I had my first baby in my late twenties, but was pushing 35 when I had my second. At that point, I was what they considered “advanced maternal age,” which totally baffled me because I still felt like a young mom who kind of didn’t know what the heck she was doing, and definitely didn’t have her stuff together.
However, as I lugged myself through the second half of my pregnancy, feeling as though my body was surely going to break in half, I realized that having a baby in my mid thirties was proving to be much harder than I had expected. And although they say your second delivery is supposed to be easier than your first, that was certainly not the case for me, and I suspect it may have had something do with my creaky old “advanced maternal age” body.
Motherhood, however, was a lot easier the second time around. It definitely helped that this wasn’t my first attempt at parenting, but I was also just a lot more balanced and together as a person. I’ve found that aging, in general, has done wonders for me: It’s made me wiser, more of a badass, and better able to handle the craziness of life and parenting with ten times more grace and ease.
And I’m not alone, apparently. A recent study published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology found that women who have children later in life tend to be gentler, more patient, and raise kids with fewer behavioral problems than their younger counterparts.
The researchers, based out of Aarhus University in Denmark, looked at a sample of 4,741 mothers from the Danish Longitudinal Survey of Children. They found that older mothers were more likely to adopt a style of discipline with “less frequent use of verbal and physical sanctions.” This fact remained stable up until the children were at 7 and 11 years old.
And there’s more.
The study also found that the children of older moms had fewer social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties at 7 and 11 years old. (Unfortunately, though, this difference did not remain evident through the teen years!) The researchers say that these associations were pretty significant too, and independent of the mothers’ demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Dion Sommer, a professor Aarhus University and a researcher behind the study, explained to Science News Daily why he believes older mothers have such high rates of success:
“We know that people become more mentally flexible with age, are more tolerant of other people, and thrive better emotionally themselves. That’s why psychological maturity may explain why older mothers do not scold and physically discipline their children as much.”
Amen to that. Older moms definitely have had the time to work on themselves, and start to feel more comfortable in their skin — both as moms and as women. And according to Professor Sommer, older moms set the tone for a more positive parenting vibe overall, which in turn trickles down into their kids’ lives.
“This style of parenting can thereby contribute to a positive psychosocial environment which affects the children’s upbringing,” Professor Sommer told Science News Daily.
Of course, none of this is to say that older mothers are better mothers than younger ones. When looking at research like this, it’s important to take it with a grain of salt, knowing that the researchers looked at a relatively small sample size, and only at certain aspect of these mothers’ parenting. And I can say firsthand that older mothers do not have nearly the same amount of energy as younger moms. (Excuse me while I slip in a nap while my 4-year-old jumps all over me!)
But with more and more mothers waiting until later in life to have kids — knowing full well that they face greater chances of infertility, high-risk pregnancies, and higher rates of birth defects — this kind of news is certainly a bright spot. If nothing else, it can help them breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that there are some more pros to waiting longer. Because as most of us moms know by now, there’s never a “perfect” time to have kids — just a perfect time for you.