Life indirectly sets us up to be friends with like-minded and age-similar people. People we grow up with, people from our classrooms, people sharing in extracurriculars — our peers. In all these cases, those individuals are usually the same age or in a similar age bracket as we are. Subsequently, we unintentionally start to assume that age equals relatability. I carried this thinking with me into motherhood. There was a list of similarities I would look for to relate with other moms. The more boxes I could check off, the better.
I remember being at a child-birthing class when pregnant 4 years ago, scanning the room to find a fellow prego who looked my age and preferably had similar style. She and I would surely become friends because of the obvious compatibility. Much to my Type A dismay, those things weren’t enough. That was the moment I knew: Mom-dating is hard and complex.
Fast forward to the days following the birth of my first child. I was still in the hospital and had the sweetest nurse. I would say we were close in age. But she was much further along in her motherhood journey, with two toddlers while I just had a newborn. She calmed my anxiety over having to check if my son was breathing every 5 minutes. She recounted her own first-time-mom jitters, shared stories about her own child’s acid reflux issues, taught me what “mother’s intuition” was and to trust it, and ultimately reassured me that I could do this mom thing. Sure, we may have been similar in age, but we came from varied professional and cultural backgrounds. I was starting my mom life years after hers, yet I fully believed she understood what I was going through. We were different yet the same, connected by this crazy beautiful thing called motherhood.
When my eldest child was no longer an infant, I started joining mom groups left and right. I was desperately looking for people who would understand the challenging toddler years. I met women of all ages and different walks of life. They were single, married, divorced. They were moms of multiples and moms of teens. Some had c-sections, some had unmedicated births. All of us were able to gather at playdates and share countless stories about our kids that made each other laugh, cry, and feel less alone. Mom-age didn’t matter.
My pre-baby self was an ageist, critical and dismissive of moms who were much older or too young. I figured we would be in different seasons of life without any common ground. I would think, “Who invited this young mom? I won’t be able to relate.” Or, “She is wayyy older than me. She probably doesn’t even remember the toddler years.” My mom-ageism was real, and boy, was I happy to be wrong about it. I came to the realization that there is solidarity in motherhood regardless of age. There is something gained and something learned from each mama I meet, from every walk of life. That’s part of what makes motherhood amazing. Building a tribe among moms of all ages makes you a stronger, better, well-rounded mother.
Older mamas offer insight from their experience. They know the tried and true tricks of the trade, timeless bits of information to help at each stage of development. I’ll always be appreciative of the older mom at the park, whom insisted I take a proper picture with my kids when she saw me documenting their play. Despite many failed attempts to get everyone looking and smiling, she patiently took as many photos necessary. I remember her telling me that kids need more photos with their mamas in them, than photos taken by their mamas. Older moms teach me to be unapologetically unashamed when my children have their embarrassing moments, also known as children being children. They remind me to show myself grace on the hard days. Younger moms teach me about resilience, never giving up no matter how challenging the days or difficult the child. Their positive outlook and fast pace increases my own energy. They commit to fully engaging in play with their littles, getting on their level and encouraging imagination. I find this so inspiring.
I don’t need to check off a bunch of boxes when making mom friends. Age has no bearing in the motherhood journey. We all love our children and bring something different to the table in terms of parenting style, household rules, upbringing, and past. I’m thankful for all the mamas in my life: from those holding twin newborns or in the thick of potty training, to those advocating for their child’s learning disabilities, or sending adult children off to college. The only unifying box that matters in the big picture is “striving to raise good humans.” Check. No age requirements here.