I never thought it would happen to me, but it did. I’ve heard others speak of it, but I figured I could never fit the bill, especially at this phase of my life. I was wrong.
Some time back, I was at our neighborhood diner with my husband, a friend and her two kids, and my son. I had taken him to the Ladies Room (he was on the brink of being potty trained), and we were rushing to exit the bathroom. As we washed our hands, a woman entered the restroom, saw us, and out of nowhere looked me in the eye and bluntly asked if I was the mom or grandmom?
I was stunned. Livid. Totally caught off guard. And, suddenly quite self-conscious.
I stole a fast glance in the bathroom mirror before we exited, examining the age of my face.
Ok…..I don’t look 22. I admit it. I have a couple of frown lines, and I’m not a Botox kinda gal. I certainly feel more tired than I did when I was younger. But, could someone truly mistake me for
I could be a grandma chronologically, that is true, but I only became a midlife mom
at 42. And, some become first time moms even later than that. It is a personal choice and not one that should have to be defended…let alone to a perfect (or should I say intrusive) stranger. And, what was her story? Is she a mom or a grandmom? How exactly did she want me to answer? What would she have said next? Was there a right or wrong response? I’m not usually someone who wants for
words, but suddenly I was completely tongue-tied, and a bit sick to my stomach (luckily I had had a light lunch). I know I had no reason to take it personally. After all, why let a remark from a complete stranger get to me? But, it did. She pushed a button in me that I didn’t even know existed.
I glared at the woman, with a look of horror on my face, no doubt, and hastily retorted, “I’m not going to respond to that,” as I bolted out the door with Seth, my son. I couldn’t get out of the bathroom fast enough. Not exactly a pithy response on my part, but I wasn’t prepared for a dialogue on this subject. And, frankly, I was more focused at the time on our ongoing potty training challenges. How would Joan Rivers have answered such a question? And what about
Jerry Seinfeld? I bet he would have had a quick comical comeback. Would a man ever be asked that question? Men become fathers at all ages, and there’s much less said about that.
When I scurried back to our table, dragging Seth behind me, I told my husband and fellow mom friend what had happened. She, in fact, has a full head of glistening thick gray hair which she wears proudly, and said it has commonly happened to her, and she wasn’t fazed one bit. I, on the other hand, have no gray (except for some hidden strands), and I don’t color my hair (not yet anyway). So…what was this about, and why did it get to me so? Do I dress like grandmom?
Okay, I could wear stretch pants a bit less, but they’re easy and comfortable, and I’m ready for a workout. Were my mannerisms somehow like one (whatever that means)? My friend responded that the stranger probably looked at Seth’s blonde hair, compared to my almost jet black hair, and surmised I couldn’t possibly be his mom. Was she just curious? He is a very cute child, and often attracts attention…but still. This kind of attention I don’t need. Or maybe she was annoyed that I had a boy in the Ladies Room, and this was her way of breaking the ice so she could say something about the real matter at hand? Perhaps she was next going to comment on that? Who knows? I can’t get inside her head, nor do I particularly want to.
Once you have a child, does it give outgoing strangers free license to say whatever is on their mind that relates to you as a parent or your child? Do “later” moms need to prepare themselves for potential questions like this and be poised to respond in either a confident or matter of fact manner? Or, do we have the right to just blow it off without feeling rude? But, isn’t the question itself rude? I would have loved to have a canned humorous retort at my fingertips, but with all my media experience doing television interviews, etc. as an author, nothing prepared me for this moment.
As commonplace as it is these days for women to become later moms, it’s easy to still feel judged. Age can be a delicate, highly personal subject for women, whether a mom or not. And, moms sometimes have a heightened level of sensitivity since being a relatively new mom can conjure up emotions one might not expect.
All the more reason us “later” moms have to stick together and empower each other to stand behind the choices we have made. Despite a possible gray hair here or there…or some raging perimenopausal hormones, there is something to be said for the life experience and wisdom we bring to the parenting table. And, I, myself, am proud of what I’ve lived through and the strength I’ve acquired over the years. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to share it with my son. He doesn’t care how old I am…and that’s what matters the most. Unconditional loves knows no age.
Robin is the author of How to Meet a Mensch in NY and How to Marry a Mensch, and works as a Love Coach for singles www.LoveCoach.com
). She is also the founder of a moms group Motherhood Later…Than Sooner
(www.MotherhoodLater.com), an international network for those who became a mom at age 35+, whether for the first time or again. She’s been seen on The Today Show, CNN, Good Day NY, etc., and lives in Great Neck, NY with her mensch husband and mensch-in-the-making son.