Succeed at Motherhood in Mid-Life
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2005 6 Jan
If you're over 35 years old, statistically, your life is half over. That's the bad news. But the good news is, if you're also the mother of a young child, you have plenty of new adventures waiting for you.
You may have delayed having a baby so you could establish a career or travel. Circumstances like infertility or divorce and remarriage may have delayed your plans for you. But however you came to be a mid-life mom, you're in good company. In our society, it's becoming more and more common for women to give birth for the first time after age 35 - or even age 40. Sure, you may have less energy than younger moms, but you have more life experience. Although you face unique challenges, you also have the potential to succeed at motherhood in ways that young moms might not.
Here are some ways you can succeed at motherhood in mid-life:
• Acknowledge the hard parts of motherhood, but don't dwell on them. Don't be afraid to admit that it's hard to be a mom sometimes; the job can be highly demanding. But know that you can minimize the stress in your life and find solutions to problems.
• Think young. Don't stop being active and adventurous. Keep having fun, learning new things, and contributing to the world.
• Don't worry about aging. Remember that aging is a normal part of being alive. Ask God to help you be at peace with the aging process and accept its changes gracefully. Know that you can count on God to provide everything you need to be a great mom as you grow older.
• Nurture yourself. Give yourself permission to do things you enjoy - go out hiking, learn to play piano, pursue a hobby, etc. Understand that by taking care of your own needs, you'll be better able to help your family.
• Treasure every moment. You may value the time you have your child more than a young mom. Be sure to cherish each day you're privileged to enjoy in his or her company.
• Tap into your patience and wisdom. Celebrate the maturity that your life experience has given you. Know that you can be more patient and wise in your parenting than many younger moms.
• Make your family your top priority after God. Don't spread yourself so thin that your family gets the leftovers of your time and energy. Focus on family before paid employment, volunteer work, or church work.
• Spend time alone with God on a regular basis. Spend time regularly praying and reading and meditating on the Bible. Expect God to meet you during that time and give you the peace you need to live well no matter how busy you become.
• Nurture your friendships. Recognize that it's vital for you to have a network of close friends so you can encourage and support each other.
• Use your mid-life crisis for good. Accept the changes that are occurring in your life. Understand that you're entering a new era of your life. Assess where you've been, accept what you can't change, and pray for where God wants you to go. Use the ups and downs of your journey to help you understand your child's growth better.
Don't deny any of the scary mid-life feelings you're having; instead, choose to experience them and pray about them. Take the time to assess your life and your purpose when it's your birthday or some other significant time. Thank God for giving you the opportunity to be another year older.
• Keep a healthy balance in your life. Ask God what His priorities are for your life right now. Then make His priorities your priorities and live by them. Consider all the facets of your family's life (spiritual, financial, recreational, etc.) when you make choices about how to spend your time. Don't compare your family to other families when considering whether or not to work at paid employment inside or outside the home (and, if so, what schedule to set). Know that God has unique plans for each family. Prayerfully make the best decision you can based on the wisdom He gives you. Keep Christ the focus of your life.
• Manage your time well. Spend time each morning asking God to order your day. Then listen for His answer. Spend the most time on the important tasks, not just the urgent ones. Plan ahead for just about everything. Identify time robbers like surfing the Internet, watching TV, or making too many trips to the grocery store. Then minimize them to cut back on the amount of time you waste. Keep your to-do list reasonable by including how long you expect each task to take and when you plan to do it. Try to complete one task before starting another. Seize opportunities to take time for yourself; learn to use even a few minutes of free time well.
• Find peace. Realize that true peace only comes from God. Ask Him for it in prayer. Adjust your expectations to meet reality. Affirm other people whenever you can and build relationships with others who affirm you. Recognize and celebrate small victories in your parenting journey. Give advice and assistance to younger women and enjoy the peace that comes from knowing you've helped them. Carve out some time on a regular basis to spend in silence and solitude. Spend time out in nature. Listen to worship music. Stay on top of your responsibilities as best you can, and rely on God to give you the strength you need. Pray about your anxieties to release them to God.
• Stay spiritually connected. Make a decision to put Christ first in your life. Pray and study your Bible often. Serve others. Make Christianity integral to your daily life. Strive to model a healthy spiritual life to your children. Let them see you demonstrate unconditional love, daily prayer, persistent faith, and adherence to God's laws. Teach them that good deeds and kind words are expressions of the Holy Spirit at work within you, helping you to live more like Jesus.
• Get a mid-life makeover. Ask God to help you have a positive attitude about whatever circumstances come your way. Take good care of your body by exercising at least 30 minutes each day and eating a healthy diet. Let go of mental clutter like a grudge or a lack of focus. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind. Maintain an attractive personal appearance even when you don't plan to leave the house that day. Don't let yourself get frumpy.
• Nurture your marriage. Remember that maintaining a healthy marriage gives your child a secure foundation and makes you a better parent. Be willing to take risks together. Keep your sense of humor. Learn how to communicate effectively. Be patient with and kind to each other. Let go of your past marital disappointments, forgive each other, and commit to making the rest of your marriage the best it can be.
Create a marriage that is partner-focused, not child-focused. Express your deepest thoughts and feelings to each other. Use anger and conflict creatively to build your relationship. Build a friendship with your spouse and enjoy each other. Revive the romance in your marriage and build a pleasurable sexual relationship. Don't expect your marriage to always stay the same; adjust to changes together. Evaluate where you on are your spiritual pilgrimage together. Seek counseling if necessary.
• Deal effectively with reproductive challenges. Realize that, the older you get, the more likely you are to experience trouble having more children. If you're dealing with infertility, miscarriage, or the onset of menopause, pray about your feelings of loss. Ask God to give you the grace you need to discern His will for your family and deal with the challenges of aging. Be informed about your medical options. Seek help from counseling or a support group if your depression becomes unbearable. Avoid taking out your negative emotions on family members and friends.
• Balance caring for your child with caring for your aging parents. Know that, while you are obligated to see that your parents are appropriately cared for, you're not obligated to do every bit of the labor yourself. Realize that you don't do anyone any good if you overload yourself or your family - emotionally, physically, or financially. Don't be afraid to ask for help, including hiring professional caregivers. Ask God to help you make peace with your parents and forgive them for whatever mistakes they may have made in raising you.
Give your parents respect and dignity; remember that even though they may now depend on you for care, they are still your parents and shouldn't be treated as if they were your children. Gently but firmly let them know what limits you have on your time, money, and energy. But let them know that you're doing the best you can to honor them. Involve your parents in all aspects of their care. Ask for them for their input as much as possible.
Remember that it's difficult for your parents to be aging; have compassion on them and give them support and understanding when they're frustrated, angry, or depressed. Realize that you're not going to be perfect. No matter what, continue to keep your husband and child or children as top priorities in your life.
Adapted from Secrets of a Mid-Life Mom, copyright 2004 by Jane Jarrell. Published by NavPress, Colorado Springs, Co., www.navpress.com.
Jane Jarrell, a mid-life mother of a daughter in elementary school, is a popular radio, TV, and conference speaker. She is a charter member of the MOPS National Speakers' Bureau. She has authored eleven books, including Mom Matters. Jane and her family make their home in Richardson, Texas.