Being An Older Mom: Stereotypes, Compliments, and Why I Feel Empowered

Being An Older Mom: Stereotypes, Compliments, and Why I Feel Empowered

This post is in partnership with RoC®, but all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. 

I had my first child at 39, and my second at 41. I am now what is considered to be an "older mom" of very young kids. My 20s and early 30s were spent traveling, moving all over the U.S. (I lived in 9 states in a 12 year period), and focusing on my career as an eco-friendly clothing designer. I knew that I probably (although not certainly) wanted kids someday, but it wasn’t a priority. And then, I turned 38, and suddenly it was. I knew that having a child later in life would likely come with judgment, but being aware of the possibility didn’t make it any easier when it happened.

The majority of my friends who wanted to be parents waited to have children as well, but outside of that circle, I was given all sorts of opinions when I did get pregnant – from relatives to strangers to the health care system itself, which automatically labeled me as "advanced maternal age" and presented me with an abundance of extra tests and doctor appointments. While more and more people are waiting until later to become mothers and/or fathers than in the past, the truth is that most people who choose to be parents still give birth or adopt in their 20s or early 30s. There is often a stigma attached to older parents, who are assumed to be less equipped for the job because of their ages. About a year ago in fact, I stumbled upon a stereotype-laden opinion piece online about how older parents usually don’t have the energy to keep up with their kids, often have less in common with their kids and therefore trouble establishing good relationships with them, and even have a greater potential to feel challenges at social gatherings with other parents because they will have less to talk about and look physically older than the other parents. Yep. It said that.

Being An Older Mom: Stereotypes, Compliments, and Why I Feel Empowered
Being An Older Mom: Stereotypes, Compliments, and Why I Feel Empowered

I’d be lying if I said that article didn’t get to me on some levels. Shortly after reading it, I was at one of my 3 year old daughter’s activities, and I started talking with another mom. We had a great conversation about our children that led to discussing our pregnancies and birthing experiences. I said something about my "advanced maternal age" label while pregnant, and she asked me how old I was. When I told her, she said, "Wow, I would have guessed you were much younger. You look really good for your age." For your age. I know she was trying to compliment me, and I thanked her, but my mind immediately wandered back to that article. That night, I sat up in bed trying to read a book, but I kept thinking about my conversation with the other mother, and that awful article, and what it meant to be an older-than-most mom who didn’t simply look good, she just maybe looked good for her age. I mean, would that apply to all aspects of being an early-40s parent to little ones? Would I be considered active with my kids for my age? Would I have a good understanding of my children’s generation for my age? Would I be a good parent in general for my age?

I was convinced I was going to wake up the following morning riddled with anxiety, but the opposite happened. I woke up feeling empowered. I mean, seriously, why would I allow myself to feel bad about my appearance or parenting skills because of outdated stigmas attached to getting older? I’m doing great as a parent, and my age – old or young – has nothing to do with it. I am actively involved in my kids’ activities and my daughter’s school. I keep up with my children and have lots of hands on playtime with them, even after working all day. I maintain a healthy social life with friends, including parents of all ages. And I focus on taking care of myself and appearance – I attempt to put myself together well when I dress each day, I eat healthy foods and regularly exercise, and I use the best skin care, like my beloved RoC® RETINOL CORREXION MAX Daily Hydration Créme. (I love what actress Thandie Newton says about it: “I am proud to participate in the mission of RoC® and it’s For Your Age campaign as this Brand understands and celebrates every way a person wants to feel, and how they want to look.” Amen!) I have zero regrets about waiting to have kids until later. I personally needed to have the life experiences I had when I was younger to get to where I am now, and I am consistently using those experiences to improve my parenting skills. That whole cliche of age just being a number is truth, guys. I consider myself to be a young mother despite being in my early 40s. And I’ll say it again. I’m doing great.

Being An Older Mom: Stereotypes, Compliments, and Why I Feel Empowered
Being An Older Mom: Stereotypes, Compliments, and Why I Feel Empowered

Since this occurrence, I’ve continued to think more and more about how compliments given to women – moms or otherwise – ending in "for your age" are so prevalent in our society, and the potentially negative impact they could have. And while the giver of these compliments most often means well, the implications are that if a woman does look her age (middle-aged or otherwise), she doesn’t look good. What if you are 40 and you genuinely look 40? Does that mean there is something wrong with you? Why should beauty be defined by how old we look? And deep down, does being consistently told she look great for your age have a detrimental effect on a woman’s self esteem? RoC® actually did a study on this, where they partnered with Wakefield Research on a nationwide survey of 1,000 women aged 40 and up. The results showed that 82% of women have been told that they look "great for their age” in the past year (and most on average of every 6 weeks!), most women would rather not be given a compliment at all than get one ending with "for your age," and that 87% of women feel that society expects women to act their age, but to look younger. This isn’t right. We shouldn’t have to feel that we look any way, because of our ages, or for our ages. Beauty should not be determined by age, period. (To learn more about the study, click here.)

We can change this way of thinking though. We can. I strongly feel that we, as moms of any age and as women in general, need to take the initiative to band together and reevaluate how beauty and age are connected – beginning with removing phrases like "for your age" from our vocabulary. And this can extend beyond beauty to success in parenting and/or careers as well. Today’s woman is genuinely the healthiest, most active/successful/influential of all women throughout history, and the fact that society tells us we should still be longing for our youth represents a huge problem. We as women can be anything, and that should have nothing to do with how old we are! I truly believe this, and as an "older mom" who is loving (and doing a great job of) being a parent, I hope I am proof of this.

Being An Older Mom: Stereotypes, Compliments, and Why I Feel Empowered
Being An Older Mom: Stereotypes, Compliments, and Why I Feel Empowered
Being An Older Mom: Stereotypes, Compliments, and Why I Feel Empowered

I vow to continue to work hard to be strong, successful, confident, and beautiful on my own terms. I’ll keep dressing in clothes I love and that I personally find to be chic or stylish, regardless of what department I find them in or if magazines tell me I should be dressing older to match my age. I’ll take care of my body by eating healthy, nutritious foods that fuel me and exercising everyday. I’ll take care of my skin by using my RoC® RETINOL CORREXION MAX Daily Hydration Créme, which offers a powerful retinol formula for well hydrated, beautiful skin, quickly moisturizes to deeply hydrate skin for 24 hours, and is clinically proven to visibly reduce fine lines and wrinkles in 1 week. I’ll continue to work hard, enjoy what I do for a living, and feel good about helping to support my family. And I’ll remain an active mom who enjoys keeping up with 2 littles ones, and is happily involved in their playtime, activities, and school.

Being An Older Mom: Stereotypes, Compliments, and Why I Feel Empowered

Whether you’re an older mom like me, a "middle aged" career rockstar, a strong woman who is past what society seems to consider youthful, or just a righteous babe in general, (or all of these things!), I would so love to hear your stories of shattering age stereotypes and feeling strong and beautiful regardless of your number of years. Feel free to comment below, email me, or DM me on Instagram. We’re in this together, and should feel empowered together. Thank you for letting me share my story with you!

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