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!
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels.
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • 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.