11 Ways You Don't Realize You're Shaming Older Moms
In this era of #mommywars, us moms face a lot of criticism. From the time you announce your pregnancy until, well, forever, it seems like everyone has an opinion about how you're supposed to do things, and they often feel the need to tell you when "you're doing it wrong." I have found that when you wait to have kids until your 30s, people have a lot to say about it, and there are so many ways you don't realize you're shaming older moms, too.
I had always planned to wait to have kids until I had a chance to finish my graduate degree, buy a house, establish my career, and have some financial stability. I also selfishly wanted to have a chance to travel, enjoy being married, and have some kid-free fun. Flash forward through five years of child-free marriage, and we had crossed everything off our pre-baby checklist. What that meant, however, was that I had my first baby right before I turned 31.
A lot has happened in the past nine years. I had two kids, got divorced, was a badass single mom, got re-married, became a stepmom to two more kids, completely changed careers, and then recently got pregnant and had a baby with my new husband. If it sounds exhausting, it's because it totally is. I have experienced so many raised eyebrows, judgmental comments, and shame while wearing all of these hats but, surprisingly, much of it has to do with being an "older mom."
While our culture has shifted to, for the most part, accept working moms and different family structures — and medical technology makes it possible for people to have babies later in life, either because they choose to or because life happens — it seems like we still haven't fully gotten to a place where we entirely accept that it's OK for people to wait to have kids. Or, that waiting might even be the best thing for you and your family. It is so commonplace to question this particular life choice that people don't often realize they are doing it, and that it can be really shaming.
When You Comment About Their Age
I know how old I am. Really, I do. I don't need you to say things like, "Aren't you a little old to be pregnant?" or, "Wow, you don't look that old."
I have cousins who are grandparents. I am literally almost 16 years older than my daughter's best friend's mother. I could be her mother. Seriously. I get it. I'm old.
When You Express Surprise
I am not ashamed of my age by any stretch of the imagination. However, when you find out how old I am, can you not look shocked, or worse, suggest I am lying. Yes, I am really that old. Yes, I know I look young. My kids keep me young. Kidding. My secret is sunblock, hair dye, and a good moisturizer.
When You Do The Math
I assure you, I know exactly how old I was when I got pregnant, and also how old I will be when my kids graduate from high school and when they are my age.
When You Ask If They Wish They'd Had Kids Earlier
Nope. I was able to do some pretty amazing things because I waited to have kids. I was privileged to be able to access effective contraception to prevent pregnancy until I was ready to be a mother. I honestly wish that all people were able to choose when and whether to become parents, which is why I advocate so hard for access to reproductive health care for everyone.
When You Ask, "Is It Safe To Have Babies At Your Age?"
That's really a question for me and my doctor, not for you. However, since you asked I might as well tell you that I am way healthier now than I was in my 20s. Also, modern medicine is amazing. It's no longer uncommon to have babies in your 30s and 40s, because it's safer than it used to be.
Also, since you asked, my health is really none of your damn business.
When You Inquire About Their Health
I call this concern trolling. You aren't really concerned about my health as an older pregnant person or older mom, you are judging me because it makes you feel superior. Not cool.
When You Ask Them If They Are Tired
Yes, but all moms are tired. Also, when you ask me this particular question it makes me worry that I forgot to put on concealer. Again.
Did I mention I am tired?
When You Share Scary Statistics
WTF? Just because there is a higher risk of birth defects or genetic conditions for babies born to older moms, doesn't mean that you should share those statistics with a pregnant person. This is not a "fun" topic of conversation, and when you share these "helpful" facts, it sort of sounds like you are trying to blame me for something completely beyond my control.
Besides, what if my baby does have a potentially scary diagnosis? Bringing this up could be really upsetting and doesn't really serve a purpose. Is it true, yes. Is it kind or necessary? Hell no.
When You Suggest They Are Selfish
I get to control my own fertility. You don't get a say in when or whether another person decides to have children. When you make casual comments about me selfishly staying child-free in my 20s so I could do things for me, or worse, suggest my kids might miss out because I am older now or will be ancient when they reach adulthood, it's seriously shaming.
When You Ask Them If They Conceived "Naturally"
Yes, they were, but seriously? Asking questions about someone's fertility is offensive and emotionally charged. Implying that babies conceived with reproductive assistance are "unnatural" is messed up. Also, assuming something about my health or ability to conceive based on my age is really shaming. No one ever seems to ask men if they father children "at their age."
When You Treat Them Like A Medical Marvel
Holy crap. I'm 38, not 70, and even if I was, it would still be none of your business if I was able to have babies. Even if you are concerned about me or my kids, it's really none of your freaking business. You do you, and let me do me. I don't need or want your concern or advice. Seriously.