Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Under the Wire - by Elizabeth Allen

I was the last in line—the youngest child born to my mother when she was 39-years-old. My brother popped in fifteen months earlier when she was a sprightly 37, but my sister won the trophy for first born when Mom was a more conventional 27. My sister had twelve years as an only child to a young-ish mother with energy garnering her enthusiasm and attention. Did it really make a difference? And to whom?

That depends on who you ask.

Let’s start with me. Sometimes I feel like I got the raw end of the deal. Mom was exhausted by the time I laid my childish demands for attention upon her. She didn’t have the energy to play with me—not without caffeine or stimulants (which I accidently swallowed after she recklessly dropped them on the floor and my two-year-old mind decided they were M&M’s). She was quickly burnt-out on the whole motherhood experience and was feeling like she hadn’t made her mark in the world so evenings were dedicated to community theatre rehearsals and performances. When Mom was home, she was desperately unhappy in her marriage to my father and since I was the baby and the last entity in the house that technically needed her, she vented her misery on me before I’d turned ten. As if all that wasn’t enough, I had the least amount of time with Mom before she passed away.

My slightly older brother didn’t seem to care about the amount of attention or lack of it he got from Mom. He was very intellectual from a very young age and was buried in books and education. Of course, looking back now, that may have been his escape from the ever-present dysfunction in the house. Yep, probably was. Once he was off to college, he never looked back.

That just leaves my sister. She may have had the roost to herself for a dozen years, but once my brother and I came along, she was gainfully employed as a full-time babysitter. But those first twelve years were hardly a cake-walk. Mom dragged my sister through five marriages—four step-fathers. The lessons that little girl observed regarding men, women and relationships were so twisted and perverse, it was no wonder she married the first schmuck who proposed when she was seventeen to get out of that cuckoo’s nest. Of course, she married a psychotic schmuck but let’s not get into that.

So what the heck is my point? Truth be told, it got lost somewhere in my rant up above. Oh wait! Found it. Does it make a difference to siblings if the parent is older or younger? I believe it has to. Certainly my example is not the norm (and I pray none of you or your children ever go through anything like that!) but despite the insanity, there are common elements—energy, enthusiasm, and attention.

Older mothers just don’t have as much energy, especially if there are several kids. Someone’s going to get short-changed, but that’s just the way it is.

I find, however, that enthusiasm and attention go hand in hand. Lots, if not most, older mothers these days are career women. How much time can you carve out of your routine to devote to your child (or children)? As a full-time financial advisor and part-time writer, I can see how the demands of my aspirations have impacted my daughter. Becoming a mother was one of the single most important decisions of my life, but as I traversed my forties and early fifties, I too, like my mother, felt the need to leave my mark. My daughter has been conditioned ever since she was a baby to understand mommy goes to work, but once I started writing in the evenings, she felt cheated. I argued and rationalized that writing was important to me and this is something I need to do for me and don’t you want mommy to do something that makes her happy? And almost before I knew it, I had nearly argued and rationalized myself right out of the most important relationship of my life.

Would I have gone through this mid-life crisis had she been born ten or twenty years earlier? Probably not. I was a selfish idiot in my twenties and a bit of a career-nomad with no discernible direction. And considering I skirted three engagements, I was well on the way to matching my own mother’s record. So, all things considered, it’s good we waited.

Thank God my daughter is not afraid to communicate and I listen to her. Now my writing time is scheduled when it doesn’t impact our precious mother/daughter time.

Like now.

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Blogger Robin Gorman Newman said...

Hi Liz. First...let me say an official WELCOME to the Motherhood Later blog. We're so glad you'll be writing for us on Tuesdays and sharing your voice/parenting/life expriences.

I totally hear what you are saying re: carving quality time with your child. I work from home, so can juggle my time, but that said, I'm not great at closing my office door and saying the work day is over. I tend to sneak in, send emails, check facebook, write when the spirit moves me, etc.

But, when my son climbs on lap as I sit in my office chair and gives me a hug and asks if we can watch a movie together (often our evening ritual), I may not drop everything that very second, but I try to be with him as quickly as possible, since I know that one day, probably all too soon, he'll be way to big to even sit on my lap, and I'll miss it.

It's not easy when you have aspirations that feed your soul and you're trying at the same time to be the best mother you can. It's a constant balancing act that really has no balance...just acceptance.

6:14 AM  
Blogger Cara Meyers said...

Welcome, Elizabeth!

I hear your cry for energy. I have an 8 year-old, rambunctious boy who, just this morning, wanted me to play an active game before I had even one sip of coffee! I'm already exhausted and it is 9:15am.

I consider myself the "play on the floor, quiet games & crafts" Mom. But I do try to burst out of my exhausted shell and play at the park with my son. When he climbs on me at night to snuggle, away goes my laptop and we either read or do quieter things together, so that he DOES get my attention daily.

I remember my own Mom, who had me when she was 38, complain that she didn't have enough energy to play with me. My immature mind translated that into, "I don't want to spend time with you." I never say that to my son unless I am truly sick or truly exhausted. Even then I'll try to give it my last shot before I announce that I can't go on.

Lack of energy is the biggest drawback for many older Moms. I have 3 second cousins, all in their late 20s, each with 3 kids, all have had a newborn within the past 6 months, and I hear how they go mountain biking and run 5 miles several times a day. I get exhausted just reading what they do!

But age does make a difference. And we're all in this together...;)

6:25 AM  
Blogger Cara Meyers said...

...and Robin...we are so in sync sometimes, it's scary!

6:28 AM  

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