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Does Having Older Kids Make You Feel Older?

Bye-Bye, Babies! Does Having Older Kids Also Age Mom?

I no longer have a baby; actually, I haven't had one in a while. My youngest just turned 3, started sleeping in a big-boy bed, and can now effortlessly communicate each and every need. My oldest is almost 6, attending school all day, occasionally reading books to me at night, and already making requests about which European city she'd like to visit first.

In many ways, this new stage is glorious. (Reason one: now, when I get in my bed each night, there's a high probability that I'll get to stay there at least eight hours. Heaven.)

Admittedly, I've never been a big baby person, and though I love snuggling with friends' newborns for a few minutes (when do their heads stop smelling so delicious?!), doing so never makes me rethink having another of my own. Instead, I'm loving the freedom that's starting to present itself again. Freedom to go to the grocery store by myself when both of my charges are at school. Freedom to leave the kids with their grandparents for a few days without packing much more than clothes, a few toys and books, and their ever-important iPads. Freedom to take both kids to a movie or the pool or out to dinner without knowing there's a 50 percent chance that I'll later categorize the experience as a disaster.

But there's a downside to having older kids, one that I couldn't have predicted. As they get older, suddenly, I can feel myself doing the same, only my aging has none of the fun perks. As they're reaching cool new milestones and celebrating how the tick mark on the wall where we measure their growth went up another quarter inch, their burgeoning maturity means I finally have enough time to closely examine the new wrinkles on my forehead. And I don't like them, not one bit.

So maybe it's easier for the 40-year-old mom to pretend she's 25.

Certainly, a 37-year-old mom like me is 37 years old, regardless of whether her kids are 12 years or 12 months old. But it seems like there's something about pregnancy and a baby that rubs off on a woman, as if all that newness in turn makes the mother seem like a younger soul. When you're a new mom, it doesn't matter if you're 25 or 40 — you're in the same boat, dealing with the same emotions and confusion and straight shock.

So maybe it's easier for the 40-year-old mom to pretend she's 25.

Yet the reverse doesn't seem to be true. Unless you're a former star of Teen Mom (no judgment), no one is going to guess you're in your late 20s when you're walking around with your tweens. And certainly having a child who's old enough to be embarrassed by the fact you forgot to put a bra on to drop her off at a birthday party or to tell you that dress you bought for a friend's wedding looks like "something only a teenager should wear" (ahem, not that either of these things have happened to me) will make you realize that your day of youth has come and gone.

And in a society that seems to prize youth above all, that can be difficult to accept gracefully. It might even make you consider another pregnancy, especially if you, totally unlike me, actually like being pregnant. Since a baby isn't an option for me to recapture my younger self, I'll keep searching for another fountain of youth — I've heard some excellent things about Botox.

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