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Older moms face unique challenges, similar joys

Changes in society and lifestyle, combined with advances in medical treatment, have meant women are having children later and later in life. It is no longer uncommon for women to have first children at 35, 40 or even older.

Karen Yasgoor, Ph.D., and founder of the Center for Work Life Assessment in La Jolla said there are several factors contributing to the phenomenon known as “late motherhood.”

Some women make the decision to delay having children in order to accomplish educational or career goals, while others find themselves marrying later or starting second families. A significant number of women also face infertility issues.

That was the situation Wendy Matalon found herself in. After trying to conceive for several years, she became pregnant with twins at age 46. Her boys are now 8 years old.

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“There had not been a seemingly appropriate time in my life before,” said Matalon, who remarried after a divorce.

Matalon, executive director at White Sands retirement community, said she doesn’t see age as having much impact on her experience as a mother. Age isn’t a factor when it comes to enjoying being a parent.

“It’s just a joy to see your children do well and be healthy,” she said. “You can’t imagine how much love you can have. I think that’s universal.”

The busy mom of twins admitted to concerns about how old she was going to be when her children graduated high school, married or had children of their own.

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“You may be wiser when you have children when you’re older, but you certainly don’t have the energy,” she said.

Yasgoor, herself an older mom, said older mothers face a unique set of challenges, yet benefit from definite advantages.

“They’re juggling multiple family responsibilities,” Yasgoor said, duties that may include caring for aging parents, raising stepchildren, paying child support or tending a sick spouse.

Older moms may also be reluctant to give up hard-earned career success, forcing them to rely on childcare. It can also be difficult to connect with peers. To solve that problem, Yasgoor started a support group for professional moms when she had her son, now 20, at age 34.

The benefits of being an older mom, said Yasgoor, are financial stability, patience, maturity, career security and help from older siblings.

“Being an older mom provides additional opportunities for the child,” she said, such as being able to afford private school or travel.

La Jolla resident Jennifer Spengler, 38, is currently pregnant with her third daughter. Her two older daughters are ages 6 and 9.

“It’s so much more fun this time because I know what I’m getting,” Spengler said, describing her anticipation as “happy excitement” versus “nervous excitement.”

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In addition to feeling more relaxed, Spengler said she has a better understanding not only of limitations but also her capabilities.

“I feel so much more empowered, that I can do it all,” she said.

After her first daughter was born, Spengler was a stay-at-home-mom. She questioned whether motherhood was enough. Now she balances working at her husband’s photography studio, spending time at home with her daughters, and taking care of herself.

Spengler said she doesn’t feel like part of an unusual demographic.

“It’s sort of the norm now,” she said. “I think women are just doing more now. There’s not as much pressure to marry out of college and have kids.”