When I was born in 1970, having older parents was unusual. Nowadays many parents make the choice to have children later in life. I’ve written this blog, not to pass judgment on your choices, but to tell the story from the perspective of a child of older parents. Much is said about parents’ choices, but we hear little of the child’s voice. This is my story as that child.
My mom was 42 and my dad 58 when I was born. I was my mom’s first child after many years of trying to conceive with her first husband. My parents were married and I was very much wanted by both. I remember my early childhood as being happy and secure. My mom didn’t work so I spent my days with her, just the two of us. At weekends, I’d go to work with my dad or we’d take trips as a family.
I didn’t realize my parents were different until I started school. Once I was in school, I’d get comments from the other school kids about ‘my Nan who walked me to school’ and other similar derogatory comments. There was also a whole generation gap between myself and my friends and my parents and their friends and families. It actually was not unlike being brought up by Grandparents.
When I was 6 my only living Grandparent died, my mom’s mom. The other three had died before I was born, in their seventies. The following year my dad died too. He died of a heart attack aged 66.
From that point on I grew up in a single parent family. Throughout the process of my growing older, obviously my mom was growing older too. There was a gulf between us at times. I didn’t really appreciate her history as it was so far away from my own experiences. She had no understanding of my present lifestyle as it was so unlike her own at my age. Remember she grew up in a generation where women didn’t really have any rights of their own. Here was her daughter making her own choices, earning a good salary and flying around the world. Nobody in her family had ever boarded a commercial aeroplane except her mom, who flew once, aged 70! Although I love my mom absolutely, we’ve never been emotionally close. We simply don’t ‘get’ each other.
My mom has Osteoporosis and over the years, she has had many falls which have resulted in broken bones. These inevitably have led to lengthy hospital stays and periods of rehabilitation. As an only child, it has fallen to me to bear the brunt of this responsibility. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t resent this. She’s my mom. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m just telling a story of how it was for me from quite an early age. I think I was 10 the first time this happened. I have never been mom’s carer either. My mom is fiercely independent and she hates anyone having to care for her, least of all me! I’ve inherited that too but the kind of responsibilty I’m talking of is worry. Not many 10 year old have to worry about their mom falling and breaking bones every day. Of course during hospital stays I’ve had to make sure she has everything she needs. When I turned 18, I became next of kin so I had the responsibility of being the only person who can make decisions regarding her care in an emergency. I’m often the first person to hear when such an emergency has occurrd and I’m in charge of co-ordinating events from that point, whilst trying to deal with my own shock and distress at hearing she is hurt.
I’m almost 40 now and my mom is 81. Two weeks ago she had another fall and is currently in hospital recovering after breaking her hip. I have no other family members around who can help me. Most of her brothers and sisters have passed on. In some cases their children have passed on too. Those who are still on this earth are retired themselves now with their own health problems. If I didn’t have my partner and his family for support, I would have nobody else to call on for help during these times.
I wonder how much more time I have left with my mom. Her parents died in their 70′s and my dad died at 66. I can’t help fearing she is on borrowed time now. At 81 she has lived longer than them, but how much longer will she be with us?! I have no way of knowing so I will continue to be grateful for every day we have left together, whilst fearing the phone call which one day will inevitably come. The day she dies I won’t just become an orphan; I will be completely on my own family wise!
Now I know this story is not completely unique to children of older parents. Younger parents can die or become chronically I’ll of course. However my situation is far more likely to occur with children of older parents. All I ask is that before you make a choice to have a child later in life, you consider the support network your child would have should they find themselves in the position I have. It isn’t about love as I never doubted my parents love me. It’s almost having a backup plan of a younger support network to be there for your kid should there be a need. However hard that decision might be for you to make before proceeding, please do give it consideration. It will be much more difficult for