Turning 40: Look Ma, I made it!

This year was a milestone birthday — I turned 40 at the beginning of February. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about that. Lately, my husband, my mother, and other extended family have been teasing me about this particular birthday. Lots of jokes about getting old, needing reading glasses, gray hair, etc.

If I want to throw punches, I can remind my mother she is old enough to have a 40-year-old daughter. And to be fair, my husband turned 40 a few weeks after me. So, really, they can laugh it up all they want but we all know the truth here. The truth is, they are right there with me in the aging club!



When I turned 30 it felt really good. For some reason, turning 30 made me feel like I was officially an adult. I was excited about that milestone. At the time, our first child was just six weeks old. I was sleep-deprived but hopeful for the next decade. It felt like my thirties was my time to shine. To really come into my own.

Through the newborn months, and toddler years, I forgot about all that “time to shine” stuff and was just trying to catch a shower or a full night of sleep. When we had our second child, I was about to turn 33. I was still tired. I still needed a shower. I was balancing my career, with learning how to be a mom and a solid wife and partner.

Our days were filled with daycare drop-off or pick-up, our professional work, home projects, dinner, and bedtime. Some days, it felt like the movie Groundhog’s Day with Bill Murray . . . when the same day just keeps repeating itself. In many ways, the repetition was somehow comforting though. I also longed for excitement, adventure, and maybe even a better sense of self. I would look at women in their 40s with their well-rested, fresh faces filled with confidence and their potty-trained, school-aged children and think about how I would never make it to those days. It felt so far away.

Those forty-year-old women seemed to have it all together. They used fancy cream for the fine lines forming around their eyes. I didn’t. They had a regular stylist they saw for a cut or a color. I didn’t. They seemed to have hobbies outside of their children. I didn’t. Their kids were fairly independent. Mine were not. They seemed to actually enjoy themselves at social events. What was I doing at social events at that time? Chasing around my kids and making sure they didn’t break something or eat dirt.

These women also seemed to really know who they were and what they were all about. They knew their values and they had their priorities set. I’ve always been a confident person. And yet, those women in their forties seemed to have a more grounded sense of self. I wanted that! But would I have it?

Ten years later, I am standing on the doorstep of 40. Well, let’s face it, I walked through that door. My birthday has passed. It’s official.

And you know what? I don’t have it all together. But I have changed, and things are different.

  • I have a great eye cream that I use each morning and night.
  • I have also been seeing the same stylist for the last seven years as I embrace the gray peeking out in my hair.
  • I have hobbies!
  • At ages seven and 10, my kids are even pretty independent, too.

In fact, recently I was hollering at my husband to get downstairs and get them breakfast while I finished getting ready because it was already 7:15 a.m. He walked downstairs to find both of our kids at the kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal and talking together.

What?!

And I do enjoy myself at social events these days. I show up and my kids go off to hang out with the other kids . . . and I hang out with the other adults. I watch my sweet friends with babies and toddlers split their time between socializing and chasing their child away from a light socket or feeding them, or doing a diaper change. And while I observe, I am really observing myself ten years ago.

I remember that woman. I know her. I was her.

And as I watch them I say a little prayer in my head that they feel seen and loved because I know how tired they are and how hard they are working.

I might have fine lines and gray hair, but I am well-rested. And I am very comfortable with who I am. I feel at ease in this life we created.

It isn’t lost on me that those sleep-deprived friends with the littler kids might be looking at me the same way I looked at those older women ten years ago. In some ways, it gives me a sense of responsibility. I feel like I need to set the tone for them. To show them that things will be okay and that this too shall pass.

For myself, what I find interesting about this new decade I am entering is that I’m not yearning for the next decade. When I turned 20 I thought about how “cool” I’d be when I was 30. When I turned 30 I longed to be 40 because it seemed like the woman I knew who were 40 were so settled and at ease. Now, as I enter my own forties, I feel really content to sit down and stay awhile. Sort of a “Look Ma, I made it!” moment.

My dad recently told us one of his favorite decades of life was his forties, and he hoped it was our favorite too. I think he’s on to something, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how this next decade goes!


 

Linda is a Michigan native who moved to Iowa City in 2011 and hasn’t left yet. She and her husband of twelve years, Jacob, have two spunky kids – a kindergartner and a third grader. Linda works full time at the University of Iowa as the Administrative Director for the Medical Scientist Training Program. Together, Linda and her family enjoy cheering for the Nebraska Cornhuskers (shhhh!), going on adventures both big and small, and playing board games (they have over 100 and will play with anyone they can talk into it). Linda is often told she has two volumes: on and off, and she will enthusiastically respond to any news you tell her. No matter the volume she uses, Linda is an “old soul” with a love for baking, embroidery, and old movies.

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