My 40th birthday came and went without much fanfare. I didn't have a huge party with black balloons or receive any gag gifts about being "over the hill." And while I'm alright with a low-key if not entirely nonexistent celebration, I'm not sure how I feel about this birthday in particular. I'm not upset, and I wasn't dreading it, but turning 40 as a mom is just, well... weird.
For example, I don't feel 40. Not even close. I guess I don't really know what 40 is "supposed" to feel like, but most days I feel like a brand new adult; a 21 year old still trying to figure it all out. Perhaps it's because I've been married twice, and after my divorce I spent a few years finding out who I really wanted to be, re-inventing myself, changing careers, and building a new life for my kids. In so many ways, my life started over the moment my first marriage ended... so perhaps I'm not 40, but more like 20? The life I'm living now is still so new and, in so many ways, I'm still learning.
Then again, this odd just-turned-40 feeling probably has a lot to do with the fact that I have a 1-year-old son to chase around. I had my last baby "late in the game," by at least some people's ridiculous standards, so I still feel like a young mom surviving on zero sleep as she tries to adjust to the constant responsibilities that come with parenthood.
That's not to say this whole turning 40 things is bad, or has brought on some kind of existential crisis. In fact, I would say I'm a much "cooler mom" now than I ever was when I was in my 20s or 30s. As a younger mom I was so focused on being perfect all of the time, and I cared so much about what other people thought. As a result, I completely lost sight of who I was and what I really wanted. I look back at the woman I was when I was just starting my career and having kids for the very first time and I truly don't recognize her. So while divorce is rarely easy and starting over is always a challenge, I'm so thankful that I was able to eventually cast aside that life and find a new path. I'm so much happier at 40 than I ever was before.
I thought I would have accomplished more at 40, I guess. Instead, there are times when I look at my 1-year-old son and feel like I'm starting this mom thing all over again.
But being a 40-year-old mom to a 1-year-old child and four other kids is... strange. And difficult. And, from time to time, does remind me of my age. Between my kids, my job, my husband, my home, and my friends, I am constantly running around. Trying to find time for self-care is a joke, and I when I look in the mirror I see grey hairs, dark circles, laugh lines, and freckles that I swear weren't there yesterday. It's not that I am embarrassed about the way I look, or that I fear looking my age, but there are moments when I wonder how this all happened. Who is this exhausted person staring back at me, and how did she get here?
I'm also older than most of my friends and the other parents at my kids' school, so turning 40 but still being a mom to a young child has been somewhat isolating. I didn't have my first child until I was in my 30s, and while I know waiting to start a family is becoming more common, I can't help but feel ancient when I drop my kids off at school or attend a play date. When I go to mommy meet-ups I usually discover that everyone is 10 to 20 years younger than me, and there's always at least one mom there who could be my kid.
Most of the time I feel like a total hot mess compared to the people I went to school with, especially since they all started their families much earlier than I did. I've lived through 40 years of mistakes and do-overs, and while I know there isn't a single human being living a perfect life, it's hard not to compare myself to others. I thought I would have accomplished more at 40, I guess. Instead, there are times when I look at my 1-year-old son and feel like I'm starting this mom thing all over again.
It's not that I am embarrassed about the way I look, or that I fear looking my age, but there are moments when I wonder how this all happened. Who is this exhausted person staring back at me, and how did she get here?
What I do know, for a fact, is that even when it does feel like I'm starting over I am starting over with the knowledge that I never had as a first-time mom. I finally know what I am doing as a parent, or at least I have finally stopped caring so much about what other people think about my parenting choices. I'm more laid back, more confident, and I'm less stressed out. So, sure, I might have started my family later than most people start theirs, but I also started with a lot more knowledge. And while I'm still learning every day, what I've learned so far is definitely helping me get through life as a 40-year-old mom to a 1-year-old child.
In the end, when you're a mom your birthday feels like any other day. And as a mom turning 40, honestly, I was too tired to really plan a big party or celebration, anyway. But I reject the idea that turning 40 is a bad thing, or that I'm somehow behind the curve because I have a 1-year-old at home. I'm proud to be a 40-year-old mom, and am loving every part of this new mom... grey hairs and all.