10 Mothers on What it’s Like Having Kids at Every Age, From Teen Mom to 50s
Having a child can feel daunting at any age. And while popular opinion may narrowly prescribe “the right time” to begin your parenting journey, we wanted to celebrate the richness and diversity of women’s experiences of motherhood at each stage of life. So join us around this digital campfire, and enter one of the oldest communal traditions of knowledge-sharing (because it does take a village). Here are 10 personal stories of motherhood.
Where not previously made known, names have been changed to protect the individual’s privacy.
Daizchane, became a mom as a teenagerFor Daizchane, the news of her pregnancy at 14 was as scary as it was unexpected. “I was disappointed because I knew the plans I had for my future would be hindered by a child. My mom and dad were disappointed too, since they had been teen parents themselves,” the mother explained in TeenVogue. The challenges continued as her pregnancy progressed. Navigating the typical social challenges of high school is tough enough, but pregnancy added a new twist; the expectant mother was no longer able to easily relate to her peers: “[W]hen I started to show, I became the talk of my school.”
Luckily, the teen grounded herself in a solid support system at home, and found positive coping strategies; she embraced motherhood when her baby girl was born, while proactively navigating the challenges: “My childhood ended the day she was born—everything was no longer about me. Now all my money goes to taking care of her….buying new clothes or shoes or really anything for myself is a luxury I can rarely afford.”
Daizchane, became a mom as a teenagerLearning how to co-parent when she split from the child’s father also took effort, before the couple eventually got back together. At the time, “I wanted to completely move on, but you can't when you have a kid in the mix.”
The teen worked diligently to finish her high school with excellent grades, and completed a PR degree as well as a Master’s, crediting having a child with her increased focus. “I was more determined than ever to succeed academically because I knew it was an important step in making a better future—not just for me, but for us both.”
The teen reflected on how being a young parent impacted her: “I can still see the judgment on people's faces when they realize she's my daughter and not my little sister.”
To this end, the mother expressed, “I work hard every day to prevent myself from becoming another statistic—a teen mom who failed because she had a child too young—and I want other girls to know they can too.”
Did you know that these celebs also became moms at a young age?
Jamie, became a mom as a teenagerJamie shared her own somewhat different take on becoming a young parent with Parents.com. After going through an unexpected high-risk pregnancy partly the result of her age (15), she thankfully delivered a healthy, happy baby she was eager to begin looking after. But being a dependent herself also meant she had to negotiate a more complicated identity as a parent, admitting, “Some nights, I'll put him down, and he'll fuss nonstop. I'll try so hard to get him to stop crying—and then mom comes along and quiets him down in half a second. I have to admit it: That makes me feel bad.”
The father stayed out of the picture and isn’t involved in the child’s upbringing. This mom did find it equally challenging to relate to others her age. “I don't have much of a social life. I can't relate to my old friends anymore….instead of staying up late listening to music or talking on the phone, I go to bed at 8:30 so I can get up at 6 a.m. with [my baby].”
Jamie, became a mom as a teenagerAs far as her future goes, she shared that she was planning to go back to school and take classes at a community college eventually, but that at the time of her interview, her child was her focus. She had a job at a local toy store, and had completed some classes at an alternative school with an on-site daycare.
“When [my baby] cries in public, I really cringe, because I feel under a lot of pressure to be a perfect mom….I always think people are looking at me as if to say, ‘It's because you're a teenager.’"
The mother’s advice: “I definitely don't want to promote teen pregnancy; believe me, it's not easy at all. But I truly believe that having [my baby] has made me into a better person. And I'd like the world to know that teenage moms can be every bit as caring, loving, and perfect or imperfect as any other mother. We're parents too, and we're just like other parents—only a little bit younger and with a little bit more to learn.”
Here is a list of 36 unusual celebrity baby names to make you rethink more traditional ones.
Cynthia, became a mom in her 20sFor Cynthia, motherhood came at 20 and halfway through a university degree. During her pregnancy, she also heard others’ opinions of her still uncommon choice to become a parent before completing a degree and establishing herself more financially and career-wise. “I had many people offer up advice (solicited or otherwise) that I was foolishly derailing my career by having a child so young; that it wasn’t ‘the right time’.”
Oddly enough, she learned that having her son when she did brought with it unexpected benefits, even as it had its challenges. Physically, she had an easy pregnancy and recovered quickly. Like Daizchane, she too found that having a child midway through her studies brought with it increased purpose and focus. “After taking off that critical baby's first year to focus and bond with my newborn, I went back to complete my degree full-time. With support from family and friends, I buckled down and worked tremendously hard, because I understood not only my future was at stake. I had someone depending on me. It gave me laser-like focus. I landed into an internship that eventually paved the way for a 10-year career at the same employer.” Like the other mothers, she did benefit from a solid support system that enabled her to pursue work and studies, while raising her child.
Cynthia, became a mom in her 20s“Witnessing me graduate not once, but twice, my son has seen me model for him perseverance through struggle. And I hope it sends him a positive message about having grit. Regarding my career, some people take a more traditional route of establishing their career first then going on mat leave, I now had more time to devote myself to my career, uninterrupted, and this helped me progress fairly quickly in my field."
Cynthia did not stay with her partner of several years (her child’s father) and learning how to co-parent has been challenging, as maturity brought out different value systems and outlooks on life. Now, with the hindsight of 15 years, she reflects, “when you are so young, you are so busy getting to know who you are, let alone understanding what you’re looking for in a partner or recognizing how to find it. It has taken a long time for me to find not only the right partner for me, but a positive (dare-I-say dedicated) role model to my now-teenage son.”
Her advice to other 20-something mothers? “There is never a completely ‘perfect time.' You determine what is right for you and your circumstance and your family. But it is true what they say, it takes a village, and motherhood is a communal experience at its best, so be sure to make connections with others. Be prepared to work extremely hard to make the best of all the opportunities you have, because, let’s face it, you’re now responsible for doing all you can to ensure your decision to have a child is a positive contribution to this planet.”
And if you're wondering, here are the 8 best Canadian cities to raise kids.
Vale, became a mom in her 20sFor Vale as well, the pregnancy was somewhat unplanned. “I didn’t realize I was pregnant until a good 10 weeks into my pregnancy! I was 28 years old, just came back from my honeymoon. I honestly thought it was going to be a lot harder to get pregnant, based on all the infertility experiences I was hearing from people in my social and professional group.”
Going through the pregnancy for the second time in her early 30s brought several takeaways: “Comparing being pregnant in my 20s vs. 30s, I was definitely a nervous wreck in my 20s. And I was way more confident and together in my 30s. This difference largely speaks to having parenting experience, being older, and living my life more gracefully in my 30s.”
The greatest benefit about having your child in your 20s was the deeper personal transformation it sparked. “It was such a huge period of growth for me (literally, and figuratively). I was of course 'old enough' to have children, but I definitely ‘extended my adolescence’ and I didn’t feel very prepared when I had my first child. I’m so glad I did, because it transformed my life in the best of ways.”
Vale, became a mom in her 20sOn the flip side, the greatest challenge was the loss of autonomy. “The greatest challenge about having any child is the concept that you are not on your own any longer.”
Becoming a mother has left a deep impact on her career. The negative: “Having to juggle both a career and a family life has meant that I never quite feel like I’m doing a good job in either of these realms. If I spend too much time on my family time, it means I’m taking away from my career time. If I spend too much time on my career, it means that I’m neglecting my family life. It’s a struggle, and a constant push and pull interaction. I definitely feel like I have a serious case of 'impostor syndrome.' When parents talk about a new child-rearing movement, or the latest must-have child product, I usually have no idea what they're talking about. And when my professional colleagues talk about the latest article they read...I’m usually kicking myself for falling asleep myself, while cuddling my son or daughter to sleep.”
The positive: “Having to juggle both a career and family life has meant that I am one bad-ass juggler. I can juggle with my feet too! It’s made me adaptive, malleable, easy-going, open to new perspective and direction....I’m so open to trying new experiences, and conquering my fears, that I’m surprised by my own strength.”
Becoming a mother has also brought generative energy to her relationship as well. “Having our children in our late 20s and early 30s has made both my husband and myself appreciate each other so much! It takes a very big person to be a great dad...In my opinion, we were lovers first, and then we learned how to be each other’s best friend.” Her advice to other 20-something and 30-something moms? “[G]o for it! Parenthood has been the most unexpectedly happiest journey in life, for me. One thing I have noticed since having my son in my late 20s, is that the other moms I’ve met where our children are the same age, the moms themselves have been anywhere from 5-10 years older than me. It’s usually not a problem, but at times it’s made me feel like that odd one out….But on the flip side, one of my regular friends is 49 years old! Our sons are the same age, and we’ve had no issues relating, and come to our friendship with a lot of openness.”
Many celebs are having babies later in life. Here is a list of celebrities who conceived or had children after the age of 35.
Emilia, became a mom in her 30sFor Emilia, having a child in her 30s has meant everything. “Although being a parent always feels like trial and error, being in my 30s has meant that I have a bit more maturity when it comes to trusting my maternal instincts.” There are definitely benefits and challenges to this age bracket as well: “The greatest benefit of having kids in my 30s is that I can say that I lived my 20s for me, and that my outlook in my 30s shifted to something beyond me and my partner. The greatest challenge has been the lack of energy sometimes.”
In terms of what having a child in her 30s has meant career-wise, Emilia reflects, “I’ve been able to continue with some education and career transition in my 30s. However, it requires a lot of juggling to maintain that balance. It also means feeling guilty a lot. Work is demanding and when I am not able to properly spend time with my children due to my work demands, I feel very guilty.”
Fortunately, she has had the steady support of her significant other throughout these major life changes. “My SO has been very understanding; however, it takes a toll on him too. He may feel at times that he’s not been able to accomplish as much because he is taking care of the children while I am at work.”
Emilia, became a mom in her 30sHer advice to other mothers: “It is the greatest experience in the world. But, be prepared to feel like what you’re doing isn’t enough. Work-life balance may seem difficult to achieve. And that no matter what, family comes first because work will always be there. And yes, the kids do grow up really fast. I heard it time and again when they were toddlers. Now I know it’s true. Don’t miss out on those moments."
Julianne, became a mom in her 30sFor Julianne, motherhood in her 30s tested her limits. “It has definitely meant putting my energy levels to the test. When you've put in a full day at work and you still have to pick up your kids, make dinner, do homework, baths and bedtime... there's not much energy left for you and your spouse. The weekdays all merge into one and you're just a zombie trying to make it through the week," she said.
The decision to have children also has financial repercussions. “I know I have to keep working until I retire in my late 60s, which to be frank, is a given nowadays. I'll be in my early 50s when my 2nd child goes to post-secondary. It's more expensive than ever to help put your child through school so I know we'll be working (what seems like) forever.”
"Similarly, as is the experience of many women, having children (two boys) also impacted career advancement opportunities. I was at the same employer for 10 years when I had my two boys. And I honestly believe I lost two years of professional development and advancement while I was on maternity leave."
Julianne, became a mom in her 30sShe said, “My career was put on hold while I was home [on mat leave]. If you were hiring someone and you saw [they had] a two year gap in their work timeline, you'd ask them, ‘What did you do during that time?’. For me, I have the the privilege and the right to say, I had a baby and as a hiring manager you are not supposed to hold any prejudice against that (although some will, regardless). But I feel I sacrificed a better career to have kids.” Reflecting on her choice of timing, Julianne said, “Because we wanted it ‘all’, it meant having kids later in life. With that comes with a lot of challenges and risks mother nature gives you. You can read all the right books, eat all the right foods, but when you're trying to get pregnant older, you're taking on more risks.”
However, there are other benefits. “You can never be fully prepared to raise a child, but I think having a child in my 30s provided me with a more stable foundation to take on parenthood from a mental and emotional standpoint. Also, we felt more stable in our financial and living situation in our 30s. I know not everyone can do thing same thing, but my partner and I were on the same page from day one on this. It was important to us.”
And her advice to other 30-something mothers? “It is a long and tiring road. Be prepared that you life will never be your own anymore. Make sure you and your partner have the same goals as parents. You have to be on the same team, on the same side! If you don't have that support, don't have kids.”
Nicole, became a mom in her 30sFor Nicole, becoming a parent had less to do with age. “I don’t tend to think about me at a particular age as a parent. I went through a time when I was in my 20s and I was sure I wanted children in the abstract and then somewhere in the 30s I didn’t even want that. Then by my late 30s I wanted them immediately. I suppose it had something to do with everyone talking about how much trouble one can have getting pregnant. As a parent in my 40s, I don’t feel older. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am the parent and older than my children’s teachers sometimes.”
For Nicole, the greatest benefits of parenting at this age is feeling connected to the parenting lifestyle. “I have lived focused on mostly myself and career and been able to say I have been there, done that. Now it’s a different phase and I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything but it’s more of a natural progression....I’m also probably more sure of my belief systems and able to directly talk to our children about things. I’ve seen more and able to share my understandings with our children.”
By contrast, “[t]he biggest challenge of having children in my 40s has really been other people commenting or assuming they know things. For example, I have heard people say women have problems while pregnant because they aren’t supposed to have babies in their 40s like these women have done something wrong.”
Nicole, became a mom in her 30sHaving established herself already in her career, Nicole found there were still implications. “I suppose I still do [have a career] if I return to it but for now, it’s taken a back seat to child rearing. They actually feel like two different worlds. In some ways I feel like I’m considered less important since I have stayed home with our children. I wouldn’t change this, but it can be difficult to feel like I failed work somehow and yet am expected to jump back in after the early years of childhood are over. People from work have by and large forgotten about me and I’ve heard disparaging remarks made because I have not returned,” she shared.
Like Vale, having children benefited her bond with her SO. “Our relationship has certainly strengthened over time by parenting together but the transition from no children to even one was difficult. Neither one of us could articulate what we wanted and ended up misunderstanding each other quite a bit. This was especially true as a first time mother in regards to what I wanted or needed from other people in regards to our children.” And the advice she’d give other expectant moms: “[K]eep your sense of humour. Realize nothing is like you imagine and that’s okay. Also I’d say that you need to decide on what you and your partner believe in regardless of what it seems everyone else is doing. And speak honestly to your children even if it’s painful and embarrassing to do so.”
Ekua, became a mom in her 40sEkua, now 56, described in a Toronto Life article her experience of approaching motherhood at what is often considered “advanced maternal age,” meaning in her 40s. (Geriatric is the even less flattering medical term.) Ekua had always known a full household and found tremendous meaning in her work as a CEO at a centre that focuses on supporting pregnant and parenting adolescents.
“I’ve worked closely with more than 200 kids during my career, and many are still in touch. My maternal instincts were satisfied,” she shared in the article. However, at 40, and settled in her career, she felt a calling to embrace motherhood on her own terms. She was in a previous long-term relationship that hadn’t worked out, and was ready to go at it alone. “Through my work, I was acutely aware of how many children in our city need a good home, so adoption was the obvious answer,” she said.
After a 60-page application process, workshops and at-home visits, the waiting process began. “And then came feeling the rejection and disappointment when another person or couple is chosen over you. That went on for two years.”
Ekua, became a mom in her 40sEkua’s dream come true at 43: “Don’t let anyone ever tell you there isn’t magic in adoption. I didn’t deliver [my girl], but I fell in love with her instantly.”
And she didn’t have regrets about waiting to become a mother: “What I don’t regret is waiting until I was older to become a mom. I was better equipped in my 40s than I was in my 20s, no doubt. Maturity and experience go a long way. The girls I work with have a tough road ahead of them—they’re worrying about where they’ll live with their baby and how they’ll finish high school. I had education, experience, financial stability and a supportive family on my side long before I was a mom. There’s no way I could’ve done it without those things in place.”
Janine, became a mom in her 40sJanine and her partner enjoyed their child-free days by establishing themselves professionally and financially, and living life to the fullest (dining out regularly and vacationing twice a year was the norm), as she pointed out inToronto Life. After their wedding in 2001, they tried to get pregnant but it just didn’t happen. “But nothing happened for years. No miscarriages, no false alarms, nothing. We saw doctors and fertility specialists, but there was no medical reason why we weren’t conceiving.”
There were also moments of frustration, but there also came acceptance. Janine’s sister-in-law, a fertility nurse, gently proposed IVF, but Janine decided against it. “If I was meant to have a baby, I’d have a baby.” Then after a tumultuous year looking after her ailing father, grieving his loss, the surprise came: “My doctor confirmed that I was pregnant, and my due date would be December 14—the same date my dad died, one year later. I burst into tears. I was 44 and pregnant: one life was gone, and another was coming to take its place. Because of my age, I was considered a high-risk pregnancy and had to undergo weekly tests to monitor the health of the fetus.”
But that felt like the straight-forward part: “Despite it all, I had the easiest pregnancy: no sickness, no high blood pressure.” Less straightforward was putting it into context, “It was thrilling, but every once in a while I’d think, Shit, are we really doing this? Our life was pretty good the way it was. Could our marriage handle this disruption?”
Janine, became a mom in her 40sThen the big day came. After 20 hours of labour, and the baby’s heartbeat slowing, Janine’s little boy was born by way of C-section. Breastfeeding proved challenging, and after days of trying and frustration a helpful nurse offered up some advice: “Don’t let those breastfeeding fanatics make you crazy,” she said. “I’m getting you some formula, because your boy is losing weight and this is stupid.”
Janine responded to that in fervour: “The guilt about not being able to feed Cooper in those initial days made me want to be a supermom in every other way possible.”
Additionally, she was fortunate enough to be able to make major shifts to focus on parenting. “I quit my real estate job after my maternity leave was up. I didn’t have a kid at this stage of my life to put him in daycare all day and only spend a few hours together at night.”
As for challenges? “The hardest thing is my lack of energy. I’m constantly aware of it, especially with an active little boy. When he goes to bed, I go to bed,” she said in the article.
Reflecting on her life now, she says “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Sally, became a mom in her 50sSally became a mother at 51. On her blog, GrayHairedMom.com and in an online article, Sally chronicled her journey to motherhood. “Becoming a ‘late life’ mom isn’t easy and help was needed,” she wrote. “First, we had to find a doctor who would actually treat us.” At 48, she and her then-boyfriend were years past the age cut-off of 42 that most In Vitro Fertilization clinics go by.
Luckily they found a clinic that would facilitate the pregnancy with donor egg IVF. It took two years of tests, and screening to determine that Sally’s uterus was capable of carrying to term, and $30,000 USD to prepay for a cycle to get to this point (in Canada, it cost one Toronto lawyer-mom $48,500 in total to birth a baby at 56 in this way). By contrast, “My husband had to masturbate into a cup. Life isn't always fair,” she wrote. “[The clinic] has a pool of hundreds of healthy women in their 20s who give the gift of hope to infertile women every day, and yet none of them knows the result.” The couple chose their donor based on likeness and set of criteria, and the procedure included having to sync cycles with the donor before the transplant could be made. The first two donors failed to produce the required number of eggs, but the third time brought success.
Sally went to a high-risk OB, although the pregnancy ended up being remarkably easy, other than the usual discomforts. “We waited until I was nine weeks along to tell family and friends, whose reactions ranged from disbelief to utter joy,” she wrote.
Sally, became a mom in her 50s“One of the most unexpected but gratifying things about being pregnant in my 50s was having other women—virtual strangers, sometimes—approach me and ask me, ‘How?’ and being able to share my story with them, recommend my doctors, or just listen to their stories about infertility and hope.”
Sally reflected on her situation, and wrote, “I honestly have to say I'm a better mother because I’m older. I would have been a nightmare as a mother in my 20s and 30s. I have patience now that I can’t explain. I think because my husband and I have been through so many life experiences, we sincerely don't sweat the small stuff.”
Similarly, she is keenly aware of what having a child in her 50s means: “Our time with our son may end up amounting to a small fraction of his total time on Earth. Since we may not be around into his later life, we want to give him all the tools to be a good person and make good decisions based on kindness and caring, and that has to be done by example and not by threat.” Similarly, the couple has proactively taken steps to ensure optimal health, staying active and eating well.
And where others are planning towards retirement and looking forward to being empty-nesters, “We absolutely have to change our mindset of what the ‘golden years’ will look like for us. We want to make sure that we give our son the best life that we can.”