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While social protocol demands you keep your mouth shut in the face of this saccharine insult, a knee-jerk wave of hormone-laced outrage makes you want to scream: “Don’t call me Grandma!”
It’s a slam-dunk blow to your self-image. And it feels like it’s delivered with the polished aplomb of an aging prom queen who married the high school quarterback, birthing her brood back in the dark ages of the 1980’s.
I’ve known some over-40 mothers that will steam for days after such an encounter, struggling to figure out how to cope the next time around.
Unfortunately, ageism and negative stereotypes surrounding midlife motherhood are as socially prevalent as green eggs and ham, and just about as appealing.
Worse, there’s research (http://www NULL.parentdish NULL.com/2009/12/08/moms-with-young-kids-are-the-most-angry-americans/) to support the notion that moms with young kids are the angriest anyway, regardless of age.
Heap new mother rage, with ageist comments rage, and you’ve got a virtual cornucopia of maternal rage and nowhere to go with it.
Levy, who gave birth at 44 and recently launched a Chicago-based support group for mothers over 40, says the secret to handling these awkward encounters lies in preparing ahead.
“Have a response in mind before you are put on the spot,” says Levy.
“If confronted by someone who publicly ‘calls out’ your later-in-life motherhood with an insensitive comment like, ‘Is that your grandson?’ you should be ready for it.”
According to Levy, the best riposte is one derived from the truth. “Your reply should capture how you truly feel about your age and decision to become a later-in-life mother.”
“For a response to be effective and set a clear limit,” she says, “it must feel genuine.”
Preparing your reply needs to begin with “tapping into your experience of becoming a mother over 40.”
“For the vast majority of us,” continues Levy, “a child was very much wanted and planned for.”
“For many, this child did not come easy—fertility treatments, disappointments and losses can add up over the years, making it very difficult to hold onto the hope of having a child.”
Levy suggests focusing on the substantial achievement of actually becoming a mother in midlife.
“When there’s success,” she emphasizes, “it often comes with a strong sense of pride around this extraordinary accomplishment.”
And she’s not afraid to put her own feelings about becoming a mother at 44 into the ring.
“I often think of my experience as having had a child in the nick of time—of how very thrilled, joyful and fortunate I am.”
Bringing it full circle to the “grandma dilemma,” Levy explains that discovering the correct answer rests in the ambient joy of knowing how blessed you really are as a later life mom.” In other words, find your “happy place”.
She says: “A simple response that captures these feelings and doesn’t allow for discussion might be “Oh, no, that’s MY son….”
If you’re feeling generous, Levy recommends that you might wish to add: ‘I chose to start a family later in life and I am very fortunate to have my son.”
After that, as far as our Over-40 Mom Squad psychotherapist is concerned, “Nothing more needs to be said, does it?”
Notes for this blog:
For more information regarding Jennifer Levy, and to contact her Chicago-based support group First Time Mothers Over 40 (jenniferlevy null@null comcast NULL.net), please visit our Over-40 Mom Squad page. https://achildafter40.com/meet-the-over-40-mom-squad/
Ref: Parent Dish for research article on anger in mothers young children. http://www.parentdish.com/2009/12/08/moms-with-young-kids-are-the-most-angry-americans/ (http://www NULL.parentdish NULL.com/2009/12/08/moms-with-young-kids-are-the-most-angry-americans/)
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.
You can email her at editor[at]flowerpowermom.com. Find her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/FlowerPowerMoms (http://twitter NULL.com/FlowerPowerMoms) and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Flower-Power-Mom/173079456036144 (http://www NULL.facebook NULL.com/pages/Flower-Power-Mom/173079456036144).
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