Archive for Sunday, May 9, 1993


May 9, 1993


There are a lot of advantages to being an older mom.

``I think wisdom, maturity and patience level is very different in an older mother,'' says Cynthia Breitenbach, who at 41 has children ages 6, 4 and 6 months.

Breitenbach is among many women today who waited to become mothers later in life. And she's among the growing number of mothers in the work force.

The women in those categories have increased in the last 10 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Figures from those agencies show that in 1990, women ages 30-34 had 80 births per 1,000 women, compared with only 60 births per 1,000 in 1980.

Also, among mothers 18-44 years old who had a child between July 1989, and June 1990, 53 percent were in the labor force. That compares with 1980, when only 38 percent of such mothers had jobs outside the home.

Besides being a mother, Breitenbach, who lives in rural Lawrence, is director of Women's Recovery Center in Topeka, which is an alcohol and drug addiction treatment program targeted for mothers and children.

That job brings her into contact with mothers of many ages, she said.

``An older person has had a lot of their needs met, and you are better able to focus and understand the needs of a child,'' she said.

``I have friends my age who are out of the nest and they are looking at being grandparents,'' she said. ``They have some of that freedom that I am envious of. However, because I was rather old (35) when my first child was born, I had time in my early youth when I had a lot of freedom.''

Breitenbach says one of the ways she and her husband, David, cope with both working and raising a family is the help she gets from her own mother, who helps transport her children to a day-care center and lends a hand at home.

``If it weren't for my own mom, I would not be where I am,'' Breitenbach said.

Another older, working mother is Pam Mitchell. Mitchell, and her husband, John, 3920 Monterey Ct., have a 19-month-old adopted daughter, Taylor.

Mitchell, 37, said she thinks it's good to be an older parent.

``We're not as selfish with our time,'' she said. ``We're able to put things into perspective and we've already established our priorities. We're pretty relaxed as parents as well.''

Mitchell works for United Tribes of Kansas and Southeast Nebraska as a career counselor for Native Americans at Haskell Indian Junior College.

During the day, her daughter goes to a home day care. Mitchell said she considered staying home, but decided it wasn't financially feasible.

``I don't think it's as hard as I thought it was being a mother. It's a lot more rewarding than hard. It's helpful to have a father who is involved,'' she said.

Carolyn Thurman, 38, 3700 Trail Rd., has a 5-week-old son, Marshall, and a daughter, Molly, age 4.

She works part time as a bookkeeper for Dr. James Hasselle, a local psychiatrist.

``It's something that I do for me, basically,'' Thurman said. ``But it makes me a better mother.''

Thurman said it would be better financially for her husband, Tim, and herself if she worked full time.

``But in the long run, it's not worth it because we benefit more from having that time together and being able to do things together,'' she said.

She said she and her husband waited to become parents to make sure they could establish a solid relationship first. Each had been married once before.

``Personally I'm glad I waited. I don't think I would have been as relaxed with my children if I would have had them younger,'' Thurman said. ``I have a very supportive husband who helps within the home. My employer is very flexible and he's wonderful, too. I'm very lucky. I have the best of both worlds.''

Susan Krumm, 37, a Douglas County Extension home economist, has children ages 2 and 4.

She said many women like herself try to juggle work-related activities with parenting.

``We are still trying to be in this superwoman mode that we can do it all and we still have to look at ways to compensate,'' Krumm said. ``I think it's critical that we be better-organized. Everything that we do has to be in the easiest, most productive way. In food preparation, we cannot spend half a day preparing that evening meal. We still have to eat nutritious meals, but we have to try to think of the easiest way to get that job done.''

Karen Frick, 41, is a stay-at-home mom who lives just south of Lawrence with her husband, John, and three children, Kate, 12; Kerry, 8, and Willey, 4.

At one time, she was a school teacher.

But after her first husband, Kevin Henry, was killed in a truck-train collision in 1986 in Valley Falls, she decided to stay home with Kate and Kerry.

She later met and married John Frick, a pharmacist. They had Willey in 1989 and moved to the Kansas City area. They moved back to Lawrence in August 1992.

The advantages of staying at home is being there for the ``firsts,'' she said.

``The first words, first steps and first discoveries,'' she said. ``As a parent, you rediscover living by watching them discover the first time.''

Frick said she often thought she would go back to work when her children got older. But when her oldest daughter turned 12, Frick changed her mind.

``As they get older they need me here as much as they needed me when they were younger,'' Frick said. ``It's in a different way.''

For example, demands on her children from school and extracurricular activities require her to provide transportation. Or just be there to talk.

``I just didn't anticipate how happy she would be to see me at home when she walks through the door,'' Frick said.

Brenda Frei, who is a psychologist with Clinical Associates, Overland Park, has rearranged her work schedule to help care for her two children, ages 4 and 15 months.

Frei, 34, who is expecting her third child in October, said she and her husband, Mark, a graduate student at Kansas University, split up the child care. He takes care of them three days a week and she takes care of them three days.

``We have at least one day a week when we are all here at the same time. We're lucky that we can work that out with his school schedule and my schedule,'' Frei said. ``It's nice to have a balance in my life: to have the stimulation from a career and to be able to spend as much time as I can with my kids.''

One of the disadvantages of being an older parent is that you have less energy than you had 10 years earlier, she said.

``But it's definitely worth it,'' she said. ``I feel fortunate I have equal part in the parenting, otherwise it will be even more exhausting. And I know that's not the norm. To me, Mother's Day is a celebration that the whole family participates and helps out.''

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