By guest blogger, Andrea Frankenthal, Producer/Director, Brighterworld.co.uk

Whether to be young parents or to delay having children till later, each has its own benefits. Indeed there are good reasons for choosing not to have kids at all. A 2019 YouGov survey showed half of Britons in the 35-44 age group who weren’t already parents said they never want kids. 10% cited ‘cost’ and the same proportion gave ‘impact on lifestyle’ as their primary reason, but the most popular, from 23% of respondents, was being ‘too old’. Having myself gone from not wanting kids to becoming an ‘older mum’, I simply want to put the case for the unique challenges, but mostly the joys, of parenting a young child at 50.

"soon I was deciphering the familiar shape of a tiny seahorse in the black and white grains of an ultrasound screen".

As a latecomer myself with much older siblings I was so immersed in family love and attention that I didn’t look beyond to appreciate how it has to be regenerated. It was only in my early 40s, when dating a man with grown children that I decided hedonism alone was not enough. Then I met my ex, and soon I was deciphering the familiar shape of a tiny seahorse in the black and white grains of an ultrasound screen.

I was very lucky and despite being 44 had a problem-free pregnancy. I even attended the gym until my final month. In mothers over 40 the oxygen to the baby starts depleting beyond the due date so I knew I couldn’t go beyond it. I duly booked a Caesarian for the final day lest the curries and reflexology fail to spark a timely evacuation.

Thus I had an epidural one September morning and watched curiously as the surgically-masked team busied themselves behind a sheet over my tummy. Within 5 minutes they released my beautiful daughter noisily into the world. The next day I was breast-feeding her at home in my rocking chair, surrounded by partially astounded well-wishers.

Some time later, I found myself orphaned and freshly single with this unique, comical wee creature in my charge. Her bottom-shuffling was a talking point till she finally walked at 2, but she developed speech early. When she was just 2½ as we left a supermarket car park I heard over my shoulder the most passionate use of an expletive in what must have been an exquisite observation; “Jeeesus….there’s two red cars!”  She’d also find enchantment in odd things like wearing all my knickers around her neck.

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Being physically fit and having worked in TV news, I was not unused to the punishing schedule of early infancy. It was more the inability to do anything simply that proved problematic, such as showering with the baby basket wedged in the doorway. What affected me more was the lower back pain and thumb ache, and the age-compounded poor memory for the military-style logistical planning required. But muscle ache is temporary, lists substitute for memory, and happily I  am still as good as any young mum on the trampoline, though elements of my 50 something physique do create a certain disadvantage!

I don’t feel older than the  ‘yummy mummies’ around me, though I may feel a little less yummy. The disparity is most acute amongst my peers whose kids are all sailing through senior school or university, and who are now confined to my child-free time. But I have new friendships as an older mum through my daughter and we share happy days in games of chase, face painting and feeding incontinent dolls.

"Navigating the tantrums and mood swings has led to numerous confrontations with my own inner child. But it is a huge privilege to watch a young person evolve, and to be able to contribute to that."

Having a first child inevitably changes our understanding of child rearing. Having that child at 45 and an older mum makes it all the more intense. Navigating the tantrums and mood swings has led to numerous confrontations with my own inner child. But it is a huge privilege to watch a young person evolve, and to be able to contribute to that. Every so often when she’s at her father’s, I get to relax and remember that there is life beyond Alvin and the Chipmunks. On the flipside, she’ll be keeping me tuned into the zeitgeist when she’s a teenager and I’m sailing through my 60s.

What is inevitably impacted by having a young child at 50, and being single, is one’s dating potential. Many age appropriate men have put parenting well behind them.  Yet I am pleasantly surprised by the number still open to having an additional little person in the package

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The most poignant aspect for me of being this age with a young child is my daughter not having grandparents. Seeing other kids’ grandparents at the school gates always fills me with nostalgia. Old family photos adorn the shelf alongside our kitchen table and in my more wistful moments I get lost in those happy memories. My daughter, who can sometimes seem wise beyond her years, has often chirped  “I know you miss Grandma and Grandpa… but you’ve got me”.  She may be late to the party but I thank the Good Lord she turned up.

By guest blogger, 17 year old Joseph Lyons

As I grew older I started to realise that I wasn't like the other people in my year.  I couldn't figure out if it was because I was taller than everyone else or if I had freckles.

One day at school I saw someone mocking the way that I walked. That was enough for me to put the puzzle pieces together. I was always made to feel like an outsider, I didn’t fit in with the boys because I wasn't manly enough, and the girls because well I’m not a girl!

I knew I was never going to be manly enough for the boys, so I knew I had to take it to the other side. My whole life my best friends have been girls, that's all I knew. As I grew older the bullying escalated, I would even be shouted at in restaurants and public places; it caused me huge amounts of anxiety and made me feel incredibly uncomfortable around boys. I wouldn't leave my house alone because I was so fearful of someone attacking me for who I am. When words are repeated enough times they become a persons reality.  

I thought that if I came out one day all my problems would vanish. Except that wasn't entirely true.

I found out that when old problem goes, new ones appear in their place.

Coming out was unbelievably liberating for me. I was tormented less, I had less anxiety and I finally felt truly myself. There was only one problem, people wanted to be friends with me not for who I was, but for who I was attracted to and that broke my heart again. I was no longer their friend Joseph Lyons. I was just the Gay Best Friend, who they wanted to post on instagram pages and brag to everyone about .

As times have moved on, it has been almost three years since my coming out, people have started to care less about who I like and more about who I am. It was definitely difficult coming out, being part of such a tight knit, very closed minded community, but even though there are people who disagree with my way of life there are ten times more who support it.

If you're reading this and you feel trapped by being who you are please follow your heart and show us all the real you because nothing is worse than being imprisoned by choice.

I hope this can help at least one trapped person out there, you don't know how much the world really needs you.

To all the people who gave me a hard time over the years I thank you, as you have shaped me into the person I am today. But just do me one favour, look your self in the mirror and ask yourself why you would sacrifice another persons identity, it will only make yours look more undesirable.

All the jobs that will potentially be lost, all the people that may lose their homes, all those that may become very unwell.

Pictures kids sent me of their last day ever at school, suddenly forced upon them, with their friends and teachers crying. No graduation, no proms, no signed year books, or hoodies, no leavers ceremony, all that hard work just stopped in its tracks.

Parents phoning anxiously with shopping lists, having to drop shopping outside their door, not able to ring the bell and go and hug them. And this a dad who has given his whole life to the NHS and has to now watch on in horror at what these incredible front liners are having to cope with, just when he was looking forward to a peaceful retirement, it’s just so unbelievable, overwhelming and feels so unfair for them.

Don’t mean to sound like a drama queen and trying to look at some of the positives too, but ......

Suddenly years of my mums mantra; ‘all that matters is we have our health’ has never rung more true.

Stay well, stay safe and look after each other. And remember, The Latte Lounge community will always be here to help you and all your families, to support each other through these unprecedented times.

With love and home made lattes for the next few weeks,

Katie xxx

Which recently, after 23 years of parenting, is something i've really been praying for more than ever before.

After all, Happy kids = Happy mum right?

But this past year has been really tough for all of them, in their own ways (and so by proxy, for me too.)

I used to think having four under the age of 7 was hard, but parenting four young adults, well that's a different kind of hard and no one can properly prepare you for that.

Swop dirty nappies and sleepless nights, to fragile mental health and sleepless nights of a different kind.

I’ve always felt like my role in the family was akin to Ground Control.

When most are now driving or learning to drive, out late, in late, surrounded by the temptations of teenage experimentation, and experiencing the negative side effects on their brains of hormones colliding with young adult life pressures, well...

...the phone calls, in and out, seem to be relentless & more anxiety inducing now than ever before, and i am tip toeing on, and around, some very sharp edged egg shells.

And its not just the phone calls; the whats apps’, text messages, emails that can start from as early as 6am (my alarm didn't go off, why didn’t you wake me?!) right through to 4am (i can’t sleep, there are no ubers, I’m locked out).

Where are you?

When are you back?

Can you pick me up?

Did you get it?

Can you take me?

OMG!

Guess What!

Can’t speak.

G2G

BRB

LOL

Not sure

Will let you know

Can you lend me some money?

Ping, ping, ping goes the phone as my other full time job as family receptionist, seems to leave me little time to concentrate on anything else these days.

My brain luckily has many different, alphabetically arranged, compartments, which my husband is blissfully unaware of.  Whilst on the flip side, his brain conveniently seems to only contain one box, which is aptly labelled; ‘Ask her!’.

If only he could see inside the contents of my already full to over-flowing boxes;

Information of where they currently are, when they will be back, their plans for the day, the week, the month, the year, their current friendship issues, relationship status, job problems, school issues, exam timetable, social arrangements, medical appointments, ucas applications, all stacked one on top of the other side by side, squished together – its remarkable there are any boxes left for my own thoughts to reside.

This week I count myself lucky, its about evens here – 2 happy, 2 pretty miserable, that's not bad odds, I’ll take it, a huge improvement on last week where we had 3 in despair and 1 happy as Larry (who is Larry by the way? And can someone tell him I have no room for another child!

Each morning I brace myself for the sound of footsteps, which will give me, the first clue of the day as to what sort of roller coaster of emotions i'm likely to be greeted with.

They arrive bleary eyed into the kitchen grunting at me in acknowledgement that, yes indeed they are awake, but do not dare speak to me. I have resorted to texting them a questionnaire to fill in, whilst they are inhaling their choice of caffeine across the table from me;

Morning!

1. Are you ok?                                          y/n

2. Did you sleep?                                      y/n

3. Got everything you need for today?      y/n

4. What time are you back?                      6/7/8/crazy o'clock

5. Will you be in for dinner?                       y/n

Byeee have a good day!                           tx/f off!

I know, I know, I bet many of you are reading this thinking – ‘fool, she’s doing way too much for them all, let them learn from their own mistakes, how will they grow up to be independent adults etc etc’ and yes you are absolutely right, I’m guilty as charged, but the bottom line is, like all us mums, I love them with every fibre of my being and I can’t enjoy my life, if they are not enjoying theirs.

I don’t care how old they are, when they hurt, I hurt, when they are happy I’m happy, so what ever it takes to be able to help them to become part of some temporary oasis of calm and happiness, all at the same time, even if its only on one day a month, well for me its worth it.

But yes i'm not going to lie....

....I’m a tad drained of

absorbing all their problems,

helping them find solutions

being a good parent

making them independent.

being an emotional punch bag

and

trying to make sure everyone is ok.

But that is what i signed up for and most of the time i can cope.

But wouldn’t it be amazing if just one day a month, or even a year, they all spent every waking minute of their days, making sure I was entirely happy all of the time. Now that would be something!.

Ah well mothers day is not too far off.......ooo that reminds me I must remember to put a post-it-note in the box that says; 'text family group a gentle reminder that i'm due a spa day or failing that some socks'!!!

Ps. however drained I am, I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world, i am blessed to have them all and in a blink of an eye, they will all be leaving home and starting their own families, before I can even look up and text: ‘Adios amigos!...

...and that’s a day I’m not quite ready for yet.

 

As a registered nutritional therapist my days are never the same.  I can be supporting clients with hormonal disorders, those recuperating from operations, explaining diagnosis or helping those looking to improve their energy levels, the list is endless.

But as a mum of 3 kids ranging in ages from 15 – 24 what I really enjoy is encouraging this age group to develop healthy eating habits and make informed decisions.

The latest fads!

Via connections I’ve made on The Latte Lounge, I’ve found myself spending time supporting parents and young people as their food choices and decisions change.  Thanks to the internet it’s really easy for young people to watch films and documentaries about the food industry which are enough to churn anyone’s stomach! They follow influencers and celebrities on social media who write daily about their diets, posting photos of everything they eat! And many are making what can seem like huge decisions to become any of the following - vegetarian, vegan, raw vegan, paleo, keto the combination is endless…

I completely understand as a parent on a practical level our first reaction is panic. To worry about the health implications, the cost, the practicality with a family to prepare meals for. But it’s crucial at this point, as many of my clients have done, to stop, breathe and call an expert! Whatever your child’s reasons for changing their diet, as long as they aren’t going to harm themselves, I would recommend you support them, show them that you’re listening and that you will help as much as you can.  For some teenagers it might be a passing-fad and only last a matter of weeks but showing them that you’re listening and not dismissing them is so important for your relationship.

Eating responsibly

During these consultations I engage the kids in being, for example a responsible vegan and not a lazy one! We discuss why it’s so important to eat a balanced diet and how food provides information to our body. Depending on the existing knowledge and lifestyle of the young people I’m dealing with, rather than talking about organ function, I’ll relate diet to skin conditions, energy levels and concentration times, subjects they all appreciate.  Sometimes the power of listening to someone who isn’t mum is all it takes to get them to think rather than switch off – believe me I know what it’s like having spoken to my kids on any given subject and then seeing them engage with another adult talking about the same issue as if it’s the first time they’ve heard the information!

Kids can be challenging and love to push all our buttons and food is no exception but being prepared with a practical solution and listening to them is priceless.

If your child has a restricted diet due to allergies or intolerances, it is also really important to make sure they are eating a healthy diet. Watch out for pre-made alterative foods as these are often high in sugars and processed fats. Encourage your kids into the kitchen to cook their meals/snacks using foods they can eat. There are some great books available, one I would recommend is My Kids Can't Eat That: How to Deal with Allergies & Intolerances in Children by Christine Bailey.

I’m a registered Nutritional Therapist not a psychotherapist but with my experience of 24 years of parenting and my professional hat on, I would suggest the following tips for dealing with fussy eaters:

Tips for fussy toddlers

  1. Don't delay introducing lumpy foods, use all the senses by smelling tasting foods
  2. Remember that your child will never voluntarily starve themselves
  3. Keep calm and don't make a fuss of what your child is eating or not
  4. Be realistic about the amount of effort you put into making your child's meals
  5. Don't threaten, nag or yell!

Tips for fussy children

  1. Respect your child's appetite - if your child isn't hungry, don't force them to eat
  2. Stick to the routine by serving meals at about the same times every day
  3. Be patient with new foods, don’t use negative or frightening language around food
  4. Vary your repertoire
  5. Recruit your child's help in the kitchen with choosing and preparing meals
  6. Set a good example by enjoying what you eat

Tips for fussy eaters/moody teenagers

  1. Stay cool, as kids grow their eating habits change, accept this process and wait for the next development. Look at what they eat over a week rather than per meal.
  2. Reinforce good habits and positive discussions around food
  3. Encourage them into the kitchen to take ownership of their meals
  4. Disguising vegetables and pulses by blending them into soups, mash and juices
  5. Be clever and creative by presenting problematic foods in different formats – such as raw, steamed, baked – using different tools too such as julienne or crinkle cut knives

For more information contact Sam@colourfuleating.com

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