I sit here at age 42 with three children. Yes, three children, but that’s not the scary part.
My eldest, my son Hayden, turns 23 this year, my youngest daughter, Tori, turns five, And my first daughter, Lexy, is seven.
A 15-year gap between them. My, how things changed in those 15 years. All-new gadgets and gismos, new rules and trends. New guidelines to follow, new tests to go for, new birthing rituals to adhere to, you even get advised to write a birthing plan, and hand this to your doctor… this alone involves more planning and organising than a wedding!
When I was 19 years old, I had Hayden. I was completely clueless, I had absolutely no idea how I was going to do it. When I was 35, I had Lexy, and once again I found myself completely clueless, with no idea how I was going to do it. I suppose each time comes with its own challenges and complications.
Before Hayden was born, I read a lot of books, and I stuck to all the advice given. Get rid of the dummy early, don’t let them fall asleep with a bottle, an hour of tummy time a day. The lists were endless. I stuck to the rules, I did not deviate. Everything the books told me to do, I did. To. The. Letter.
Dummy was in the dustbin by his first birthday. His bottle was in the dustbin by his second. In spite of this, Hayden never slept – ever – for six (yes SIX), long and gruelling months. I was exhausted. Nobody knew. Not a single person in my life knew just how much we were battling, even his father wasn’t aware of the emotional roller coaster ride I was on each and every day. What I realised later, was that as such a young mother I never wanted to admit I needed help. No one knew I was battling, because then I would have “failed”.
With my daughters, I haven’t read many books. Yes, I listen to advice and take it all in and use what will work for my family. Both my girls LOVE their dummies, and went to bed with a bottle (Rule number one and two already broken). They have, however, had lots of tummy time. Again, my girls NEVER SLEPT. Guess what. Babies DO NOT sleep and mommies are tired.
However, being a little older and wiser and knowing – a little – better, I asked for help. From anyone and everyone. Don’t tell anyone, but Lexy only got rid of her dummy after she was three, and her bottie, and guess what, she loves both of them, why would I take them away from her earlier, it was my peace, I knew if I gave her those very precious things, she would go to sleep.
I’ve always said that there were pros and cons to having kids when you’re young versus when you’re older. When you’re young, you have much more energy for them. I played on the carpet and kicked the ball in the garden after an eight-hour workday with Hayden. My girls are lucky enough to have me at home (I’m a work-from-home mommy). But let me tell you, come 6pm, I’m so desperate for my precious little darlings to GO TO BED so I can rest. By rest, I mean make dinner, sort out school lunches and then eventually flop on the couch.
However, when I was younger, I was very impatient with Hayden. If he didn’t do it properly the first time, I’d yell at him. I expected this little guy to get everything right. I realise that they are not always going to listen and two-year-olds are not made to do as you say, so the yelling is much less, (there is still however a fair amount of yelling).
During my pregnancy with Hayden, I revelled in the fact that you can eat as much as you like and get as fat as possible. A tin of caramel a night, no problem, a Magnum ice-cream for breakfast, bring it on, 24kg later, it probably wasn’t such a good idea. But a 19-year-old body bounces back. Back into my pre preggy jeans before he was five months old. With the girls, I realised that I wouldn’t lose the weight quiet so easily so I watched what I ate and still only managed to lose it way down the line – actually, I think I’m still hanging on to 2kg.
A younger body also copes better with pregnancy. I never suffered with any common ailments with my son’s pregnancy (apart from heartburn, probably caused by the overindulgence in Magnum ice-creams and tins of caramel). The girls, well, if you can get it while pregnant, I got it all. Heartburn that could kill, backache that sent me to bed, piles, OH MY WORD… the size of grapefruits!
Guess what my loving doctor told me when I told her I have piles:
“Yes dear, that will happen when a woman of your age is pregnant.”
A woman of my age! What is that supposed to mean? I’m a spring chicken… Aren’t I?
Then you have to compare your children… yes, yes I know, no one should EVER compare children, they all reach their milestones in their own time blah, blah, blah.
Anyone who has ever had a child knows this is complete and utter rubbish. Anyone with a child is always looking over their shoulder. Isn’t he rolling over yet? Isn’t he sitting yet? And all this does is get you into a state of panic, so you rush home and start “rolling over” training. Yes, I did this. I spent hour after hour trying to get my poor son to roll over, because so and so said that he should have reached this milestone by now. Really? Rolling training? My poor boy!
The girls have had less pressure. Luckily with age comes a little more common sense. All babies and children actually do meet their milestones in their own time, no amount of “training” is going to speed up the process. The girls and I did moms and babies workshops, where we guided and supported and guess what, they reached each and every milestone, in their own time.
More patience but less energy. More common sense but fewer book smarts. Easier pregnancy versus a healthier pregnancy.
Is there ever a perfect age at which to have children?
I honestly don’t think so!