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If you gave birth after 40, there’s a good chance that, on your next outing, a random stranger will crack a crocodile smile at your toddler and ask: “So, are you having fun with grandma today?”

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.

For some “sisterly” advice on how to cope with these frustrating faux pas, I went to FPM’s Over-40 Mom Squad expert, psychotherapist, Jennifer Levy.

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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17 Responses to Don’t Call Me Grandma!

  1. Jodi Boswell says:

    I received the “grandma” comment once in a bookstore. I was caught off guard and very annoyed! I thought to myself, “I conceived my son naturally when I was 45 years old….I birthed him at home in a swimming pool in the kitchen…. we are here at a book store having a great silly time…. and you are thinking I am a grandma?” Geez! Maybe this person read the article on older mom’s being more angry and thought my son was having too much fun to be with his own mother?

    I just responded to her proudly, “I am a Flower Power Mom!” I think that said it all: Older…wiser….and proud to be a older mom.

    Jodi Boswell
    Santa Cruz, California
    (48 yr. old mom of a 3 yr. old and 12 yr. old)

  2. Jodi Boswell says:

    I received the “grandma” comment once in a bookstore while I was with my 3 yr. old son. I was caught off guard and very annoyed. I thought, “I conceived my son naturally at 45 years old…. birthed him at home in a swimming pool in the kitchen….. we’re here having a great silly time…and you are thinking I am a grandma? Geez!

    I just responded with, “I am a Flower Power Mom!” I think that says it all ….older, wiser and proud to be a mom. As my 12 yr. old daughter would say…”Go FPM’s!”

    Jodi Boswell
    Santa Cruz, California

  3. alison nevitt says:

    I am an almost 48 year old mother of 3 young boys, 4,5,6, two of whom are adopted. My feeling is this, I AM the age of a grandmother is most places in this country, much less the world so I just really do not understand why people take such umberage at not being taken for “MOM”. Sometimes it might be an intentional slight, most times, people are just making conversation about what just a short time ago was a social norm.

    Hit the gym, dye your hair or more importantly, review all the stereotypes you used to hold before you began this late in life journey. When I was 30, being a 50 year old mom of small chidren felt creepy to me. Now, it is just the way my life is and it is great!! I need ALL of my energy to keep up with my 3 hyper boys, not “handling” those who not be with my program.

  4. Glenda Cates (http://www NULL.MommiesPointofView NULL.blogspot NULL.com) says:

    I am asked this too as my son is 2 1/2 and I am 46. My question is why are men not asked if it is there Grandson everytime I am aksed this my husband snickers and I just want to knock him out. I am Blessed and Proud to be a late in life mom as my daughter was killed at 16 in 2004 and I was told I would never have another child and low and behold I do and he is the best part od me no matter how old I may be or feel.

    • Mary (http://flavorsofabruzzo NULL.com/) says:

      I have to admit, this has happened to my husband twice and never to me. It made me snicker.

  5. Lori Woods says:

    I had a surprise pregnancy @48 (my first) and gave birth to a perfect boy. I stumped the Dr and still hold his old age Mother record! My active son is now 4 and I am 53. I seem to be in a category all by myself! I quit work after 31 years in an office environment and have traveled the world. It has been a very interesting 4 years but would not trade it for anything. Harrison will start Pre-K next week and I am so nervous where the next few years will lead me. And yes, I have been called Grandma more times than I would like, but take it in stride. Thanks. Lori Woods

  6. InSeason Mom Cynthia (http://www NULL.inseasonmom NULL.org) says:

    I agree with Alison Nevitt’s comment, “I AM the age a grandmother is most places in this country.” None of us planned it this way years ago. I too believe mental preparation is the best defense to handling such comments. I’ve made a point of not only preparing myself for such comments, but preparing my daughters as well.

  7. Claire (http://www NULL.fortysomethingfirsttimemum NULL.blogspot NULL.com) says:

    I was asked at a mother and toddler group by the leader if I was my son’s grandmother. I wouldn’t mind too much but I had thought I looked pretty good for my age! It has inspired me to take more exercise and eat better though!

  8. Christine says:

    I am the proud mother of 7 boys and 5 girls. My eldest is almost 31 and my baby is 3. I have excperienced the out with Grandma a few times ..I just say no, he is my son, but I am a grandma too I have Grandchildren the same age as my youngest two!! :c) I was 47 when I had my last and it was all natural!!! I Love every minute being with him.

  9. Del Balgas (http://www NULL.bestbirths NULL.webs NULL.com) says:

    Strangers do think my 9 yr old son is my grandson but then some think my 3 yr old grandaughter is my daughter. So how do ya figure?
    My oldest grandson is a dad himself, he is 9 yrs older than my son who is 9 yrs old. So I’m also a great grandmother. I love being at this place in life and I dont really care about what others might think about it. Del Balgas Mother of 10 Grandma of 9 Great Grandma to 1 (soon to be two).

    • Karen Leach says:

      I am a 53 yr old mother to 7 and ‘granny’ to 5. I don’t find it offensive at all being assumed i’m the grandma. At 36 I was ‘premeturally gray’ so of course I looked a little older anyway when some one asked my then 11 yr old and the youngest at the time if I was his grandma. I simply turned around and proudly displayed my very pregnant self and said “no, I’m his mom”! The first blow certainly got me thinking but finally I realized that you are what God made you and as long as you are comfortable with who you are you should know that; we as Moms, no matter what age, are the RICHEST people on earth!!!

  10. Don’t Call Me Grandma!: Part II – Flower Power Mom (http://flowerpowermom NULL.com/older-mom-mistaken-for-grandma/) says:

    […] Don’t Call Me Grandma! drew more frustrated, hurt—and often angry—comments at the end of the article, and in all of my social media, than any other blog I’ve written. Go to: http://flowerpowermom.com/call-grandma/ (http://flowerpowermom NULL.com/call-grandma/) […]

  11. Misti (http://delaney-smith NULL.net/ChezSmiffy/) says:

    I had a “late life surprise” and I get the Grandma comments all the time.

    My response: “Oh, no, this is my son–my granddaughter is a year older.”

    Confuses them every time.

    Perhaps the grandma remark is easier because I *am* a grandma, just not to this one?

  12. Janet says:

    I get the grandma comments sometimes too. I admit it did bother me. At first I would just nicely say, No I’m the mom. Then after a few more, it was getting irritating, and that came through in my response. But, I also realize that most people are just trying to make conversation. I have teenagers too, so when we are all together, it is kind of fun to see confused looks of “hmm, who is the mom?” I figure I am completely happy with my family and no one can bring me down!

  13. Keepitwild says:

    That happens to me, too. I’m 50 and my daughter is 6. I just smile and say “no, she’s my daughter”. If they express surprise, I say “I was 43 when she was born–I did GOOD!” When I’m out with both daughters, one 26 and the 6-year-old, it is assumed that I’m the grandma and my 26-year-old is the mom.

    I’m proud of having a perfect child at age 43 with no fertility interventions. And I know I look fine for my age. So call me Grandma! I don’t care!

  14. […] after nearly 5 years of blogging and receiving thousands of emails on “the grandma effect” of motherhood over 40, AChildAfter40.com has finally agreed to meet […]

  15. Rose says:

    I get called Nana when I am out with my friend and her 1 year old daughter. My friend and I are the same age. In fact, she is 3 months older than I am.

    This really hurts my feelings. Is it because I am fat and short? Is it because I dye my hair red? I have no idea why people think I am “Nana”. I didn’t think I looked that old at 39.

    Very disappointed and it really does hurt me deep inside.

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