SHE WAS FRUMPY, I WAS EMBARRASSED
Pippa Bradshaw, 33, was born when her mother was 41 and her eldest brother was in the sixth form. She has another brother and sister, 15 and nine years older than her respectively. An educational counsellor, she is married and has three sons.
I FIRST became aware that Mum was older when I went to school. I felt that she was different because of what she looked like and I was a bit embarrassed that she was older and more frumpy than other people's mums. I referred to her as granny to my friends so that no comments like 'isn't she old' would arise. Mum found out when a teacher asked if was my granny - it seems awful now.
That got worse at boarding school because there the mothers tended to be pretty glamorous; having a young mum like everyone else seemed really important. And they seemed more alive sexually. For a time I lived with a schoolfriend's family, and it was very obvious that her parents were still into each other in a physical way - they were always kissing and cuddling. I never saw much evidence of that in the way my parents were with each other. I think that was definitely because they were older and more tired. Lots of my friends could talk to their mothers about going on the Pill and so on, but there was no way I could talk to mine about contraception and sex.
My parents were definitely more energetic when my siblings were young. There are photographs of street parties and naval functions - the kids tagged along, just as my kids do when we go out. By the time I came along my parents had retreated from life in a way. It was all very quiet, sitting round watching the telly and cutting the grass. They were like you imagine grandparents to be.
I think Mum wanted a baby when she was 41 because of her menopause, a feeling of 'it's now or never'. But when the baby arrived it could not be accommodated into her lifestyle, which had become that of an older woman. I didn't fit in and I think that was half the reason I was farmed out to boarding school.
I was aware that Mum was indulgent, having a child at 41. She has always said that it was lovely having a baby at that age. I have never got the impression that being older bothered her. She never said she found it difficult or tiring, but all her behaviour was saying it. She was always saying 'I'm so tired' and she dumped most of the care on my older sister. Mum went back to work when I was three months and I was farmed out to different minders.
I used to think that Mum didn't understand me because she was so much older. Now, having met women with good relationships with their mothers regardless of age difference, I realise it's nothing to do with that, it's to do with personality and outlook.
My sister describes my Mum as severe and distant. I remember the distance but I don't remember the severity. I get the impression that my sister was adolescent when Mum was fairly young: they were competitive on some level, and that made it harder for them to get on. The age difference between Mum and me allowed for a bit more indulgence and tolerance, because in some sense I wasn't as threatening as another woman in the family.
Mum was diagnosed as having Parkinson's disease 10 years ago, when she was 64. I've got into caring for a parent much earlier in my life than most people - it's more natural for my brother, who's 50.
Since she moved into a home three years ago, life has got easier - it's less intense; she lived around the corner before. I don't see too much of her now but there is this abstract responsibility that is really draining. It's there all the time, worrying about the fees, trying to get to see her once a week - the home is nearly an hour's drive away. I'm the first person she rings if she needs anything. So even though I grew up as the most distant, now I've got the most contact.Reuse content