I am slightly embarrassed by my earlier reaction to this milestone birthday. I am the youngest, by a shot, of six kids. When I turned 20 my oldest sister turned 40 and had her first and only baby. Clearly, I have no preconceived notion of what 40 is supposed to look like.
For the last five years I’ve eagerly anticipated 40. Weird maybe, but it seemed to me 40 was the time women are free. That’s what Jennifer Aniston told me anyway.
Plus, all the 40-ish women I know are thriving. They’re happy, first and foremost with themselves. I looked forward to forty as if on that day a magic wand would come and I would love myself most.
This week, as the days turned into hours before my 40th, I became acutely aware there was no magic wand. All I could see were the things about myself I still hated. Yes, hated. I’m also embarrassed to admit, even at 40, there are things about myself I still hate.
So last night I was sad. Sad that somehow I was the one who was going to get to 40 and do it all wrong. I still wouldn’t be happy and free and in love with me. I had just spent my evening with some pretty angry parents who had made me the face of all that was wrong with their church. Good times. Then I came home to a cake my daughter made and worried how I would not eat it without making her feel bad. Weight Loss is a tricky thing.
I went to bed on the eve of my 40th birthday beaten and sad.
Then I woke up.
I laid in bed and for the first time in 40 years, I did feel different on my birthday. Maybe there was some kind of magic wand. I felt like this morning might be the beginning of something new. Within moments I had three small people each bring me their own special present. The Girl nailed it with a t-shirt that was so perfectly me and a card telling me, above all, I made 40 look good. She, the one I worry most about passing on all my crap to, thinks I’m doing it all right. That’s the biggest gift I could get.
Then my boys showered me with all the “you’re the best mommy” a girl could possible handle. They each presented the message with their own special brand of humour, showing me again what remarkable people they have become under our watch. Not too shabby, 40.
The Husband got me the HONY book I’ve been coveting for months, and of course a card celebrating Cougar Week, which is the definition of why we work: laughter, which I’m so, so lucky to have. Alright, 40.
As I started typing this, my phone began exploding with texts from high school kids from my job, who, after months of trying, have finally allowed me into their world for a few hours a week. Take that, 40.
I bundled up in layer after layer of warm clothes this morning so that -8 didn’t feel quite as horrid as I thought it might. When I caught a glimpse of myself, I even thought I might just rock a snow hat. Now, that’s 40.
I may not have it all figured out. I may not love every bit of myself. I may still get beat up at work from time to time. My kids might only adore me one day a year. But I’m alright. I’m more peaceful in the transition. I’m more confident in my voice. Wearing silly t-shirts and snow hats don’t intimidate me anymore. I’m healthy. I’m happy and for better or worse, I’m me at 40. So far it’s looking pretty great.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.