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The medical profession regards new mothers as being old after the age of 29 and classifies first-timers over 35 as geriatric. That’s quite some label and fairly outdated in today’s world, where medical advancement means we’re living longer, healthier lives than our predecessors.
You’re not on your own
Did you know that the number of women getting pregnant over the age of 40 is almost double what it was 20 years ago? Many of us are now choosing to start our families much later in life; in fact, the number of women in the UK giving birth over the age of 40 is now higher than the number of teenagers having babies, according to the Office for National Statistics.
While the older-mum crowd may well be getting bigger, mums in their late thirties and early forties can still feel ‘out of place’ amongst their predominantly younger counterparts. This can be isolating at a time of great personal upheaval and transition as they try to find new like-minded friends to share this life-changing experience with.
The loneliness of being a new mother is not often discussed openly, but it’s an emotion that’s keenly felt by many. Action for Children recently reported that 52% of new parents felt both lonely and socially isolated.
Feeling disconnected from your life before baby can be part of the problem, that and not being able to find any time for yourself. If you’ve delayed motherhood to try to get a foothold in your career or achieve financial stability, you may be surprised to miss your old life and have feelings of guilt.
Loneliness may be even more debilitating for mothers that need to go back to work as they juggle the high demands of a new baby and keeping on top of work commitments.
Juggling work and baby and everything else in between
Being a working mum is a reality for most; 71% of mothers in the UK are in employment and 4.9 million of them with dependent children. That’s a lot of mums doing a lot of juggling. Older mums have the added complication that they find themselves in the ‘sandwich generation’ raising young kids and trying to take care of ageing parents whilst also supporting their families financially.
These added pressures come at a time when you’re also sleep deprived and suffering from new parent exhaustion.
As if all that’s not enough to contend with, being pulled in different directions can naturally lead to mum guilt as we try and be all things to all people and feel like we never quite hit the mark. It’s that niggling feeling that we’re failing or falling short of expectations in some way.
Mum guilt can be a powerful emotion that can lead to postnatal depression (PND). In fact, PND affects an estimated one in 10 women and can set in up to seven months after a baby is born.
The good news is that many mothers, mum-bloggers, and celebrities are being more honest about the realities of becoming a new mum and are sharing the everyday struggles of parenting. There are also support groups specifically for older mums such as MumsMeetUp and Older Mums.
Build a community around you
The key is to build a network around you and be kind to yourself, with so many tasks competing for your attention it’s time to admit that you can’t do it all and neither should you try to.
It’s often the things you took for granted before baby came along that you crave now, such as an undisturbed soak in the bath or eating a meal in one sitting. A recent study, published in the Independent newspaper, found busy mums with a newborn will go five weeks before they can eventually sit and finish a hot drink before it goes cold and will go more than four months before enjoying a relaxing shower.
It’s OK to ask for help and it’s not that case that the only answer is a live-in nanny or au pair, there are flexible short-term options. This is where an online service like Close to Hand can make all the difference to your quality of life; you can find a Home Helper on your doorstep that can call in on a regular or ad hoc basis to suit your needs.
Browse through Home Helper profiles to find your match – perhaps you’re looking for someone to cook you a family dinner, provide an extra pair of hands to help tackle the mounting laundry basket or someone to go out on errands for you so that you don’t need to pack up the car with baby paraphernalia as if you’re going away for the weekend, just to drop off a parcel at the local post office.
Being able to enjoy a hot meal and sink into that bubble bath may not be that long a wait after all.