Sunday, March 25, 2012

Older Moms/Younger Moms

This is a post I wrote about a year ago but hadn't shared here yet.  Maybe some of you will find it helpful in some way.

I saw a post on a blog today that partially talked about the way older moms and younger moms relate (or don't), and I found myself replying in the form of a post long enough to be featured here. So, breaking the silence, possibly with something I've said similarly before, here's something fresh:

When I was a new mom I found that the older moms that I knew were too busy for me to get much time with them. The few times that I did get up close with moms I admired were good, but they were rare and I was not able to make close relationships with those ladies, for the most part. 

There were some older women who took an interest in me, but in some cases they were ones who were really looking for a disciple, someone to make be like them, and honestly, I didn't like the results that I was seeing they had. They may have felt that they were equipped to lead or teach me, but I wasn't interested in going in the direction they wanted to lead me. (and I can say that even in looking back on it all these years later, I was spot-on in those impressions. These were unhealthy people with an ax to grind.)

Now I am 40, and don't have any babies or toddlers or preschoolers or sippy cups. There are no outward markers to signal to the like-minded moms that they have anything in common with me. I'm not sporting a baby in a sling, refusing to use a pacifier, or tandem nursing to show my true colors. :) Even when I try to encourage a mom who is making choices that I can identify with from my own baby days, I sense their hesitation to trust others that they do not identify as part of their parenting sub-set. I have to overtly identify myself, "I come in peace!" and still they don't seem to believe it fully.

My oldest is 18. I've homeschooled for a long time. A lot of the younger moms I know seem to think of me in an older mom/big sister kind of way, but know what? I am so busy with what I've got going just managing my own life and children and homeschooling, that I really don't have a lot of time to invest with those gals. I don't have any more days with room for play dates. 

Also, possibly a bigger issue, I have fewer pat answers than I had when I was in my 20s. For moms who want absolutes, I have few, if any, of those to offer. Doesn't seem to speak their language. 

A couple months ago a couple from church asked if they could come over and visit with us and have us tell them about homeschooling. They have four small children and were looking for some wisdom, I guess. Someone to fan the flames of their naiive enthusiasm, perhaps. It was hard for us, not only because our schedule was slammed, but also because we know how long and hard the homeschooling road can be, and at the time we were not feeling particularly positive about all that we were doing or experiencing in regards to homeschooling our kids. What can we say to them, we wondered? Here they were, all stars in their eyes, chomping at the bit to Create All Of Their Own Unit Studies! and have Rigorous Standards from the get-go! and have each of their tiny tots academically advanced and extremely precocious. In the end, I ended up telling them what I really felt at the time: It's hard work. It won't always go well. You will have times when you doubt that you are doing the right thing or doing things well. And in the end, even when you have done all you could, your kids might just disappoint you, scare you, be mean, or make you cry. There are no guarantees that anything you are going to do will give you a particular result. It's a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself, young friends. And for goodness sake, take your vitamins, because you are going to need all the good health and energy you can maintain for the next 23 years! I don't think they got what they were expecting, and I don't know if they were really able to absorb it, since of course when your kids are tiny and adorable and practically perfect in every way, how could you really understand how things can develop in the next 15 years or so?

I see the complexity of the whole younger woman/older woman thing differently now. Certainly our societal norms do not make that sort of relationship easy or natural. I'm not sure what the answer is. Moms in my category are probably busier and less available in some ways than moms of babies. Ladies a generation older than me are not often familiar with many of my choices in life, and are looking toward retirement, travel, or careers without the impact of growing children. The internet can be great for a mix of encouragement, but is weak in that we only get to see what the person shows us through their words, and in so many cases people are comparing themselves to a myth, or following the advice of someone that they otherwise would not admire if they could more fully observe their life. 

There I go again with no pat answers. Annoyingly real, I suppose.