Ask AF: Readjusting to Younger Kids as an Older Mom

An older mom who's enjoyed the relative freedom of parenting teens is nervous about readjusting to more hands-on parenting when she adopts a young child. Parents who have been there offer advice.

Q: My husband and I have three biological children who are teens and young adults. We are in the process of adopting a child with special needs between the ages of one and five. I run a day care in our home, so I know that I can watch children of that age, even though we’ll be older parents. I have to admit, though—I have adjusted to the  freedoms that come with older children and am nervous about re-adjusting to the relative restrictions that come with parenting a younger child.

Members of respond:

“I had two teens when I adopted an infant and a toddler. It actually worked out fine. That said, I was less restrictive with both sets of children. For example, my younger ones watched TV shows with the whole family that I probably wouldn’t have let the older kids watch at that age. And I was less of a helicopter parent with my older ones, because I had my hands full with the little ones.”

“I am an older mother with four grown biological kids and an eight- year-old, adopted as a toddler. No one at the adoption agency or any of the many parents we met prepared us for the various challenges our daughter might present. As much as we love and enjoy her, the burden is overwhelming, as is the energy needed. Don’t proceed without examining it from every aspect with eyes wide open!”

“We were 50 and 44 when our daughter was placed with us last year, at age three. We are fortunate to be part of a foster/adopt parents group that meets once a month. Not only are they all a great source of info, and people who ‘get it,’ but we also babysit for each other occasionally, so us parents can get some much needed adult time.”

“Perhaps I would have been better at parenting when I was younger, physically. But, emotionally and mentally, I think I am so much better now than I would have been. I surprise myself with how laid back I am. My husband and I have just kind of folded our daughter into our lives, and take her with us when we go places. I definitely miss my adult freedom, but for so many years, as we tried to start a family, that freedom felt like childless loneliness to us. I do think it is about your mindset a bit.”

“I was 47 when I adopted my daughter eight years ago, at 10 months old. As much as I love her, I never really made the transition. Don’t get me wrong—we have a wonderful life, but I miss ‘adulting.’”

“My six-year-old, adopted at two weeks old, is the most active and headstrong child I have ever encountered and, at 50, I am older than all of his friends’ parents by at least 10 years. However, I see that I am more active with him than any of my friends are with their kids. Part of that is having only one child vs. having two or more. The other part is that I am more established in my career, so I am less frantic. I have also embarked on an exercise and healthy eating regimen, so I would be fit enough to keep up with him. That’s not to say that it has been plain sailing—there have definitely been times when I wanted to escape reality. From what I can tell from talking to other parents of any age is that all of us are exhausted and overwhelmed all the time.”

“I am easily 10 years older than the parents of most of my kids’ friends, and my friends my age are mostly empty nesters. So, yes, it is tough watching your friends go out to dinner on a whim while you are doing youth soccer, dance, and homework. Our day starts at 6 a.m., even when we don’t have school, because my oldest is part rooster. A recent weekend getaway without the kids took four months of planning, and, if our babysitter gets married, I am in deep trouble. This older mom thing is tough…but I wouldn’t trade it for the world!”

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