If I thought my twenties went by fast, I was woefully unprepared for the warp speed at which my thirties would go by. I attribute my twenties passing quickly to too many late nights, too many bottles of wine and too many first dates with Mr. Right at the Moment.
Things changed quite a bit the year I turned 30. I met the man who would later become my husband. The passage of time suddenly shifted from first gear straight to fourth gear. We dated a good while, got engaged, later married and immediately started our family. Three kids and ten years together brings me to this still foreign land of the forties.
And if my newsfeed is any indicator, it’s also on the hearts and minds of many other mamas embarking upon a new season of life. How did we get here? Where did our twenties and thirties go? Are we really that much closer to fifty? What does it all mean, anyway?
Having reached the ripe old age of 41, I’d like to think that I’ve figured out a few truths about life on the other side of 30.
1. You may have some of the same friends you did in high school. Or you might not. And either is ok. What’s important is that you have some people in your life at this stage who will be there for you during the tough times when you need them and who will cheer you on as you contemplate taking a leap. What you lack in history together, you make up in understanding where you are at right now and where you are headed.
2. It’s perfectly acceptable to wear maternity jeans three years postpartum. Clothes are expensive and you are doing Mother Earth a favor by not adding more to a landfill. Plus there’s the benefit of being comfortable as your body continues to change after the amazing acts of growing and birthing little humans.
3. It’s not only possible to say no gracefully, it’s becoming expected. As we evolve towards less busyness and more meaning in our lives, I have found that people are more forgiving when they hear the word no from our lips or keyboards when it comes to commitments outside of the home. I’ve learned it’s better to say no earlier than say yes out of obligation. People really do respect you more for it. That said…
4. Life is short and how much time we have here with those we love is never enough. Say yes more to the people in your life who matter the most. Choose experiences over things. Embrace frivolity every now and then. Don’t discard an idea too quickly without hearing why something is important to someone you love. I learned this when I said yes to hubby getting a riding lawnmower even though we live in a suburb.
5. You will not succeed every time in every endeavor. Some of the sweetest victories I’ve savored have happened after I’ve fallen hard and picked myself back up again. It’s good to be able to surprise yourself every now and then. When you are faced with adversity again, you will have more tools in your toolbox because you’ve learned some valuable lessons. Overcoming odds and obstacles is a great confidence booster and motivator.
Modern motherhood includes being bombarded from every angle with messages about parenting, self-care, marriage, self-esteem and pressuring us to do this, don’t do that, get on board with this trend, drop that trend like it’s a Pumpkin Spice Latte without the little cardboard sleeve. We are inundated with visuals of what the perfect mother looks like. We are abundantly aware that society prefers younger women who are fresh-faced, clear-skinned, and skinny with perfect hair. On top of having it all in the looks department, we are also told the ideal that perfect women are also members of MENSA, work full time as rocket scientists and moonlight as Victoria’s Secret models while still having time to cook organic meals from scratch, tuck each of their three perfect children into bed and then have mind-blowing sex with their husbands. All the while, the undercurrent of these messages is that if you are not this kind of woman, there’s no hope for you to live a happy life.
And if you are in the 35-plus bracket? That message is even louder because we are past our expiration date. Over the Hill. Midlife Crisis time. The Afternoon of Life. All phrases designed to conjure images of youth in the rearview mirror while reminding you that you are closer to Medicare eligibility than the legal drinking age.
I don’t buy it.
The lie about middle age is this: by the time we reach 40, we are past our prime and the rest of life is all downhill from here. This is absurd. And here’s why: by 40, we are just warming up. By this age, we’ve loved. We’ve lost. We’ve tried. We’ve failed. We’ve succeeded. We’ve learned. We’ve moved on. We’ve loved again. We’ve lost again. We’ve tried again. We know that life is short and we have to make each day count.
My twenties and thirties have delivered me to my forties with a mom bod and a treasure trove of life experiences that have shaped me into the woman I am today: A woman who isn’t afraid to be herself, learn something new, make scary decisions, readjust priorities as needed, ignore the negative voices of others and ultimately do what works best for her and her family.
What have you always dreamed of doing “someday?” What’s holding you back? The clock is ticking. And time, as the saying goes, waits for no one. Because before you know it, 40 turns into 50. Then 50 turns into 60. And by then, the risk of a broken hip from a slip on slick river rock will likely outweigh your desire to jump into the cool water and play like a kid again when it’s time for a new headshot. Do it – whatever it is for you – before it’s too late.