I remember turning thirty and not feeling old or scared. I was newly married and thinking about having a family. So much was ahead of me. In my thirties, I had three children, found a new job I love, made so many wonderful friends and connected with new interests.
I realized that for me, forty represented the end of an era of big moments. I have gotten married, bought a house, had children and settled into a career. I would like to pause for a moment here and note that this is true for me, but many people who are forty still have these moments ahead of them. Which brings me to the point, it is not about the number. It is about the sadness I was feeling not to still have these things in front of me. It felt like I was entering the middle of my life and that phase would be boring and depressing without big things to look forward to or work towards.
I sat with that sadness for a while and then pushed myself harder to think about my life over the last decade. My thirties had all of these big wonderful moments, but in reality, my daily life between the celebrations was often hard. In my thirties, I also lost my Mom, struggled with being a new parent and basically gave my body over to fertility treatments and pregnancy and nursing and motherhood. This led me to my pre-40 goal. My goal became figuring out what is exciting about turning forty and moving into the next phase–the middle. Here is the list I came up with:
What Excites Me About Turning Forty
1. Sleep. Truth be told, I don’t sleep a lot. But that is my choice. Now that my youngest is almost two, I don’t go to bed with the deep anxiety about when I will hear crying and if I will get more than an hour of sleep at a time. I also don’t (usually) have kids waking me up at 5am anymore, and if I do, two of the three can just be sent back to bed.
2. Exercise. Having young children still doesn’t make finding time to exercise very easy, but as my kids get a little more self-sufficient and as I get more sleep, I find that I can create an exercise schedule that works for me and my family.
3. Organization. I finally have a little time to get my life together. Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely a work in progress and it does sometimes involve some extra kid screen time, but slowly my house has systems that work and has fewer and fewer piles and messes that make me want to cry. I can actually see and use the tops of all of the desks in the house! After two years, my husband and I are about to hang pictures on the walls. These little things are actually huge steps in making me happier and more sane.
4. Friendships. My friends are incredibly important to me. Many are like family. As my life has settled down, I have more time and mental capacity to focus on friendships. It is now much easier to host family playdates where the kids leave us alone to chat (and the big kids take the toddler with them–shout out to big kids). I also have the energy and capacity for more ladies’ nights and double date nights and just glasses of wine at the kitchen counter with people I enjoy. I don’t feel isolated as I sometimes felt before when the mere idea of making myself publicly presentable seemed overwhelming.
5. My kids are fun. It is true. OK, it is not always true and I will be honest that my toddler is sweet and adorable and smart and just the yummiest, but not fun to take anywhere. However, my older two can actually be fun. Like we go out and do something and we all have a good time. Or we stay home and play a game or watch a movie or joke around and I enjoy myself. I am not just always waiting for bedtime. Things that used to give me hives–the idea of taking my kids to the grocery store, for example–are actually enjoyable now. Not always, but more often than not, which gives me hope that it only gets better.
6. Time with my husband. My husband and I have spent a lot of time together over the last eight and a half years since our oldest was born, but much of it was a blur of changing diapers, cleaning up throw-up or falling asleep on the couch trying to watch a movie. Now we actually find moments where we can do things together beyond the occasional date night. Our older kids have drop-off activities/parties and once you are used to three, schlepping around one toddler with two parents seems like a vacation. So we find ourselves sitting down together at a coffee shop on a Sunday morning or getting to go to the suburban parents’ favorite together-time activity, Target, browsing the aisles we want instead of melting down in the toy aisle.
7. Focusing on myself. This is the big conclusion. Forty is about focusing on myself. It is about figuring out who I want to be as my life settles into this next phase. It is about taking back my body, and yes, even some of my time. It is about deepening my relationships with my husband, my children, my family, my friends, and myself. It is about doing those things that I have been wanting to do forever, but have never prioritized. It is Forty and Fabulous. It is Forty and Fit. It is Forty and Fun. It is Forty and Friendships. It is Forty and Figuring it Out.