I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being “old mom” versus “young mom.”

Back in the day, I used to be “young mom.” I was only 22 when my oldest was born, I was 24 when my sons joined our family, and I was still just 25 when I had my fourth.

I guess when you marry at 20, and add to your family via both adoption and birth, you can amass quite a gaggle of children relatively quickly. Those were busy and exhausting years, no doubt!

Now though, I’m nearly 37, and I’m pregnant with child number 10.

And I’m definitely “old mom.”

Each week I look around at all the sweet, young families at church and “remember when.” Remember when my oldest was only two, and there were sippy cups and naptimes and early bedtimes. Remember when we’d walk to the park with the wagon, and visit Daddy on his lunchbreak from work, and go to free kid movies on weekday mornings.

Today I have a bunch of noisy, ever-hungry teenagers, and also an almost-two-year-old, and every age in between. And that aforementioned baby on the way. But even with the littler ones and the new baby, you never really do go back. You’re never “young mom” again, really. Those days of only having to think about the needs of toddlers, which seemed so pressing at the time but now in hindsight seem delightfully simple, are gone. For good.

Lately, our family’s been watching old home videos. After dinner and baths and showers, we’ll convene in the living room and transport ourselves back to the night we introduced our Ethiopian sons to their older sister, the Christmas morning where the six-year-old had the stomach flu, and the night I was laboring with one of my daughters. The kids have been loving it — they beg to watch them pretty much every single day — and it’s honestly been a surprising highlight of our summer, these trips back in time.     

And that’s truly what it is, that series of years back when I was “young mom.” A different time. It’s a bygone era of our family’s story, never to be lived again. I’m so glad for the videos and photographs because when I look at my strong, athletic sons butterflying across the pool now, it’s hard to believe they were once those tiny, vulnerable boys exploring our home for the first time. When I see my ever capable, confident 14-year-old daughter caring for her siblings or laughing with her friends, I struggle to remember that she used to be deathly afraid of that one scene from The Wiggles. It was a simpler time, to be sure. My husband and I were exhausted by the day’s end, certainly, but life was pretty straightforward then. We weren’t waiting up for kids to return from friends’ homes, driving them to and from sports events (and jobs), and having them follow us into our bedroom for late night laughs and talks.

But, you know what? I wouldn’t go back. (Well, maybe just for a day. Or two.) I love being “old mom.” I love the way I’m able to soak up the years with my littlest ones now, without all of the worries and stresses I used to have as “young mom”. Toddler meltdowns, sassy five-year-old attitudes, and diaper blowouts? Meh. NBD. It’s all part of growing up. I know first-hand that all those things will melt away, in the blink of an eye, into older kids with big questions and bigger dreams. I don’t really worry so much anymore about discipline strategies or whether I’m doing all of the things right. I just try to love, and to be a mother, because again, I know. I know. Time passes faster than I’d ever thought possible, and each of those gigantic big kids is someone I truly, genuinely enjoy spending time with. They make me laugh, they challenge me, and perhaps best of all, they’ve given me the gift of perspective.

So I’m raising my glass (of some sort of non-alcoholic beverage) to being “old mom.” It’s pretty much the best, and I confess I’m pretty thrilled to be having a baby at the ripe old age of 37. Time marches on, life is precious, and new life is always, always a profound and priceless gift to a family, at any and every stage.