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If you haven’t read the Celebrating Motherhood After 40 Tribute Album (see link below), make sure you have it ready after this story—you’ll need it.
I know I’ve spilled a lot of ink over defending and advocating for motherhood over 40, but my efforts would have no balance if I was not prepared to peer at the dark underbelly of what could go wrong. Let’s call it the ‘caveat emptor’ of later life motherhood.
Forty-five year-old mother of seven, Monica Tenhoff from Cokato, MN who was a “product of parents who were 42 and 43” recently wrote to me and said “Ask me what it was like. It sucked!”
Born in 1964, the youngest of six children, Tenhoff says that she was a surprise baby for her aging parents. Although she insists they were loving parents who raised her in a “Christian home,” she also itemizes a lengthy laundry list of how their age was at fault for glaring shortcomings in their parenting practices.
“I never felt I got the attention from my parents that my older siblings did” says Tenhoff, “I always felt they were too tired to bother.”
“I never saw my mom run,” she adds.
Tenhoff is convinced that her parents were too old to take part in raising her and they “mostly let me do as I pleased.”
If that wasn’t enough, Monica found that she had become an aunt by the age of four and there was even less of her parents’ attention to go around.
“When my oldest three siblings began having children,” she recalls, “there would be a nephew or a niece in our house constantly and my mom would drop everything to play with them. I felt neglected and less important”.
By the time she was 10 years old, she’d had a childhood of being “forced to always share” with her nieces and nephews which resulted in “many cherished toys being destroyed.”
Tenhoff describes growing up with a sense of constant angst regarding her parents’ age.
“I lived my whole life wondering if they would still be alive when I graduated, got married, or had kids, and so on.
“At school functions, I had to introduce the old people.”
Admitting that she harbors bitterness over how she was raised, Tenhoff made a conscious decision to have children at a young age. She graduated from high school and married immediately in 1982.
Now having been married for 28 years, she’s a mother of seven children, ranging from 12 to 26 years of age, and a grandmother of a 3 year-old, with another on the way.
“I was determined to have my kids young! I did. By age 33, I had seven!” she says triumphantly.
While she’s managed to fit in a career of art, sewing, photography, gardening and food management to become a leader of her area 4H Club, scrap booker, and a sales woman, Monica is adamant that “first and foremost, I consider myself a stay-at-home mom!”
“At school functions, I am the cool mom, with hot clothes and a fun house to go to” she continues, “I still can jump on a trampoline with my kids. At age 42, I became a grandma. This is how it should be.”
If Tenhoff still feels the bitter sting of her past, it is because she believes her parents’ lack of availability has lasted a lifetime, and even during her greatest trial.
“The biggest change in my parenting came, when our youngest [Taylor] was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia (http://www NULL.caringbridge NULL.org/visit/taylortenhoff) in 2008 and had only a short time to live.
”I needed help with the kids that were still at home” she says, “and my parents were not able to help with teens at age 85”.
Although her son survived with a bone marrow transplant, Monica Tenhoff has “strong opinions” about later life motherhood.
“I just don’t think that women over 40 are putting many things into consideration,” she says. “It seems like a trend right now, and I have to wonder if it is not some sort of mid-life crisis.”
“I just look at people my age with little kids, or pregnant, and wonder if they really know what they are doing. People don’t’ do the math.”
She goes on to say that “It’s selfish to think that you are doing what is right for them [the children]. When they finish school, you’ll be walking with a cane.”
Although she admits that “having a planned pregnancy vs. unplanned may make a huge difference to having children later in life”, Tenhoff is adamant that younger is better.
|“I didn’t ever want my kids to have to worry about elderly parents like that.
“My parents did not go to my school events. They have only made it to a few ‘grandparents days’ at my children’s schools.
In retrospect she says “I think I am a better parent. I have been active in my children’s lives. I am not absorbed into career or hobbies to the point that they would ever come in second.
“I am a better grandparent, because I can and do still run! I can carry a 35 pound kid and am free enough with my schedule to drop everything and help out my daughter.”
Monica Tenhoff’s advice to women having children after 40? Well, it’s less advice and more like a warning:
“Make sure you have a support system, especially family. Things DO go wrong in life. It’s not if it will happen to you, it’s when.
“Consider being a foster parent of foster grandparent. There are tons of kids out there waiting for someone.”
Notes for this blog:
Click here for:
CELEBRATING MOTHERHOOD AFTER 40: A TRIBUTE ALBUM (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/publicfiles/FPM_Album_2010 NULL.pdf)
- (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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