Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Musings on life as an older mother: Part 2

Gosh, thanks so much for your varied and most interesting responses to my last post on this topic. You certainly covered the whole gamut of issues and reinforced my belief that there’s a much more complex story for the media to tell if they really want to portray what is happening out there in society today. I thought I’d share a few thoughts with you on how I’m finding my life as an ‘older mother’ on Planet Baby.

While pregnant with Joshua, I read this article on the very informative Baby Centre Australia website. Relieved that I had passed the fertility hurdle, I wondered how life on Planet Baby would really stack up. Would I find life like Nicole who, ‘with one child in her 20s, three in her 30s and one at 41, would pick the 30s as the ideal childbearing decade’, saying "Your career is launched, you still look and feel great and you have the energy to keep up with your kids. You're more relaxed about being a parent than you were in your 20s so you can have more fun and you aren't as tired as you are in your 40s. You think you can do it all and in your 30s, you almost can."

What stage of life was I at back then? Well, yes, the career was launched. Tick. I was looking quite youthful, had lost a lot of weight, was fit from dragon boating and yes, I probably was feeling ‘great’. So another tick there. That’s about as far as I got with agreeing with Nicole.  

Mothering Joshua aged 35
Joshua shortly after his birth
Once Joshie arrived and the sleep deprivation hit me like I’d run into a brick wall, I was exhausted. I wasn’t feeling or looking all that great. So no tick. As for energy, where had that gone? It was something altogether alien to me, that unceasing relentlessness of caring for a newborn who was completely reliant on me for everything. No tick there, either. I battled with breastfeeding which seemed to cause him immense distress. At 7 weeks, we were admitted to the residential Tresillian Unit in Willoughby in Sydney for a 5 day stay. We received fabulous support from the midwives, those angels of mercy, with settling techniques and advice on how to deal with his colic. After expressing breastmilk around the clock with a double pump to feed him EBM in bottles for 14 weeks, my supply dropped through my sheer exhaustion and we moved to formula. Yes, the mother guilt set in (a story for another day). Sigh. Was I relaxed? Er, no, I wasn’t.

That first year of motherhood was hard. Very hard. So much advice was proffered by so many people (mostly unsolicited) and most of it conflicted. I tried to weigh up all the tips and got myself into such a pickle. Where was the manual for being a mother? Where were the instructions? Eventually I decided to pick one source of information (the trusty and sympathetic child health nurse at the bottom of the street) and stuck with it. Meanwhile, the lawyer in me, used to rational responses to logic, struggled with Joshua’s apparent inability to follow my logic. Of course, my brain was so addled that I couldn’t even grasp the concept that he wasn’t understanding a word I was saying to him, let alone following it!

Don’t get me wrong, that first year was also joy-filled in a way I could never have dreamt possible. I felt emotions I hadn’t known existed. My heart was full. I was in adoration of this little fellow. I felt complete, that a hole in me had been filled and my endless longing for a child was a distant memory. I met delightful mums in my mothers’ group who were real, who told it like it was and didn’t gild the lily or pretend life was rosy when it wasn’t. That really helped. I learnt how important honesty is in mothering. It makes a difference. It builds bridges of understanding. It makes you feel less alone.

Mothering India aged 37
The siblings meet for the first time
Joshua was two when India arrived. Suddenly, I had an active toddler who didn’t like to share Mummy’s attention with his breastfeeding newborn sister. I was torn. Between two little people who needed me. The juggling began.

How was I travelling, according to Nicole’s list? Well, forget the career. For the moment. I’d been back to work for 10 months before I had India. That job vanished. For the first time in my life, I was unemployed. So weird. No job to go back to. No idea where my career was heading. I told people I was on ‘maternity leave’. I didn’t even know the term SAHM existed, let alone what it meant. Who was I? Ah, yes, identity crisis. Sigh.

And was I looking and feeling great? Not so much. At 9 months, India and I returned to Tresillian for a week. I had just survived three months of her waking 3-4 times a night and screaming her head off (in the room she shared with Joshua). That meant three months of breastfeeding her to sleep (yes, I know!), pacing the house in the dark patting her and snatching 3 ½ hours of broken sleep a night. The miracle workers at Tresillian stopped her night feeds on the first night and gave me some more settling tips which worked a treat.

Once the sleep deprivation problem was solved, I suppose I did have more energy. And how I needed it! As India became more mobile (she was an early walker at 10½ months, like Joshua, so I didn’t have much rest!), I had two active toddlers on my hands. They’ve never been wallflowers, playing quietly in a corner. They’ve always been chatterboxes, busy bees and studies in perpetual motion.

Having two littlies, whilst tiring, was absolutely delightful. Seeing them revel in playing together made my heart sing. They were the sweetest play fellows and always up to something, partners in crime. Mr PB and I adored our little family.

Mothering Sam aged 38½
And baby makes five!
Step right up! Throw another ball to the lady juggler, please! Yes, suddenly in July 2009, I had 3 children under 4. As for Nicole’s list, career – parked. Half a tick? Who knows. Was I looking and feeling great? Well, after arriving in Hobart and being promptly whisked off with 7 week old Sam to the Mother Baby Unit for diagnosis with severe PND, no, I wasn’t. Energy? Nada. None. Zip. My doctors keep reminding me that even without the PND, I would find life with the pixies tiring. Add the PND and I feel like I’m swimming through treacle. As for relaxed? Well, strangely yes. Having the PND whilst looking after the pixies has made me finally attempt to be kind to myself. I’ve had to let some things slide, change my priorities, not focus my attention as much as normal and lower my expectations of myself. And guess what? Life functions just fine like that. The world doesn’t stop turning if I don’t dust every week or wipe the pixies’ fingerprints off the windows every day.

So, finally, I guess, I’m finding this mothering caper enjoyable in a way I could never have imagined before moving to Planet Baby. I no longer worry about my career and the way it’s lost its linear trajectory which once seemed so important. It will all work out. I might even change career. The world will not stop turning. I’ve discovered I need less possessions. The things which used to bug me don’t so much anymore – I have better things to think about. Now, at 40, I’m really looking forward to the decade ahead as the pixies’ mum. Do I wish I’d had children earlier? Well, I can’t change the past so I don’t worry about that. This is the hand life’s dealt me. And I’m delighted to be playing this card game.

How have you found mothering has changed you? Has it met your expectations? Or have you been surprised or even disappointed? Keep the comments coming!


  1. Heart touching post, Jane. Your family is lovely!
    Hugs for a happy Thursday, it's still evening in my little corner. Off to grab another cup of evening tea, green tea :D

  2. Wow Jane... So much to say!...
    No kids at this point, but seriously batteling with the pressures from every angle... long story! What to do??

    Northern Light

  3. Thanks, ladies. Oh, Natasha, know that you are not alone. I've been there, too. Best of luck with working it out. J x

  4. "I had 3 children under 4" ... wow! I applaud you.

    I actually quit my job and was moving on to another one when I found out I was pregnant with Nate & everything changed. Severe morning sickness kept me away from my new job and bed ridden for 4 months. I was now a live at my parents stay at home sick soon to be mom and now that Nate is here, I'm a stay at home mom with no job. I've become a housewife, and there's nothing wrong with being a house wife, in fact I'm loving my time at home but it's not a life I had pictured for myself. Will I go back to work, I hope so .. but will it be in my field, probably not. I never thought I'd change careers, but now that Nathan's here and my life has turned upside down for the better, I feel like anything is possible.

    Momma J.

  5. What a great story! Nothing like babies in quick succession to give you a full-on introduction to parenting huh?

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and introducing yourself today. It is wonderful to meet you. I look forward to getting to know you better :)

  6. Oh, Jenn, you've really had a tough time of it lately. I am so pleased you have your little man now. I will be really interested to see where life takes you. I agree, once you've become a mother, you tend to look at life differently.

    Thanks, MM. Er, yes, you're right! It's my pleasure - I'm so pleased to have found you as well. Good old Bron for bringing us together. J x

  7. I had my first baby at 34, lost two, and my second at 37. I always thought I'd have three, but found I'd had enough after that. Two lovely boys. I'm 41 now, the oldest mum in a small town (or so it feels like to me some days). Would I do it differently? Not really. Maybe I'd have started a year or two earlier, but no earlier than that.

    I've worked around the boys, from home, since three months after the first one was born, and I know I'm lucky to have been able to do that (even though, sometimes, it just feels like more work).

    Very happy to have landed here on Planet Baby. Look forwrard to visiting again.

  8. Hi Allison Thanks so much for joining us! I've just become your newest follower ☺. Goodness, what a tale you have to tell (it's probably in your blog somewhere - I'll have a peek). You poor thing. I'm so pleased you have your two gorgeous little fellows who no doubt think the world of you. Good on you for managing the whole WAHM caper. Once this PND has been banished, I'll get back to (paid) work again. Time to go to bed. I'd love to 'see' you back here again - now I've 'met' all three sisters! J x

  9. Jane your post is definitely food for thought.

    In my *cough* early 30's. Been trying for a few months now and worried that it is too late (have a slightly older Hubby). I worry about other things too such as the impact of our age on our energy to be good parents if we are ever I said food for thought xox

  10. Well done on three kids under 4! I did the two-well-under-two gap and now maintain a bigger gap will definately be had third time round. If (and it's a very big If) that third time round ever happens, but that's a whole new blog post on its own!

  11. Oh, I might also add I started my journey into motherhood when I was 25.5 and again at 27. I always figured this was the perfect age for me since I had done the party scene, completed my education, dabbled in a career and was just 'ready'. Mind you, with my own mother being just barely 22 years older than me, I always knew I wanted kids young as well. I was also fortunate to meet the love of my life at 20 and notch up five good years together before embarking into parenthood together.
    At the end of the day, age is but a number. Being a 'good mum' is more than how old you are!

  12. Best of luck, @Life Love - I'm crossing my fingers for you!

    Thanks, Bianca. Gosh, you had your own challenge as well. It sounds like everything is falling into place with you - just lovely. J x

  13. Love this post and that you have finally found the easier ride. Of course it also helps thatyou are up to your third. You have learnt a lot along the way. I think society places far too much emphasis on the career woman and not enough on the beauty of just life. As mothers we are so important to the future of our children. Have you ever noticed how your children love you with almost puppydog like adoration. Even after you have been super mad with them they still love you. You are their mother.
    I never wanted to be a career woman. I am from the last of the generation where wanting to be a mum and wife was good enough and I have also been lucky in that, aside of a deformity thataffected feeding and growth in my first child, I have had fairly eay babies to look after. The problem in my life was my husband and I spent many years tring to be supermum and superwife. Now, 25 years after the beginning of my marriage and 6 years after it's breakup I have also learnt to take things as they come. The marks still annoy me (teenagers and young adults can be just as thoughtless as toddlers it seems) but I wipe them off when the energy is there and don't worry when it isn't. Cherrie

  14. Wow, Cherrie, thanks for all your thoughts. I agree - just like people seem to concentrate more on the wedding than the marriage nowadays, I found people more focussed on my pregnancy and giving birth than being a mother afterwards. It's an upside-down world! Yes, that unconditional love has just bowled me over - I never expected it. Gosh, it sounds like you've really been on a journey of self-discovery. Have a lovely Sunday. J x

  15. Wow.. what a journey you have been on! I love hearing about amazing women such as yourself who have had 3 kidlets and have such wisdom to share.

    The things that you have learnt are exactly what I know I must learn... with a 5 week old and a 2.5 yr old, its early days but I am putting enormous pressure on myself and I know that I need to lower the expectations, as you said. Learn to live with the fingerprints, the scattered toys, the pile of washing etc...

    So, thanks for sharing. It was exactly what I needed to read today and thanks so much for your comment on my blog re: Guilt Monster!


  16. Hi Jess, So pleased it made you feel less alone. The GM is an insidious little chap and not easily banished! J x

  17. Always great to read someone else's journey into parenthood.
    I love it when other Mum's share and are real. Thanks Jane!
    I had four children under the age of six when #4 was born just over two years ago.
    I am now going through the emotional pang of sending off #3 to Kinder and for the first time in eight years I do not have a new baby AND toddler, just the toddler and three school aged children.
    I really miss not having a baby around, but somehow that is not enough of a reason to add #5! ;)
    I feel a bit in limbo if that makes sense?
    New changes to adjust to for this very sentimental Mum.
    I hope you have a lovely year with your beautiful family and enjoy reclaiming some time for yourself. Perhaps one day we can organise a catch up in Hobart town.

  18. Kat, I would really love to meet up with you but can't find an email address for you. Would you mind emailing me? Thanks J x


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, you gorgeous soul. You've just made my day! J x

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