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When I spoke with 44-year-old professional child photographer, Nancy Cowley (see link below)—who gave birth to her first child at 17 and her last at 42—I immediately thought of Jim Croce’s haunting 1973 song, Time In A Bottle.
I was convinced that if she could “save every day ‘till Eternity passes away,” she would spend them raising her children all over again, from scratch.
And I realized Cowley has a unique message for all over-40 first time mothers. Unlike her, along with her more youthful counterparts, it’s a fair assumption that we won’t get the chance to do it all over again in 20 years.
Having kids in our 40s means we only get one shot at the maternal title, so we’d best get it right this time, if we can.
That makes Nancy Cowley a go-to mom, for all the answers that—when distilled from the infinite mass of those from the parenting experts—are the ones that really count.
After all, there’s no substitute for experience—especially the kid-raising kind.
While in her teens, Nancy Cowley got pregnant with her high school sweetheart, who proceeded to dump her when he heard the news.
Then, when her daughter Natalie was only 15 months old, her “sweetheart” saw the baby for the first time and asked for Cowley’s forgiveness.
The couple married when Cowley was 19, although looking back, she feels it may have been one of the worst choices in her life.
“I should have known I was making a mistake,” she says.
During her teens and twenties, the couple proceeded to have 3 more children, who have since grown up.
But Cowley reports that, during 8 years of marriage, she accrued a “plethora of stories of abuse, both mental and physical,” at the hands of a husband who used her to “vent out his emotions.”
In the end, she escaped.
“I was saving myself from a lifetime of abuse and my children from possibly repeating the cycle,” she recalls.
After leaving her husband, it would be another 16 years before Nancy Cowley would experience the “fairytale ending” of another committed relationship.
In the meantime, she became a fiercely protective mother, determined to savor every flavor of the parenting experience, even if it meant going against established norms.
“My attitudes toward childrearing have always been strong—co-sleeping, parent attachment, and breast-feeding until the child weans, are all at the forefront of my beliefs,” says Cowley.
“My own mother, a child of the ‘40s and the bottle-feeding age, looks down on my decision to breast-feed,” admits Cowley.
However, her entire position on being a mother is spearheaded by her concept of time—how very fleeting it is—while favored parenting practices change, depending on the current flavor-of-the-month with “The Experts.”
“The wisdom I’ve gleaned from raising 4 children is that no matter what happens, time will pass, and children will pass into adulthood before you know it,” she says.
After 16 years—with her three daughters now honor students, working on degrees in Education, Clinical Psychology and Business, and her son about to join the Air Force—Nancy Cowley gave birth to a baby and is about to marry again.
With baby Savanah now 17 months old, Cowley is getting her “time in a bottle” all over again.
And while she “went against the grain” at 17 to do her best for her child—and without the benefit of the confidence of a 42-year-old—Cowley says not much has changed in her approach, except her appreciation of time.
“I know how fast time passes—how a mess made by a toddler is not a bother, but a silly blessing to be reveled in, or how sleepless nights spent nursing a baby quickly pass into waiting for their college-age phone calls.”
“As an older, more experienced parent, I care less for ‘popular opinion’ and more for my baby—the child who will pass this way but once, and oh-so-briefly.”
Cowley can afford to be more laid-back about experiences that have younger mothers chewing their fingernails down to the nubs.
“I don’t need to research the obvious as an older parent—I know what constitutes an emergency and what is simply a sniffle.”
Instead, she concentrates on what is important.
“The one thing that will matter is that you took every moment of their sweet lives and you did everything you possibly could to make them feel secure, happy and loved—even if goes against popular beliefs.”
Becoming a mother after 40 has only served to accentuate this awareness further.
“I am now on a time-frame with an end in sight,” she says, “and I carry the knowledge that moments spent with my youngest child must be held on to like precious jewels.”
“They will be spent far too quickly and are far too priceless ever to be replaced.”
You can almost hear the old crooner, Jim Croce, serenading Cowley and her baby, Savanah:
I’d save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you.
Notes for this blog:
For Nancy Cowley’s child photography website, click here:
http://www.wix.com/nancyroxanne/ART-BY-ROXANNE (http://www NULL.wix NULL.com/nancyroxanne/ART-BY-ROXANNE)
Jim Croce’s, Time In A Bottle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHDt2t0oO7g
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