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Monica Tenhoff

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.”

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20 Responses to Grown-up Daughter of Over-40 Parents Says: "It Sucked!"

  1. Mary says:

    To be honest, it sounds to me like she was neglected, which could happen no matter what the age of the parents. Indifference from parents can happen at any age and I’ve seen it in younger parents too.

    Yes, sometimes I think about what it will be like for my son when he’s 18 and I’m 60, but I’ve seen some really spry 60 year old women (who can still run) and I intend to be one.

  2. Susan says:

    I don’t agree with Mary as the article is very clear that her older siblings got all the attention they needed. I’ve just turned 46 and I see people my age with tiny little kids. I really don’t understand it. The thought of dealing with teenagers when you’re 60ish sounds crazy. What I see in my area is the teenagers with older parents are the ones who cause alot of the problems because nobody is watching them and the other parents don’t say anything because it would be disrespectful.

  3. Chris says:

    These young moms can be as judgmental as they want towards older moms, because boy I have a lot of gripes about younger parents. I have a nephew who has one son and does not want any more. They leave their 3-year-old son with my sister EVERY weekend, so they can go out with their friends. I can go on and on and on….no being an older (adoptive) mom is not ideal but it is not the end of the world and thank you so much Angel for putting yourself “out there” on the firing lines for the rest of us. I think it is no one’s business what anyone does with their life. This gal sounds bitter and unhappy and is blaming it on her parents. What is she passing on to HER children, even though she is “young”?

  4. Sara says:

    I certainly don’t feel like an old mom, even though I was 40 when my daughter was born. My friend are always surprised by my age, so I don’t think it will hinder me as my daughter gets older. It seems to me that Mary’s being the youngest of so many had more to do with her parents’ lack of energy. And them not being there when her child was diagnosed also had nothing to do with age; my mother and sister both had their children young, but my mother died at age 54 and wouldn’t have been there for my sister’s kids if need be, either.

  5. VS says:

    Well I’m sorry Monica that you felt neglected. But don’t go and bash older mums like that! Has this woman considered the fact that there are some of us who still don’t have kids simply because we haven’t found Mr Right yet and don’t want to be single parents by choice???
    It’s all too easy to sit there and say “Have them young, the younger the better!” if you have a man. Well NEWSFLASH- some of us don’t yet.

    My mum was 35 when she gave birth to me, my dad was 32. I am 36 now and unmarried with no kids. My parents have raised me great and are very modern and active for their ages and always has been.

    I didn’t choose to be 36 and childless but guess what, it happened and I am. I pray to God that in the not too distant future that I am blessed with at least one child, and I certainly don’t appreciate people saying that first time motherhood over 40 is ridiculous. Get real!

  6. Barbara says:

    I am 41 with a seven month old daughter and a cancer survivor to boot! I feel I appreciate my baby more because of what I’ve experienced. As for us older gals not having energy-so many young people are obese these days due to poor lifestyle habits. Many of them look like they spend more time chasing after Big Macs than their kids!! If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have energy to keep up, regardless of your age.
    As for looking old? Uh, I don’t think so chick! I love makeup-I probably own more lipsticks and glosses than you do! I’ll wear makeup when I’m 80! I take care of my skin. I’ve seen girls in their twenties with more crow’s feet than I’ve got because they tan, smoke, and eat poor diets. By the way, I love clothes and shopping for clothes, much to my husband’s chagrin! I don’t try to dress like a teen, but I like to keep up with what’s in style.
    You sound like some of the younger moms that try to rub it in my face that they landed a man at a younger age than I did. At my “advanced maternal age,” I know that building myself up shouldn’t involve cutting other people down.

  7. Good For A Grandma To Give Birth at 61, But Not For A Mom – Flower Power Mom (http://flowerpowermom NULL.com/grandma-give-birth-61-mom/) says:

    […] have gone on record to openly criticize older mothers—the grown-up daughter of an over-40 mom said the experience “sucked” and “at school functions, I had to introduce […]

  8. Helen says:

    I didn’t feel like this was a good, intelligent argument, or example that I gained from, I just felt hurt and pissed off after reading it, and insulted, especially from her recommendation that older parents should instead become foster grandparents. She seemed to be lashing out emotionally based on the sad and neglectful aspects of her childhood, and assuming that that would be the case with other older parents. I was hoping to learn something from her experience, but instead just wished you hadn’t published something so unhelpful.
    Personally, one of the reasons I am becoming a parent at a later age, is that I felt a need to really address my own hurts and issues from my past, before I felt ready to raise a child. I am over the moon excited to become a parent, god willing in a month, at age 49. This baby will be cherished, and raised by a much more generous, loving person, than if I was younger. Plus I have tons more time and patience now! I realize that there will be issues, but then, there are always issues! I’m a therapist, this I know!

  9. Michelle says:

    I don’t think it’s possible to debate feelings. She feels she was neglected and that her older siblings received more attention than she did. This is something she should probably find some constructive way to deal with. And, maybe she has by putting so much of herself into her own children. I’m sure they can only benefit from having so much of her. I try to do that with my own.

    However, I do feel that some of her experiences are the result of her family’s dynamics. My husband’s great uncle and great aunt who are in the 80’s have taken care of their two grand children twice, while their daughter was unable to. The first time they had sole responsbiliity and care for them for a year. The second time for a year and a half. During both of these times they were battling cancer, eye problems, back problems, surgiers, chemo/radiation, and old age. They did a wonderful job taking care of their grand children too, and were able to provide a happy environment for them, one with love, guidance and limits. No, they couldn’t run after them, but they were able to play with them to a certain extent, and able to effectively communicate with them and teach them how to behave. All this while in their 80’s.

  10. Janet says:

    As a kid I thought I had older parents. My mother was 37 when she had me, my father 42. I have 2 older brothers that are 10 and 11 years older than me – I am currently 39. Looking at the situation rationally now as an adult, my parents were NOT old. As the “accident” child I actually got the best of my parents even though they divorced when I was 6! My parents came to ball games, were interested in me and supported me. My brothers were raised in a different generation and got little school support and definitely no cheering section from them. People grow and learn and over time become different parents. While I can understand (firsthand) Monica’s situation and her resentments, I think that she should make peace and live in the present. Oh, and not throw stones at those of us just starting families that we love just as much as she loves hers.

  11. Jeanne Bailey says:

    I felt like I could’ve written this article! I too was born in 1964, youngest of 6, parents were 42 and 43. Aunt by 5…got absolutely no attention what so ever! I always felt like I could run away or disappear and nobody would ever notice! My parents never came to any school functions, I even signed my own shot notices or notes from home and had to attend my niece that lived with us, teacher conference when I was 14!
    Nobody ever told me to take a bath, clean my room, or spanked me,,,( not camplaining about that!), but I yearned for attention, even negative….which is why in my teens I got into drugs and partying.
    Always had a weight problem, the tv and food were my friend!
    Always had a terrible fear of my parents dyeing, slept on their floor til I was like 13, I wasn’t scared of the dark, I felt like I was protecting them, if anything should happen!

  12. Jim Willcox says:

    Sounds like a spoiled, ungrateful, small minded individual to me.

  13. Sharyl V says:

    I completely understand her frustration, but I feel she is wrong in lumping ALL older parents in that category…….as people who neglect their children.

    I never thought I’d be a mother, so let me tell you, at 45 years old when I found out I was pregnant, I was probably just as scared as a 16 year old, wondering how on earth I am going to handle this.

    Somewhere along the way…….for MOST, it kicks in. Sorry that it didn’t kick in for her parents, but that is THEIR cross to bear.

    I read a lot of resentment in that article, like “Had to introduce the old people”…..Good God, I hope my daughter NEVER feels like that.

    I honestly believe that things happen when they need to happen………my baby came at just the right time. When I needed somewhere to put all my extra love. My child will never feel like this lady does.

  14. Ivy R. says:

    Monica starts off insisting that her parents are loving parents, and yet she writes about them as if they were negectful and uncaring. Why is that? Because she had to share her toys? Because they had other kids and grandkids to pay attention to? What does that really have to do with the age of parents? Most kids have to share both toys and attention. It sounds to me like Monica was more embarrassed by her parents’ age than hindered by their age, but what were they supposed to do? Put her up for adoption because they were over 40? No parent is perfect. And most kids are embarrassed by their parents in some way at some point in their childhood. And most get over it. Maybe it’s time she did too.

  15. annette says:

    The point missed is that you don’t have kids for “you”. Its part of the continuum. Your job is to raise responsible, caring person(s) who will one day be independent and hopefully improve this world. Sorry your parents sucked! My grandmother ran around with us well into her 70’s. (she would have made a great mother at 45). And by the way, 7 children? Ask them if they ever feel neglected by you.

  16. heather says:

    She is still on the pity pot all these

    years later writing about her horrible parents instead of being grateful that they didnt abort her. Grow up and get over it lady.

  17. Elle says:

    I strongly disagree with the writer. Age cannot be blamed for lack of emotional support. My mother was 24 when she had me, and I wish she didn’t! My mother had the support of my grandmothers, has a masters in physics, traveled all over the world, has good friends and is a very intelligent woman. Yet, she has never bothered herself with raising me. Her own words: “young people don’t spend time with their children” – this was told to me when she was already in her 60’s during a normal course of conversation. Thus, she has never given any thought to what her lack of involvment in my life did to me. My mother is a stranger I live with. The writer is bitter and I get her, but her parents’ age is not the reason. Its the difference between WANTING to have a child and just having a child. In her case, she was “a surprise”, which is not the same as being wanted. I believe the women in their 40’s will be just as good, if not better, parents than many young parents.

  18. Mike says:

    Monica, at 45 years of age at the time the article was written its obvious you certainly have some “growing up” to do. Hopefully now at 49 you have matured because it is sad that you so negatively portray parents that decide to have children at an older age as selfish, at a minimum. I am 50, wife 44 and we are having our 2nd and 3rd children in a month. Our first is 2 years old. How dare you make any negative comments about how we will interact with our children or infer that we will be poor parents because we are older than the traditional 20-something parents. Just because you are unhappy with your childhood does not give you any insight into how older parents such as us will raise our children. In another response there was a comment that perhaps your parents were neglectful, yet you state they were loving parents but did not give you the attention your siblings received. Sounds to me like you are a spoiled brat where nothing is good enough. Like responder Hellen said, after reading your comments I am pissed and insulted by your comments. I’d suggest you keep your misguided comments to yourself in the future. BTW, AMEN Heather!!

  19. anonymous says:

    I am an older parents by choice…we adopted…and it’s honestly a mixed bag. I love my baby….now going on a year….but…and it’s a bit BUT.

    While I KNEW (definitively) that I was not ready for a family in my 20s and I “did” have the opportunity….I wanted to have fun, unlike my mom who was raising me…and I wanted to pursue my career. Still, having a little one later in life isn’t any easier. I personally don’t have more patience…it’s about the same, I’ve never had much, and I think I am making just as many sacrifices now as I would have made back then.

    Earlier in life, I would have had to give up friends, career, “fun”, etc. Well, newsflash….nothing much has changed. I have had to put career “on hold”, give up friends (most of their kids are grown and now they are doing what I was doing pre-baby)…and I’ve had to give up my “freedom” and my fun.

    I have loads of energy, and I run, bike, hike, hit the gym…just not nearly as much as I use to. Everywhere we go is an “ordeal” as the baby bags, bottles, diapers, etc. have to come along. So, it’s not that I don’t have the energy…it’s that at this point in my life, I don’t know that I always enjoy everything mommyhood entails, but then again, I don’t know that “I” would have enjoyed it in my 20s either.

    Am I a better mom? Who know. All I know is that we are more financially secure and we each KNOW who we are and can offer much more stability to our little one.

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