I’m 41 and a half years old. I’m ‘in’ my forties. ‘Naughty at forty’, hmmmm not really but then ‘sensible and responsible at forty’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Legend has it that when you turn forty everything in life will slot beautifully into place; those long held feelings of inadequacy will fade away and be replaced by a sense of acceptance and well-being…really? Yup – life begins at forty…allegedly! So why – 18 months in – do I still feel a bit ‘meh’?
Throughout my thirties I was, more often than not, thought of as being in my twenties. People looked shocked when I remarked ‘yeah, it’s true, I’m 38 and have 3 kids’ – cue the dropped jaws and gasps of disbelief and a cacophany of ‘no way!’. All this changed when I turned forty – really – like, overnight changed. If people I haven’t met before try to guess my age now they look slightly unimpressed and say ‘in your forties, like 41/42?’ – ‘erm yeah, you’re right’ I shamefully reply before swiftly scuttling off to the toilets to check for crows feet, worry lines and grey hairs.
Age has never bothered me. Turning thirty was a blast. I felt like a proper adult with everything I could possibly need and I was ready to embrace that number. I had my children at ages 23, 27 and 29, I got married at 28, so by thirty, my little world was complete and it all felt rather perfect. When I spoke to other people about age, so many of them would say ‘If you feel like that now, wait until you hit forty – it’s great!’.
I am excited at the thought of this next chapter for all of us, but I am also mourning the loss of the three little humans who needed their mum.
I listened tentatively to stories from my forty+ year old friends about how concerns about what others may think about you disappear in the forties as do concerns for the more trivial things in life (who cares if you put on a few pounds or find a few silver streaks in your hair). Forty is about contentment. Contentment…there is a sense of finality about that word – as if we’ve reached the point at which things stop…perhaps that’s it! Like most other humans I have craved contentment, a peak to which I have strived to get to all my life and now I am within reach and it’s freaking me out!
I see now why I feel so ‘meh’. It’s not about being 41 and a half…it’s about change. Having my children and getting married when I did meant that my thirties was a busy time as we raised our girls and grew into our relationship. I love love love being a mum and my girls and husband mean everything to me, but as time passes my children are growing up and ultimately need me less. For me life doesn’t begin at forty, life changes at forty. This decade of my life will see my children grow into young women and most likely move out of our home and on with their lives. I am excited at the thought of this next chapter for all of us, but I am also mourning the loss of the three little humans who needed their mum; I used to think this made me selfish and would mentally scold myself, but now I realise that I’m just trying to navigate my way through the treacle of life. My girls are independent, encouraged and happy and that’s what matters.
I don’t care about crows feet and worry lines and silver streaks, I really don’t – I care about things slowing down a little. It may sound somewhat morbid but the first thing I thought when I was 40 was that (on average) I’m about half way through my life…slow down! I don’t want to stay young forever but I’m not quite ready for the changes that I know my forties will bring. As each day passes and I make a small amount of time to reflect of these musings, I can feel acceptance is moving in. Dare I say it – I’m warming to being in my forties and whilst it still makes my stomach churn a little, all the change that the next 8 and a half years will bring feels bearable – I haven’t quite got open arms yet, but I’m getting there.