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Suzie and Lynn Woodhouse

Suzie and Lynn Woolhouse

There’s no doubt that, for many readers who are mothers over 40, FPM’s interview with Monica Tenhoff (see link below) was nothing short of a cold bucket of water in the face.

It was intended to be—a wake-up call of a different kind.

When the campaign to raise awareness of negative stereotypes and social stigma against older mothers was l (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/campaign NULL.html)aunched in the run up to Mother’s Day (see link below), many journalists, parents, and indifferent bystanders would sniff and say: “Stigma? What stigma?”

Letting Monica Tenhoff loose on over-40 motherhood was just a different method of raising awareness—and perhaps a more effective one.

Every time there’s so much as a peep of publicity about Flower Power Mom (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/), the Monica Tenhoffs of this world extract their feather quills from a dusty box in the attic, sharpen the tips, and dive into gallon-sized ink pots to send me a few home truths.

And I know that Monica was speaking from the gut. I respect her for being real and happen to think that perhaps she did get the short end of the stick—in her family.

But most of all, I feel she did us—not one, but two—good turns in speaking out:

First, if you think procreational ageism—that other members of society can be prejudiced and opinionated about what age you should be popping your papoose—is nothing but a PR pipe dream, think again.

Second, she became a messenger ringing out the clarion call for later life moms with a caveat emptor that was loud and clear—as an older mother, two things you should be nursing like a regulator on a deep sea dive are your health and your kid.

Monica Tenhoff is a warning for what will happen if you don’t.

Another particularly distasteful aspect of procreational ageism is the hint that it’s almost taboo to be having your children older—immediately they conjure the oxymoroned image of a wrinkled, gray-haired granny producing a rosy, pink-cheeked baby. Immediate reaction: Yuck.

In the old days, they used to say illegitimate children were born on “the wrong side of the blanket”.

Now, they hardly care about “legitimacy” . But they do about age. Oh yes. Any child now born to a mother over 50 was born on the wrong side of the century.

However, I suppose that now is a good time to introduce former elementary school teacher, Lynn Woolhouse, from Cupertino, CA—a mother aged 67, with a daughter aged 27, and son 25. Ergo, an over-40 mom with grown up kids. And the panacea for Tenhoff’s allegations.

Born in 1943, Lynn Woolhouse says that most of her friends’ kids were raised in the “Beaver Cleaver” generation while her own later life children grew up in the tumultuous 1980s and ‘90s—“with AIDS, Gulf Wars, and let-it-all-hang-out rock and rap music”.

Although it happened 30 years ago, Lynn’s tale of how she ended up an over-40 mom bears striking resemblance to the common one of today.

“At around age 37, after several Mr. Wrongs, my cousin and I started looking into adoption of special needs kids,” she says.

“But then I met Geoff, was smitten and the story unfolds.  He had three children already but lucky for me, he had read the part in the Bible that said, ‘Be fruitful & multiply!’

Her children born in the early ‘80s, Woolhouse recalls: “I didn’t think anything much about being over 40.”

“There were a few remarks along the way—but I was really so happy to have the kids, that being older didn’t seem much of an issue,” she continues.

She’s also clear on the pros and cons of later life motherhood: “There are obvious ones, like having already sown my wild oats and also being more financially stable than at a younger age.”

“Being older definitely made me a better parent,” says Lynn. “I can’t imagine having had kids in my 20s or 30s—it was all about me then. There’s something about feeling really ready and wanting them.”

But like all later life mothers, she recounts the fear of not being “around to see any great-grandchildren since neither kid is showing signs of settling down and starting a family anytime soon.”

Her twenty-seven year old daughter, Suzie—who is currently studying for her Masters in Botany at San Jose State University—has to be the “Yin” to Monica Tenhoff’s “Yang” as a daughter of an over-40 mom.

“I have never really thought of the fact that my mom is ‘older,’” she says.

“From what I know about what she did with her life before having kids I am so glad she waited—she got to see the world and was very ready to be a dedicated mom.”

Suzie’s only criticism—tantamount to ‘praise with faint damnation’—is that her mom “was at times a little over protective and worried way too much,” but she attributes that more to Lynn Woolhouse’s character than her age.

Moreover, the daughter plans to follow in the mother’s footsteps: “The way my life is at this point, I am planning on waiting at least till mid- to late- thirties to have children as well,” she says.

Suzie Woolhouse’s advice to over-40 moms concerned about procreational ageist criticism?

“Who cares about what other people think?” she says.

“Do what you do with enthusiasm, passion and love and you will do fine! Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Notes for this blog:

Monica Tenhoff’s FPM interview:

http://www.achildafter40.com/publicfiles/FPM_Album_2010.pdf (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/publicfiles/FPM_Album_2010 NULL.pdf)

FPM’s Tribute Album for Mothers Over 40:

http://www.achildafter40.com/publicfiles/FPM_Album_2010.pdf (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/publicfiles/FPM_Album_2010 NULL.pdf)

 

3 Responses to Now, For The Other Side of the Century

  1. InSeason Mom says:

    Love this story! I couldn’t agree more with Suzie’s comments, “Who cares about what other people think? Do what you do with enthusiasm, passion and love and you will do fine! Don’t sweat the small stuff.” You go girl!

  2. Dawn Marie says:

    As life expectancies stretch, why not wait to experience motherhood when you are ready and have more life experience/wisdom? I’m delighted to hear such wonderful news on the heels of such tragedy.

  3. Michelle says:

    I too love this story. Thanks for sharing with us. I’m going to read Monica’s interview now.

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