No.  I think it made her look really small and sad.

Whatever your feelings are about any of the three women mentioned heretofore, from a purely business standpoint, Martha’s self-indulgent behavior seems to me like a really bad business move and terribly unsavvy.

Martha your lack of restraint surprises me. I thought you were more calculating than that.