Raising a child and re-entering the dating pool … all over the age of 50? Marie Hickman admits it’s not always easy! Read more from Marie on her blog.
My Facebook feed reveals my high school classmates are going off on college admissions trips with their youngest children, cuddling first grandchildren, celebrating silver anniversaries on safari. Meanwhile, at 55, I am raising a 14-year-old alone and working full-time outside the home.
You know what? I am probably happier than they are.
I love my son dearly, and wouldn’t trade my life with him for anything. I tell you upfront that I am lucky to get some financial support from my ex and was able to work from home during my son’s elementary and middle school years. Many women are not so lucky. But there are challenges to raising a child alone:
- It’s harder to find a same-age partner. Most of the men my age have kids in college, or they want a younger woman who can bear them children (or who accidentally get pregnant). Even when you look fairly young for your age, when a man of your vintage learns how old you are, he might hesitate; you don’t fit neatly into a relatable category.
- It’s harder to find an older partner. Yes, dating post-divorce is a minefield. There are plenty of available men who are much older – men to whom you are a young chick; but they want to travel and play golf every day; they don’t want the encumbrance or competition of a dependent child. Some do, of course, and if you find such a gem, grab him.
- It’s harder to trust. I am extremely careful about the people I bring into my son’s life, particularly as he goes through puberty. I have read too many headlines, I suppose, but I don’t want to turn my home into a revolving door of men that my son might get close to and then be devastated if it doesn’t work out. He already has a dad and has made it clear he does not want another, and I have chosen to honor that.
- There’s not much intimacy. Locking the door means one and only one thing, and teens know what that is. I just can’t do that to my child. As my son only sees my ex a few times a year, I am flying solo 90 percent of the time.
- You can’t leave a teen alone. Or at least to his or her own devices for too long. They need as much supervision as a young child, albeit a different kind. Remember, they are too old for babysitters; they want to be around friends, and they won’t necessarily be friends you are thrilled about. Get a good support system among trusted moms and trade sleep overs and play dates.
- You just plain get tired. After a hard day of work, homework supervision and sports chauffeuring, the last thing I want to do is get dressed up and go prowling around bars or squeeze into a gown for a fundraiser. I don’t care what “they” say; the older you get, the less energy you have.
- It’s harder to make friends. As with dating, you are neither fish nor fowl. Your kid’s friends’ parents, the people you will have to interact with, are likely to be younger. They still have periods; they spend their time talking about the burden of student loans; they like different music. I have been incredibly lucky in this area, but it takes work. It’s important to find relatable topics outside of kids, yet remind them constantly that motherhood is motherhood no matter your age.
- You have less alone time. I work full-time in an office that’s an hour away from home. I am gone from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. My son gets himself off to school and starts homework before I walk in the door. When that happens, my free time is spent making dinner and cleaning up, making sure homework is done, maybe taking away the computer if it is not, and negotiating its return. It’s 10 or 11 p.m., sometimes later, before I go to bed, and I have to be up at 6.
- You are mistaken for grandma. You may very well be a grandma, raising your grands as your own, and that’s okay; but be prepared for being mistaken for your mother. A lot.
- Your weekends are not your own. My weekends are spent doing chores, freezer cooking for the hectic work week, grocery shopping and driving my kid to activities. Could I be more efficient with my time? Sure, but after a long day under someone else’s control, I don’t have it in me to don a cape.
- Your child is number one, but so is your job. Single working moms of any age constantly have to prove that they value their job. Because they need their job, they work harder. It’s even more pronounced after 50 because of age bias. Finding work-life balance is harder than it appears.
- You worry about the future. Constantly. I clearly remember the first feminist movement, but am just old enough to have internalized 1950s thinking about women and money. I came unfashionably late to the financial planning party. Will I have enough to send my son to college and retire? What about my aging mother? These are my first thoughts in the morning, my thoughts as I clip coupons, and my last thoughts at night.
You already know that the joys of having a child later in life are indescribable because that child was planned for and very much wanted. Still, parenting a younger child at an older age has unique challenges. Whether you’re considering divorce, thinking about getting pregnant or adopting after 40, you need to follow your heart but use your head.