Time Is on My Side
I’m proud I got pregnant at 40. Yes I was the oldest mom in the playground when my son was a toddler and now I’m the oldest one at school pickups. But I’m okay with that.
In fact, according to new U.S. Center for Health Statistics data, I’m on trend. There are more than nine times as many births by women over 35 (when our childbearing abilities start to decline) today than there were four decades ago.
Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. In contrast, a very young mother raised me. She was 18 when I was born and is one of the youngest grandmas I’ve yet to meet.
Sure, it was hard at first to alter the adult life I’d worked so hard to create for myself to make room for the full-on life-changing force of that eight-pound newborn. But making this change midlife was the best decision I ever made. Here are four surprising realizations.
I’m Happier Than Ever Before
There’s a lot of media banter back-and-forth over who’s happier: the childless by choice or the people who procreate. But I’ll add another dimension to the discussion: I think having a kid midlife has actually made me a happier parent than if I had started earlier.
Science backs me up. Research shows that when you start a family between 35 and 49 you tend to feel happier than if you had kids between 18 and 35. It appears that waiting until after you’ve finished your education and established your career is linked to a more satisfying experience in the parenthood department.
I’m More Financially Stable
This one probably isn’t a surprise. Being older, I’ve had the luxury of time to establish myself in my career and personal lives without the responsibility of raising a child, so of course I have the stuff (from savings to home equity) to make parenting less stressful.
On the other hand, kids cost money! The bare-bones cost of raising one child to age 18 in the Northeast is around $282,480, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
So I’m not one for a spontaneous trip to Hawaii anymore — but a strong credit report looks a lot better than a tan. Tempted to swap that Paris vacation for a purse filled with pacifiers? You can calculate your personal estimated cost of raising a kid here.
It Could Lead to Longevity
Knowing that I’m responsible for raising a child way into my fifties has made me extremely conscious of my health choices. As a result, I eat cleaner, exercise harder, and keep better health habits than ever before.
Just as other people my age may start to slow down on their self-care because we begin to feel how much more effort it takes to watch what we eat or run that extra mile with stiffer knees, I’m reinvigorated. I have to stay strong just to keep up with a fast-moving five-year-old.
Research supports this: Boston University School of Medicine found that women who start having children later are twice as likely to live to their nineties than those who begin families in their twenties.
"Of course this does not mean women should wait to have children at older ages in order to improve their own chances of living longer," said researcher Thomas Perls, MD, MPH. "The natural ability to have a child at an older age likely indicates that a woman's reproductive system is aging slowly, and therefore so is the rest of her body.”
I’m a Calmer Person
Here’s where motherhood has changed my personality. I may not have clinical studies to back me up, but I think any reader in a similar situation can agree. You learn viscerally how to not sweat the small stuff after you birth a whole person out of your body.
I’m not candy-coating parenthood: There are countless nerve-wracking moments you sign up for once you get pregnant. (When people say they “grow as a person” after having kids, I actually think it means they’re growing a tougher skin!) And over time, as you confront more and more gut-wrenching moments, from, say, a fetus’s dropping heartbeat when you’re in labor to that young child’s first visit to the pediatric ER, you learn to get really chill about everyday disappointments. Long line at Starbucks? Train delays? Ha! No worries.