I waited until I was 35 to have my first child.
A few months into the parenting journey, my partner looked at me and said:
“Parenting is a young man’s game. Maybe we should have done this earlier...”
Being an older mom has some definite disadvantages. Less energy during fragmented nights and while chasing a toddler. Higher risk of chromosome abnormalities in pregnancy, like Down syndrome. Less time to save for college. Nearing retirement age when your children graduate from college.
However, being an older first-time parent does have some wonderful hidden benefits.
Women are having children later in life
Today, women tend to wait longer and longer to have children. In many western countries, the age of first-time moms is greater than 28 years. The U.S. average stands at 26 years old as of 2014, but this number continues to rise.
The rise in childbearing age has several reasons. Among others, we see women waiting until after education or certain career milestones to have children, settling down or finding partners later, and struggling with infertility. The average is also increased by the fact that the number of very young mothers (under 20 years old) has dropped by approximately 10% in the last 14 years.
Enter the hidden benefits
I never really thought about the repercussions or benefits of waiting to have children. I just wasn’t ready earlier.
I can’t change my decision, nor would I want to. I loved my life before kids and I love my life now, although they look drastically different.
What I can do is embrace the hidden benefits of being an older mom. Here are some of the secret diamonds that I’ve found.
1. You get more hand-me-downs…ka-ching!
It’s no secret that children can be expensive. They don’t have to be, but usually, they are.
My partner and I were much later to the parenting game than our siblings. A few months before giving birth, the hand-me-down items started rolling in: clothes, bassinet, stroller, crib, activity mat, baby chair, etc. I was overwhelmed and extremely grateful.
In this instance, an “old” parent just needs to mean “older.” There’s a magic period of a few years after your friends and siblings are done having kids. You just have to wait until this point. Then, they are ready to purge their s*#t. Enough years have passed that any thoughts about having another child have gone from their minds and they are ready to relinquish hoards of baby gear and clothes that had been stored in closets and attics for a “just in case” scenario.
This saved us a lot of money. Just to demonstrate, I can count the number of baby clothes that we bought in the first year. The list is not long and I’m including it below.
Despite very few clothing items purchased, the items above still totaled $103.
Yep, $100 for just these items. Just imagine the expense if you are buying an entire child’s wardrobe new or secondhand, let alone all the furniture and baby accessories.
2. You get better gifts
Since many of your friends and siblings have had kids, you will get better, more usable gifts at a baby shower or after your child is born.
Parents know the good things to get you as gifts. We once looked at a gift we received and thought, oh, we’ll never use this. Turns out, we were wrong! The experienced parent knew better.
Years ago, a coworker was having his first baby. A few colleagues and I pooled our money and bought a gift together. As a bunch of fresh-out-of-college, 20-year-olds, what did we buy the expecting couple? A pair of baby Nike shoes. Nike shoes…for a baby! I can count the number of times my baby wore shoes in her first year…once! (And that was only for a family photo.)
Now, when invited to a baby shower, I know the good, useful gifts to get—the favorite toys, the indispensable items. Sure, these gifts may not be flashy, but they are tried and true. These are the kind of gifts you’ll get when your friends have already had kids.
Note: I believe there is one exception. If you are having a girl and a friend is a mom to only boys…then you might get a frilly dress. When else would this mom ever get to buy such outfits?!
3. You get quick, honest advice from friends
Do you want to know if sleep training really works? Do you want to know what to expect from your body postpartum? When do you have to sign up for a preschool in your area?
Sure, you can find out about these things online, but who better to ask than a friend or sibling who has been there and done that? You don’t need to spend hours searching for answers online. Who has that time?!
Your close friends will share the gory truth without any sugar coating. A quick text or phone call will usually get you all the information you need.
4. You can feel less financial stress
Later in life, you tend to have more disposable income. Okay, okay, I know this isn’t always the case, but many times, it is. People are further along in their earning career and may have another degree. While these things do not make for better parents, they can lessen some stress while raising a child.
As an older parent, you may not have to decide between starting retirement plan contributions and planning a family vacation. Or between building up emergency savings and paying for a babysitter for a few nights.
There are countless things to stress you out in parenting. Feeling a bit less financial squeeze can give a lot of breathing room.
Becoming a mom at any age — when you are ready — is a great thing. It a personal decision based only on your life and no one knows that topic better than you. These are just a few benefits that comfort me when I think how gray my hair will be at my child’s graduation.