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All parents need survival tips, but moms over 40 are in a class of our own.
Once we’ve jumped the hurdle of getting pregnant after 40, and joined the over-40 mom club, there’s a whole new set of parenting challenges that set us apart from the younger crowd.
Like it or not, we face impending menopause, physical changes of aging, watching our retired friends drift away on sailboats while we perhaps care for our elderly parents and toddlers simultaneously.
For some—especially those on today’s over-scheduling kids treadmill—just waking up in the morning and facing the day can feel exhausting. Meanwhile, all around us, there seems to be an ongoing competition in the cult of the world’s greatest Supermom.
And, let’s not forget our critics who are poised, at any given moment, to remind us we are too old to cut the maternal mustard.
But it’s time to get real. As older moms, we have a unique set of assets culled from business and life experiences that we can use to our advantage when it comes to surviving motherhood after 40:
1. Prepare For Menopause Meltdown
Like it or not, having children after 40 means you’ll be dealing with menopause and raising youngsters at the same time. The strain on your adrenals can lead to a supersize menopause meltdown. Prepare for it like you would for crisis management on the job.
Due to risk factors many women cannot turn to HRT to manage their menopause symptoms. And, when it comes to using bio-identical hormones, there’s still a debate about how safe they are. When asked to compare the risk factors between synthetic and natural hormones, one reproductive endocrinologist, specializing in menopause treatment, asked me: “What weighs more: a pound of feathers or a pound of iron?”
You can modify symptoms naturally by managing your blood sugar levels through eating small, frequent meals, with healthy proteins, good fats and complex carbs, along with a fish oil supplement. There are also tasty ways to alleviate menopause symptoms by changing your diet.
2. Take Steps To Alleviate Stress
They preach it at the office all the time: stress really is a killer. And being a parent means more stress. The hormones released by chronic stress (http://www NULL.mayoclinic NULL.com/health/stress/SR00001) can lead to anxiety, depression, digestive problems, weight gain and memory impairment, and can also adversely affect the functioning of your immune system.
According to Virginia-based Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Ted Butchart (http://www NULL.virginianaturalhealth NULL.com/about NULL.html), stress is one of the main underlying causes of menopausal symptoms in women. Ergo, for women over the age of 40, stress can produce a really nasty hormonal cocktail.
Get adequate sleep (try melatonin, it’s a safe, natural option for inducing sleep), exercise regularly and stop working at least 1 hour before bedtime. Easier said than done? Check out our Menopause Remedies for Over-40 Moms.
3. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!
(http://www NULL.theglobeandmail NULL.com/life/relationships/how-one-couple-resorted-to-outsourcing-housework/article12300028/)How is managing a household and family any different from managing a team project at the office? I have weekly meetings with my husband, complete with iPad agendas, to review finances, kids’ education and extracurricular activities, scheduling, and long-term goals. Sometimes we feel like we’re crazy, but it works.
I finally figured out one day that doing laundry, in the grand scheme of parenting tasks competing for my attention, was like being a manager re-organizing the stationary cupboard. What happened next became a story in the national newspapers (http://www NULL.theglobeandmail NULL.com/life/relationships/how-one-couple-resorted-to-outsourcing-housework/article12300028/?cmpid=rss1).
How to delegate chores:
- If you can afford it, get a housekeeper or cleaner part-time so you can focus on more important things, like your own health, or cheerleading at your kids’ soccer game.
- If you can’t, then barter services for equal $ value that are less time consuming or ardous. E.g., ½ hour of professional counseling for 1 hour of cleaning.
- As soon as they are old enough, give the children chores, with allowance, along with a chore chart where they tick them off when completed.
- Learn to prioritize and do what is important—don’t, like one mom I know, spend timing ironing the underwear!
4. When It Comes To Fitness, “Pay Yourself First”
On airplanes, we’ve all been glued to our seats while a member of the flight crew runs through the pre-flight safety instructions: when the oxygen masks come down, put yours on first, then your child’s. It’s counter-maternally-instinctive, but it makes sense. If you’re out cold, how can you help your kid?
It was a regular occurrence for me to be all dressed up in my work-out gear, only to have some family mini-crisis deter me from my best-laid plans to get to the gym. By dinner- time, I’d still be in my workout gear, feeling like a fat failure. And that’s not good for family morale! Now, when I hesitate, my husband gives me The Glare and says: “Pay Yourself First!”.
For the long parenting haul, your health is essential. Hardwire your fitness routine into your schedule and then Just Do It. Read more advice and tips in this great interview with over-40 mom fitness instructor, Megan Antlfinger, who once worked with the Milwaukee Brewers!
5. Have A Guilt-Free Time Out
Everyone has heard the parenting cliché: “Make time for yourself!” I’ve often thought: “it’s a tale told by an idiot (http://www NULL.shakespeare-literature NULL.com/Macbeth/25 NULL.html), signifying nothing”. The only time I get to myself is in the bathroom, and even that isn’t sacrosanct.
When it comes to time and money, the children are the main beneficiaries are in our house. I’d sooner pay for, and participate in, my son’s trip to the movies than a pedicure for myself. But that’s a false economy.
Research has shown (http://www NULL.theatlantic NULL.com/sexes/archive/2013/05/what-a-mother-needs-most-is-time/275624/) that moms with children under 18 feel more rushed, more exhausted than men, have less time for sleep, and that they desperately need relief from time to time. Combine that with the stressors of menopause and aging.
Too often, if I don’t take a break for a 1-hour seaside walk, a pedicure, or a café visit with my favorite book, I find myself yelling when the kids are getting on my nerves.
Do everyone a favor and schedule yourself at least one guilt-free time out, with a little spending money, at least once per week.
6. Slow It Down
Here’s a simple self-survey:
- Do you remember the Huckleberry Finn summers of growing up in the 1970’s with nostalgic longing?
- Was it a shock to wake up to the modern age of over-scheduling and helicopter parenting?
- Do you need a wall chart just to keep the family on schedule?
- Does the family SUV run out of gas a little too often?
- Do you feel like your kids’ lives are running yours?
If the answer is “yes” to 3 or more of these, then it’s time to slow it down. By the time they are 8 or 9 years old, your kids should have their number of regular athletics or hobbies pared down to 1 to 3 (max).
7. Get Social—Meet Up With Your Own Mommy Generation!
Having children after 40 can present some unique emotional and social challenges.
Research has shown that moms over 40 are almost two and a half times more likely to suffer from post-partum psychosis than younger moms. Experts also say that women who give birth after 40 are more likely to be feel frightened, angry or powerless when they realize they have less control over motherhood than they did a career.
Loss of career during mat leave, or a permanent leave from work, means also losing colleagues and friends we knew from the workplace. Women who leave careers after age 40 to become stay-at-home-moms can become socially isolated in the face of younger mommy cliques.
It’s too easy to sink into the inertia of being alone. Because they are the minority, women who get pregnant and raise children after 40 especially need to be socially connected. The solution? Join online discussion forums or local social and support groups for older moms.
At www.AChildAfter40.com (http://www NULL.AChildAfter40 NULL.com), you can get a free listing to start a support group for women trying to conceive after 40 or a social group for over-40 moms in your town. Contact us if you’d like to learn more!
In the meantime, stay cool, mom!
Notes for this blog:
Angel LaLiberte, BA (Hons) Psych, is the founder of AChildAfter40.com (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com), a leading North American advocacy website for women on the journey of motherhood after 40, from fertility to parenting. She launched the site in 2009, after giving birth to her two children at 41 and 44 years age, conceiving naturally.
Angel has appeared on CNN and PBS-TV, and been interviewed for many press features on motherhood after 40 including, for example, Live Science, Detroit Free Press, Washington Times, New York Magazine, and the Baltimore Sun.
AChildAfter40.com (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com) offers expert content, inspirational over-40 mom stories, online discussion forums and local support groups for women trying to conceive after 40, as well as social groups for over-40 moms.
- (http://www NULL.ctvnews NULL.ca/health/health-headlines/women-increasingly-going-online-to-seek-free-sperm-donors-1 NULL.1590245)
Angel on CNN(http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=WySnP2nnwXU)
CNN Mother's Day: "Mature Moms" (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=WySnP2nnwXU)(http://youtu NULL.be/atScMih4_d0) (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=sGRro4rHGeA)
AARP's "Inside E-Sreet" on PBS TV (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=sGRro4rHGeA)
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