As a mom who turned 40 a few years ago, I've learned that some of what they say about 40 is definitely true. Case in point: I immediately ended up needing reading glasses, and my metabolism dropped like a lead brick weighed down by a bowling ball.
And yet, mysteriously, as a woman and as a mother, I feel better than ever. Better than in my 30s by far. Maybe even better than in my late 20s. Not everyone will have the same experience as I've had—especially if you had children later in life—but here's what I'm loving about 40-plus motherhood.
Being a mom of small kids is super hard. We suffer through no sleep and always smelling vaguely like baby vomit. Wondering Have I showered this week yet? is not uncommon. We live the terrible twos and the terrific (insert sarcasm) threes. We accept that there's just no such thing as "me time" if we want the ship to continue to run smoothly.
Of course, these years were absolutely amazing in a lot of ways. The sweet smell of your baby's head, the cuddles, the funny things a toddler says, their little arms wrapping around you and loving you in a way that no other could. But all in all, these are the years where we forget about ourselves and just press on. Our hair becomes the Mom ponytail, our clothes become of the stretchy yoga variety and we start to forget who we are.
I had my first kid when I was 30. And that I'm past 40 and now that my kids are older, they no longer wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me that their blanket feels scratchy, and they rarely stand with their face an inch from mine staring at me until I wake up with my heart racing as though I’m the main character in a horror movie. The physicality of parenting is so much less now that I sometimes even have time and energy left at the end of the day. And since I'm wiser at 40, I use that time and energy for "me" things.
As a working mom, I definitely felt the guilt of working outside the home when my girls were small. The guilt eased somewhat once they started school, and now that they are 12 and 10, it is pretty much gone. Now. I am grateful. Grateful that I don't have to start at square one. That at 40, I don't have to think about going back to school or starting a new career path. While for some a new adventure might be exactly what they need at 40, this mom is grateful for the stability and comfort of doing what I know. I'm loving that over the years I’ve accrued extra holiday time, even better benefits and such great friends in my co-workers. All perks I get to enjoy in my 40s.
I mean, mostly. I am a people pleaser by nature, so of course I still care, but there is something freeing in not worrying as much about what people think of me. It makes me a great role model for my tweens, too. It really is true that when you are 40, you know who you are and have so much more confidence in yourself—including the choices and decisions you make as a parent—than in the decades before. No more second-guessing or looking for external validation. I'm not saying that I'm all that and a bag of chips; I'm just saying that I don't care if anyone likes my chip flavour anymore.
I have at least 20 pounds on my pre-mom self, I’m sporting rolls and stretch marks like nobody’s business, and there’s droop where there used to be perk. All these things I wear as a badge of honour, because it’s my mom body. Maybe the reason I have no burning desire to impress people anymore is because the ones who love me most think I'm a total rockstar just as I am. At 40, not only has society relaxed its expectations of my physical appearance (so the pressure’s off, people) but I’ve also realized that only my family’s opinion truly matters to me.
Not a lot mind you, but I do have time to sit and read some days. I have time to get my hair done every six weeks. I have time to get the summer pedicure. I have time to pursue new hobbies and dust off old dreams. If I don't have time, I just make time, because I'm starting to realize that one day these little beings will grow all the way up and move away from me and I still need to be a person that I recognize and like.
When your kids are older and it's not such physical work to look after them anymore, it gets easier to combine 'me time' and time with the kids. You can kill two birds with one stone. Like having reading dates with each other where you cuddle up and everyone reads their own chapter book. Like going to a PG movie at the theatre together—something that you've actually been wanting to see.
Will you wake up on your 40th birthday and feel like a new person? It might come on gradually or it may be a sudden revelation, but I'm here to tell you that for me, it was a great thing. Despite the fact that I am 40 and all of a sudden need reading glasses, at least I have time to read. Heck, maybe I needed them in my 30s but when I never had time to read, how would I know right? So don't stress if 40 is on your radar. I'd worried that it would bring me down, but nothing could be further from the truth. Realize that really knowing who you are, combined with finally getting a good night's sleep, is a recipe for a great decade.
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