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Everyone loves a “good old dad”—the fondly revered patriarch, perched at the nucleus of the home hearth, regally dispensing wise saws like thin crusts of leftover bread.

Of course, everyone’s supposed to receive them just like they were big luscious slices of rich cake.

The yin for that yang, however, appears to be the “bad old bag lady.”  Seriously, how many of you have heard “good old mom” bandied about in conversation lately?

Since the launch of this blog, I feel I’ve carried a torch in the fight to lift the rock of social norms and reveal ageism against women and mothers over 40, and the double standards for older mothers vs. fathers.

But there’s been a price to pay. And that price has been keeping my lip zippered about just how hard it is to be a mother in midlife.

Nowhere is this more notable than the sudden induction into baby bedlam—where giving birth means becoming a lifelong taxi driver to a kid with a dance card so full of extra-curricular activities that you’d have to be an Olympic distance runner just to stay alive.

In fact, it was Olympic gold medalist Marilyn McReavy who said that becoming a mom in her 50’s was like going from coach potato to marathon runner.

But I digress from the meat of the matter.

Today is a different sort of day. It’s a day of truth. Because I’ve discovered something I didn’t know.  Young mothers have it just as rough.

By hiding my pain, I’m implying that being older is harder.  The fact is, motherhood is just tough all around.  Any mother who sees it differently has got her eyes full of granola.

Perimenopause has my muscles aching in the morning. I know what the cure is. I need to go to the gym. But if I don’t volunteer in my daughter’s kinder class, she’ll be upset. The other moms and the teacher will be upset.

It won’t matter what I say. No excuses.

Think of the choices: Gym or kinder class? Take time out to eat something healthy in the morning, or stuff a donut down your neck? Have a shower or pack a kid snack? Shave your legs or fold the laundry?

I’ve been walking around like an old bag lady who forgot to buy clothes for the last 8 years, who doesn’t know what it’s like to do anything involving personal fulfillment.

Because if I do, I’m a bad old mom.

But, as one of my favorite gal-pals (an over40 mom who’s also 50) is fond of reminding me, we need to stick with “emergency procedures.”

In the emergency procedures given at take-off on most airplanes, you make sure you put on your own oxygen mask before you do it for your kid.

Why?  If you lose consciousness, your kids’ prospects are going to start circling the drain.

So, today is about admission of midlife maternal weakness, and I have a younger mom to thank for it.

At www.renegademothering.com (http://www NULL.renegademothering NULL.com/), I found Janelle. She’s at the other end of the mommy-age spectrum.

She says: “My youth passed in an instant, my freedom expired, my free-wheeling, hot and young days ended –abruptly, at 21, many years before I was ready. “

“I swung between moments of compliance with my new identity and vengeful, furious rejection of it.”

She’s named her “About” page “Playdate In A Trailer”, not because she lives in a trailer park, but because her experience of mothering life is off the beaten track.

“Where do the bad mothers go?” she asks, literally begging the question.

“What about those of us who love our children as much as the well-adjusted knowledgeable stable enlightened types but just can’t seem to get it right?”

“What about those of us who just aren’t cut out for this shit but are doing it anyway?”

She’s surrounded by “overgrown lawns, dirty cloth diapers and books I want to read but don’t and toys and dishes.  Sometimes I demand that my kids just sit down be quiet and watch Netflix because I can’t stand one more moment of noise or movement.”

“And if one more person says “Mama” I am going to take a bat to the windows.”

I like Janelle. She says it like it is. And she’s young. She’s the antithesis of the politically correct pop-child-psych mom.

She reminds me that sometimes a good verbal food fight makes us all feel a little lighter.

So, what’s the truth?  Only a GOOD mom worries about being a BAD mom.

Because, in spite of it all, at night, Janelle leans over her sleeping kid and says: “God keep her safe…I am so lucky to have this child.”

Notes for this blog:

Angel La Liberte is the founder of the website Flower Power Mom—The Truth About Motherhood After 40 (www.flowerpowermom.com), a regular blog featuring news, commentary, real mom stories and expert advice about motherhood after 40.

Janelle’s site: Renegade Mothering—Tales of a Wayward Mama. www.renegademothering.com (http://www NULL.renegademothering NULL.com/)

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7 Responses to Bad Old Moms

  1. PragmaticMom (http://PragmaticMom NULL.com) says:

    It’s so true that being a mom at any age is tough work. As to where do the bad moms go? Oh, they are around but they try to get other people to do their parenting for them. That is what I’ve noticed.

    • janelle (http://www NULL.renegademothering NULL.com) says:

      Ha. This cracked me up. I suppose the “bad” ones like crackhead bad or abuser bad or whatever bad try to dump their kids on the closest unsuspecting relative or friend, but I was using the word ‘bad’ a bit more metaphorically and with my tongue placed firmly in my cheek — meaning ‘bad’ as in ‘those of us who don’t quite fit in the mainstream mold. those of us who can’t relate to the typical “mothering” experience.’

      Plus, if I really were a bad mother, the best thing I could possibly do for my kids would be to let somebody else parent them, right? Gets those poor kids off the hook! 🙂


  2. pomomama (http://pomomama NULL.com) says:

    i think most definitely stick with emergency procedures – my mantra has always been “a happy mum is an effective mum” and usually this means snatching some personal time.
    and i hear you on the not discussing your frustrations etc. it’s usually other mums who will wrap your knuckles and accuse you of being ungrateful.
    it isn’t an age-exclusive thing though as you’ve shown.

  3. Allie (http://24inmymind NULL.blogspot NULL.com) says:

    I really like what you have to say, the theme of your blog. I’m now (well) over 40, but was a mom, actually, in my teens. So, I experienced parenthood at the other end of the spectrum from where you write. I often think I would have been such a different mom of young children if I were one now. The biggest difference, I would like to think, is that I would be much more reflective, contemplative, I would just mother much more ‘slowly’ (in a good way) now than I did back then. True? I don’t know.


  4. janelle (http://www NULL.renegademothering NULL.com) says:

    Wow, thank you so much for this, Angel. I am flattered indeed. I’ve never shared much of anything I’ve written (well, non-academically), so it’s a new experience to have someone affected by something I wrote, and share it with others. Thanks again.

    This is a great post – enjoyed it very much and I appreciate your perspective as an “older” mom (or shall we say “less young..?”) :)…these kids take SO MUCH energy and in that regard, having one at the age of 21 is a pretty good plan. In most other ways, though, at least in my case, not so much.

    Like most things, it’s a double-edged sword — with age comes maturity, patience, a settling into oneself that really doesn’t exist when you’re 20 — but also with age comes a more tired body and serious hormonal changes — so basically, we can’t win. 🙂

    I appreciate your honesty. Oddly enough, it never occurred to me that when I started writing my blog I was writing something ‘controversial’ or that the blog would throw me into the wrath of some women. I was just speaking my truth – the world and my experience as I see it. But since writing it, and viewing people’s mild shock at the things I seem to say nonchalantly, it’s becoming clear to me that I have entered some sort of generally censored territory, but since I’m already on the path, might as well just keep going, right?

    I figure if people don’t like it, they can move along to another blog, just as I do when I see a blog claiming to have the best advice on parenting (GAG). I hate advice. I shoot it down in midair, just on principle.


    Anyway, thanks again, Angel. glad we’re “friends.” see you around.

    Janelle MacDonald

  5. Chris says:

    I am a first time 40 year old mom (was 39 at birth but turned 40 2 short months later) to probably my only child.
    I’m also an American expat in a German-speaking country and boy does that change even what you think you know about mothering after 40.
    On one hand, many people here start later, don’t get married at all and generally look at things like this as no big deal. On the other hand, many people start young and never leave their villages and think someone like me is from mars. My MIL including.

    I digress.
    Another fellow expat here was an under 30 when her son was born yet for some reason, I saw her as so much younger. In some ways I felt inferior as I watched her literally climb mountains just before the birth and clearly bounce right back into her what was already a size 0 frame.
    Yet on the other hand, I felt superior because I didn’t complain my way through like she had (not to say younger moms do, it was just in this case) and fear losing my independence like she did. It was and still is a big topic in her conversations and actions overall.

    So it’s a weird dichotomy.
    One one hand I feel united with her because in own ways, she is divided. On the other hand, I can’t relate because I am in such a completely different place when it comes to raising a child now.

    Clearly this can go so many different ways depending on the person and so many other factors and I know mine is yet another example of one.

    Still, I can’t help wonder if society has conditioned us that if we have them too young (which in her case can be too young if that person thinks they are) we’re doomed and at the same time, if we parent when we’re older, we’re doomed.

    Whose to say? Ourselves ultimately.
    At least that’s what I tell myself.
    Otherwise I find myself incredibly jealous at her energy level, less paranoid parenting (at least in my case) and the ever so evil fitting in the pre-pregnancy jeans.

    Guess it’s too late now. Good thing I am happy (mostly) with my choice to parent later in life. Though I quickly might add I don’t feel it was a choice so much as circumstance. It’s just the way my life worked out.

  6. Rachel howells (http://lalamusings-lala NULL.blogspot NULL.com/) says:

    I found your well written blog post through Janelle’s blog at http://www.renegademothering.com (http://www NULL.renegademothering NULL.com), (who you mention in your post). Janelle’s brutal honesty is both hilarious and offsetting. Some of her posts about motherhood have me laughing out loud and others are so true to life that they aren’t funny, or at least are uncomfortably satirical.

    I think motherhood is trying at any age. I had my first child in my teens and my last (hopefully) in my 30s and while I am much more relaxed as an older mother, I still sometimes feel stressed by the mere fact of my children’s existence.

    The nice thing about already having a child grown though is that with the next batch you realize those issues that seemed so “huge” before are really not a big deal. It helps you relax and let go a little. Ultimately, if you love your kids and do a reasonable job most of the time (not even all of the time) you end up with a beloved friend later on down the road.

    Anyway, I’m glad I found your blog and look forward to reading more.


    Lala Musings: The Permissive Mother (http://lalamusings-lala NULL.blogspot NULL.com/2011/05/permissive-mother NULL.html)

    Rachel 🙂

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