What Ages Women More Than Smoking or Being Overweight? Motherhood
There have been so many times in my life when I have met someone who is the same age as me, who does not have children, and I have felt approximately 8,471 years older than that individual.
Seriously. I may be “only” 31, but the fact that I have four kids makes me feel like I have aged a whole lot more in the past 10 years of having kids. It's a soul aging, a physical aging, a general life-aging that comes only from the process of having kids and growing into a human being responsible for the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of four other human beings. I mean, really, I'm probably about 100 years old in soul years and that's not an exaggeration.
My husband and I have often joked about our “real” ages as parents. We started off parenthood with a constant barrage of “Omg, you look SO young!” and “You're way too young to have a baby!” and “Wow, babies having babies!” types of comments. And slowly, through the years, those comments have slowed. My husband's students at the school he teaches at now think he is in his late 40's. I, sadly, no longer get carded and struggle to stay awake past 9:00 PM every night.
Needless to say, we've aged. And although we have always maintained that having kids has aged us faster than our peers, we never really had any proof of that. Until now.
A new study in the journal of Human Reproduction took a nice, hard look at how women show age at the chromosomal level. you know, the most basic, cellular level of our bodies. And they found that women who have had kids showed a chromosomal age in their cells that was on par with women who were a whole decade older than them.
In other words, having kids makes your body think it's at least 10 years older than it really is. Lovely, right?
The scientists in this study compared the aging process of moms' chromosomes to a shoelace with the ends fraying; there are certain chromosomal “caps” on the end of the shoelace that protect our DNA; as we age, those caps are damaged or weakened, and the rest of the DNA is affected. The study suggested that motherhood damages those caps, thus aging our cells at a faster rate than someone who doesn't have kids. In fact, the study found that motherhood speeds up the aging process even more than smoking or obesity in women.
Honestly, though, the study explains a lot about what I already knew about myself. I have no doubt that having kids has aged me faster than some of my childfree peers. And I'm OK with that. I've packed a lot of living in those 10 years of having kids, so it only makes sense that my cells would have gone through that living too.
So should this study discourage you from having kids because it will instantly age you? Of course not! Honestly, I may feel older than my 31 years, but when I look back and think of my four greatest accomplishments, all I can do is feel grateful. I think everyone is different and for me, I know that whether I live to be 100 or 40, I have accomplished the one thing that mattered the most in my life, my aging cells be darned …
I've become a mother. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
And one more thing. If motherhood ages us, even at a cellular level, I think it's just further proof that we all need to work a little extra harder to take care of ourselves too. So moms, consider this your body's official plea to do something relaxing just for yourself today. Your chromosomes will thank you.