Friends with Benefits


I still remember the excitement at a friend’s engagement. We believed in life- long love, in romance. But as time went on, something else crept in. It seemed to be happening to everyone – enough diamonds on fingers to blind a person, but not on mine.

In retrospect it was ridiculous, nineteen years of age and seriously thinking that the dreaded ‘shelf’ awaited. But in the early Eighties, engagement, marriage and children were de rigueur for folks in the sticks. It was an era before the sentiments of the Millennials were hardly imagined, either in darkest Hampshire or anywhere else for that matter.

Yet I reckon I did break the mould ever so slightly. Married at twenty-three but not a child in sight for thirteen years, it was more than just the biological clock ticking, it was alarm bells going off. Babies please NOW! So, when I was 36 and 41 respectively Stars I and II arrived. How cool was that? I was an ‘older mother’ whom the media, at that time, celebrated, the kind of woman who made choices for herself and not for the constraints of social and cultural conformity…. apparently.

But much like the effects of the Xbox on young brains, twenty years on the jury is still out on older mothers, a fact that I’m only beginning to digest.

The benefits are obvious. Becoming pregnant and giving birth is supposed to be as easy as falling off a log. Not so. The fact that I was an ‘elderly primigravida’ having left all things gustatory so late, I was jolly lucky to have one, let alone two bundles of joy.

Then of course The Husband and I had had our own youth and rather a lot of it, living life emulating the well-known ‘yuppies’ of our era – travelling, driving nice cars and enjoying a hectic social life. Did we care that time was passing? Not a jot.

When friends and acquaintances starting having babies in their late twenties we thought they were nuts, way too young! Yet look at them now. These are our friends with benefits, their children are all grown up, way past Uni, married and with… children. Yes, many friends have become grandparents!! It’s an epidemic. All over Facebook are photos of adorable babies being cuddled by my contemporaries – ‘The Grandmothers’ – and here am I still angsting over the advancing GCSEs.
Thank God there are very few parental gatherings at secondary school or I’d have to have some fillers or Botox to avoid embarrassing Star II.

“Who is that old woman with you?” they would ask.
“Oh, that’s my mum.”

Now don’t misunderstand, I love being an older mum because, conversely, it does keep you young in thought, attitude and sometimes, (God help me), in choice of clothes. I don’t feel fifty-six. I don’t think that’s old, so trust me I’m in no hurry to play Grandma.

I’m sure it’s wonderful but I’m not ready, any more than I was ready to have my own children. Yet I look at my friends’ baby pictures and there’s a shred of me that thinks that I’m glad I kept the Brio wooden trains and tracks up in the attic, and how it would be lovely to buy tiny things for tiny people in Gap again.

Of course, Star I is too young to be a parent. Both he and his lovely girlfriend need to have exciting young lives to do all the things I never did. I wouldn’t be a normal parent if I didn’t think that.

But time as we know doesn’t stand still and there is a slightly dark thought in my head, that I don’t want to be juggling my grandchild on my lap whilst sitting on a commode in a nursing home. I don’t want to be a grandmother of no benefit to them; I want to be arty and slightly mad and called something like ‘SPG’ or ’Ga Ga’ – how apt- anything but ‘Granny’.

Ah what the heck, still plenty of time to grow into the notion grandma- hood…….no there is really.

Sandra Pagan