An Older Mother

By Sandra Steuer Cohen

Published October 29, 2004, issue of October 29, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

In this week’s portion, we read of Sarah, who, it is said, gave birth to her first child, Isaac, at age 90. I have often thought of Sarah, who waited endlessly for this miracle of childbirth, during my own childless years — and even more so after I finally did give birth later in life. My fourth and last child was born to me at age 48, after the death of my husband. In the Bible, it says that “Sarah laughed” at the thought of bearing a child at her age, and I did, too, at the birth of my son; at the strangeness of fate, the irony of motherhood… so late.

Today, many women are starting families later because of career choices and lifestyle. But not in my Modern Orthodox Teaneck, N.J., neighborhood, where most people begin their families very early. It is often alienating to be an older, widowed mother among a sea of young, married women.

And as little as I have in common with these younger mothers, I often feel I have even less in common with women my own age, who long ago finished the phase of cars filthy with unrecognizable substances and an indescribable, pervasive odor of decayed something. I envy them their chaos-free zone; no gum stuck to floors or furniture, no music blasting; the quiet of an empty nest. Until my youngest child is neater, cleaner and older, my home will not be a sanctuary.

But older parenting has turned out to have its compensations. My son challenges me to be much more active than I normally would be at my age. And I have the opportunity to use all the intelligence and mature wisdom that I’ve acquired through my (many) years. I am not as prone to compulsivity as I was when I was younger, and feel free to “just say no” to hated sleepovers, peeled carrots in lunchboxes and the all-time dreaded board games. I give freely and receive a large amount of love and affection and do not worry that what I feel and do is excessive or, in fact, not enough. This time, I leave out the child-help books and play it by ear.

Sarah, of course, had Abraham and probably a slew of servants. The biggest problem for me is the aloneness I feel when things go wrong, when decisions must be made, when I must be my son’s advocate. Ultimately, I miss having a partner to share all of it with me — the fun and the difficulties.

Still, even during the times when I feel melancholy and overwhelmed, I think of my own contemporaries in their retirement communities, or wintering in Florida, bored to tears. I am ever so glad I do not have to play golf and bridge, instead of basketball and birthday clown. Feeling so much younger, I will continue to laugh, just as Sarah did, at my very own personal miracle.

Sandra Steuer Cohen lives in Teaneck, N.J., after having spent many years in Israel, where she adopted her other three, now grown, children.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.