Older Parents – something to remember

Mum & Dad & Me

So there’s been lots of chat about ‘Older parents’ recently.  An Indian couple in their 70’s became parents for the first time.  Tessa Sanderson (60) adopted twins.  Janet Jackson is pregnant at 49.  And a good friend of mine ‘older single mum’ was asked to write an article about it for Newsweek.

Technically I was ‘geriatric’ when I fell pregnant with Curly headed boy at 36 in Peterborough and but perfectly acceptable at 40 with Little Dimples in St Albans; geography does that to you apparently.

My Mother was 43 when she had me, which was very unusual 47yrs ago; I certainly didn’t have any friends with parents that age.  She would have been the same age as the Queen this year (90), and Dad would have been a few years older.  I have 3 brothers who are 20yrs older than me (same parents).

So I can see the arguments from all angles.

Dad died when I was 21 a few days before Christmas, so I never had a ‘grown up’ relationship with him.  Mum died just after my birthday, when I was pregnant with CHB, so I never had the chance to bond with her on being a Mum; I think it might have helped me to understand her more.

Losing your parents is tough.  But we are programmed to lose them at a certain time in our lives and it is a lot tougher to lose them ‘early’.  My parents were in no way perfect, in fact they were a long way off perfect.  But I would have liked them around in any case; it’s lonely without someone.

If you are an older parent, I’d like you to think about a couple of things.  In fact if you are now an ‘elderly’ parent or a hoarder, some of them are relevant to you too!

You see I’ve realised that I’m angry with my parents.  I’ve been sad, teary and stuffing myself with carbs for a few days now.  I don’t think I realised until today what the problem was though.  So I’m having a proper foot stamping strop about it in an effort to get it out!

This is what I wish I could have told them:

  • Stop smoking – it will shorten your life, and that’s not fair
  • Don’t drink lots – not enough to do damage – it shortens your life and that’s not fair
  • Exercise – is not about sport, it’s about still being able to get around when you are 70 and without it your life is cut short and that’s not fair

You get the general stroppy gyst of it?

For myself and the other ‘older parents’ out there:

Stop moaning about ‘lack of time’ – your kids won’t think that was a good excuse when you aren’t around and there is no more time to have with you.  The same counts for ‘lack of money’ – walking and press-ups don’t cost anything.  Then ‘lack of childcare’ – find a way of including them in being healthier.  Or there is the ‘I don’t know how to put myself first’ – that’s fine, don’t do it for you, do it for your kids, it’s not for you!

You can’t stop accidents from happening or illnesses.  But you can have a jolly good attempt at looking after yourself.  As long as you tried your best, that’s all your kids can ask for.  It’s not my ‘fault’ I got Lyme disease; although I suspect having children later didn’t help and I could have taken better care of myself and had a stronger immune system that fought the Lyme buggers off.  However, it is what it is and I will try my best to be as well as I can.

Kids are not a good replacement for proper medical care either.  It’s a difficult balance and I’ve not always got it right with my kids.  I actually feel that some of the potential extra responsibility that comes with an older or less well parent, can be healthy for a child.  They will learn empathy, thinking ahead, compassion, patience, gratefulness and all sorts of ‘character building stuff’.  But my parents could have afforded help, gone to hospital for proper medical care in certain circumstances or asked my brothers for help; instead I was a ‘young carer’ from about 5.  I didn’t have to do lots of cleaning, but I did lots of the care, and at one point all the cooking.  It tipped over the edge from ‘useful life skills’ to ‘too much responsibility’.  For instance, I was left with a very ill mother and had to call an ambulance for her at 5; without it she would have bled out.  I also found my father one night after he had been mugged; without it he would have died.  I spent a whole summer after GCSE’s nursing them; Mum after breaking her pelvis and my Dad after a heart attack.

Then there’s the STUFF.  Please sort your stuff out.  When decluttering, think about your kids and make sure that you’ve only left behind the stuff that will be relevant to them.  If you leave too much they won’t even be able to access it or use it to comfort themselves.

Do you know how hard it is to throw away the crap that belonged to someone who died?  Especially if you were younger when they died; you don’t know who the hell the photo is of, but there’s some weird worry that by throwing away a photo that your parents kept, that it means you didn’t care about them.  Or you are throwing away the chance that you will eventually find someone who can answer all your questions and know who the photo is of.

There are so many questions when you parents die younger; so much you forgot to ask, so much you didn’t know to ask, so much you were too bored to remember at the time.

Select your favourite things and put them together; your photos, diaries, momentoes – the things that will remind your kids of you and give an insight into you.  That’s what they need and want.  Probably about a box full, with some other bits and pieces that go elsewhere.

Decide what to do about furniture, pictures etc.  I was too young for any furniture when my grandparents died and living in too small a cottage when my mum died.  So I only have a couple of pieces.  If you’ve lost your parents, I know their stuff might not suit your house, but consider if it could be adapted or up cycled.

So what do I think about the recent news stories?  If you are too old and your body can no longer produce children, then do what Tessa did and adopt.  Maybe you can’t be as fit as her, but try!  If you happen to fall pregnant older, then that must be what’s meant to happen, but take responsibility to look after yourself.    The 70 yr old Indian parents should be ashamed of themselves, I hope that there is a large extended family.  Janet; hmm I think that family has more trouble than just her age, but at least she’ll be able to afford care.

Being ‘older’ is not bad.  It comes with lots of advantages.  But it’s important to try to counteract the disadvantages as much as you can too.

Thanks for listening, I feel a bit better now.  Still a bit sad, but not as much as before x

Agony Aunt for Mums

Problem Corner – Stressed out mum with fertility problems

Agony Aunt for Mums
Agony Aunt for Mums

I received this email a couple of days ago:

Hi Lisa

I’m a big fan of your blog and practical approach, so wondered if you could help me at all?

I am 40 next week (!), mum of a 4 year old boy, who is in nursery 3 days and off to school in Sept. He’s lovely, mostly pretty good and generally very lovable and entertaining.

When he was 2 we decided to try and have another baby.  It took about 15 months to get pregnant, and then when we went for the 12 week scan realised we had lost the baby.  I spent a gruesome few days in and out of hospital while I “passed the pregnancy” and was pretty devastated – the 1st pregnancy had been text book, so I wasn’t expecting anything like that to happen.  We decided to try again, but when nothing had happened after a few months I went to our GP, we got referred for tests.  In June I was told that I couldn’t have any more children, unless we went for IVF using a donor egg, which would have to be done privately.

While all this has been going on, last year (before I got pregnant) I took voluntary redundancy from a job that I had grown to hate, and had knocked all the self confidence out of me.  After a bit of time just being a housewife, I’ve built up a freelance client base, although I am now feeling that I have taken on too much.  I’ve been doing a bit too much juggling, and trying to work when spending time with my son. I do squeeze in a couple of visits to the gym and a singing lesson each week, although I’d like to do more exercise and practise singing between lessons.

My husband runs his own business and has been really busy, which is great because that pays the bills, but we have hardly had time to talk about whether we go for IVF.  We were on holiday last week but seemed to spend much of the time avoiding the big conversations and focussing on our son.  Our sex was (for me anyway) totally focussed on having another baby, so has rather drifted off in the last month or so.

I have days when it’s fine, I have good friends and a happy life, and I can cope with it all, and days when I really just want to cry all day.  I know I should feel grateful for what I do have, but I feel like I am still grieving for the baby we lost.  I can’t seem to move on and worry I’m missing out on what time I do have with my son, whois growing up too fast.  I have a spare room all full of baby clothes, cot etc, which just makes me sad, and I haven’t the energy to do anything with it.

Today is a bad day, and probably tomorrow will be better but how can I stop feeling so desperate and sad?  On the worst days I want to leave my marriage, quit all my work and walk out of my life.

Thanks for listening!

J

My Answer

Grief of losing a baby

What makes me mad is how blasé the world is about the loss of a baby – it’s like it’s some kind of renewable resource because ‘you can just have another’ – argh!  I might not have lost a baby, but I do know grief and I do know that you need to be more gentle on yourself lovely as it wasn’t so long ago.

 

Becoming 40.

What a time of change for you.  You are turning 40 and your son is going to start school soon.  Just wait for the midlife crisis between 41 and 43; it’s a very important time in a woman’s life!  You need to roll with the changes and try to not react to them.  It’s more a time to watch and listen to yourself, than make sudden decisions.

In a way things will get easier when your son goes to school – so some of what you need to do is ‘manage’ the next couple of months and then enjoy the slightly more freedom you get when he is settled.

 

Re Not Being Able To Have Children

I was told that at 19 – look at what happened to me at 36 and 40!  The key to my unexpected success (which would also help with IVF) was:

  1. Nutrition (follow the GI diet as it helps the hormones).  (check out my ‘healthy eating for rubbish cooks’ posts).
  2. Pole Dancing lessons – girly, fun and spinning is good for the ovaries!  alternatives would be belly dancing, salsa or something fun and creative.
  3. Stress relieving stuff – you need to look at the grief and maybe get some help for it.  I did a post about different therapies here and a list of my favourite books here.  I’d also recommend my book (which is a bit cheeky I know!) but it helps with sorting out the things that you have control over, thus reducing your stress and enabling you to tackle the bigger issues.  Plus I’m releasing the 2nd edition in the next 2 weeks and you should get an automatic update.
  4. Look into alternative therapies – medical herbalism, reflexology and EFT would probably be the ones I would recommend to you to help with this whole process.

Take a month off from thinking about, discussing, or doing anything about becoming pregnant.  You are on a ‘getting pregnant diet‘.  You are NOT allowed to talk about it at all.  Take a month off lovely, and when you’ve spent some time looking after yourself come back to it.

Then you can come back to it.  Book a talk with your hubby out somewhere – maybe dinner or over coffee and chat to him about it.  Think about adoption as an alternative (as I believe philosophically that those children have chosen us as much as the biological ones).

 

Time Mgmt

There are lots of time mgmt posts on my blog, but the book is a more polished version.  You need to make a list, dump a pile of stuff that isn’t really important to you, delegate loads, and then do or delay the rest.  With clients, you can spread them out more and be less available – don’t tell them it is to spend time with your son, just say you aren’t available.

Things don’t get easier when kids go to school, but I think that the one thing that does get easier is having a bit more time for ourselves and having the time more clearly ear marked.  I recommend really ENJOYING this summer with your son.  Sod the work – just cut back for a bit.  Then pick it all up with renewed vigour when he is settled in reception.

 

Sex

It might not seem romantic – but book a date night and have some sex!  It’s only been a month of it being so-so, that’s OK.  Have some fun with it, text each other during the day to build up the interest.  Sex for creating babies isn’t fun and often isn’t successful in my opinion.

 

No beating yourself up

Yes, we could all be more grateful, but don’t beat yourself up.  If you read my book it will suggest finding 3 things a day to be grateful about.  But I don’t want you to hide away the sadness and hurt.  There is a section on writing down the problem and I would really like you to go for it and journal all your sadness.  Then maybe follow up with a coffee with a really good friend.  I so understand why you would be feeling sad at the moment lovely, and why you would want to walk away – it’s a natural reaction and not something to be ignored.  Instead you need to listen to yourself more.

 

I’m sorry this is such a fast answer – but I wanted to get you something as soon as I could and I’m a bit stretched for time.  But do please keep in touch.  If things don’t work out with the fertility then I have lots of ways that you can get your head around it (although I feel that all you need is some time out).

I’d love any comments from my readers to let J know how normal her feelings are, especially stories where you came through the other side?