I’ll never forget my 40th birthday. My husband and I celebrated at an Egyptian restaurant, our table spilling over with 30 of our closest friends. We smoked the hookah, feasted on fresh pita, dips and skewered meats, and danced to the beat of loud synthesized middle eastern pop music.
I was seven months pregnant with my second child. I wore a stretchy silk tank top with a tropical print anchored by a jeweled brooch that girded my ample yet firm bosom and growing belly. I radiated a translucent glow. I felt young, fresh, and full of promise and vitality.
If only I knew then how the next five years would shake out as I crept into my mid-forties: the hair on my head thinning out while the hairs on my chin thicken, the hormonal eruptions, the baby weight that still to this day is impossible to lose, the sagging, crinkly skin, and loss of volume everywhere except my thighs…lets face it, aging can suck.
That said, there are many reasons I believe raising young children in my forties has been of benefit to me. Here are a few of them:
1. FOMO doesn’t exist for me
In my 20’s and 30’s, I was obsessed with my career and my image, and how I was perceived. If I would have had children during those years I probably would have felt I was missing out on something: whether it’s pursuing work opportunities, attending social engagements, or garnering experiences I’d later want to brag about. Having lived a full life of being single, traveling, and enjoying a rewarding career in my 20’s and 30’s, I know I’m not really missing much when I choose to spend my Saturday nights cuddling on the couch with my boys.
2. I’m financially more sound and stable
Years of harder and smarter financial decisions have paid off. Once a ‘weekend shopper’ I used to collect stylish clothing I may never wear or only wear once. Now, my non-essential purchases are targeted (hello Marie Kondo) in favor of investing in (stretchy) staples that are comfortable, functional and practical. When it comes to spending money, we’d rather spend on trips and experiences over collecting useless stuff that takes space.
3. I don’t sweat the small stuff
I remember literally crying over petty incidents at work or getting upset with friends and family over really trivial matters. Now, I save my energy for sweating the big things that matter like health, security, and keeping the household in check and calming down my hysterical five-year-old when he gets a few drops of water on his pants.
4. Perspective on life has matured
When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I was constantly striving for what I thought other people thought I should be, have, and achieve. As I’ve gotten older, I realize it’s more important to cultivate solid friendships and relationships rather than seeking to fill a room with friends. I once thought accolades at work were worthy of sacrificing time with my children. As I’ve matured I’ve realized one day, my kids may not want to spend so much time with me and I’ll never get back the time I sacrificed for a framed piece of paper on my wall or medal on my shelf.
5. I can be more dedicated to my children than ever before
Now more than ever, there are plenty of distractions to keep us distanced from our children’s needs. I am not immune to them, but know what life was like before the internet, cell phones, and Instagram. I know that I can (kind of) live a full life without (most of) these things. If I were a younger mother, I could see getting (more) easily distracted from my children by all these distractions.
6. I learned how to say “No.”
The concept that I can say “no” to working extra hours or attending a function I didn’t feel like going to just because I was invited was all new to me in my 40’s. In my younger years, I felt like I had to accept most work opportunities that came my way because I didn’t know if they’d come up again. On the weekends, I’d try to accommodate friends and family even if it meant hanging out with people I didn’t want to so I wouldn’t disappoint anyone. As a mom with limited time, I’m prone to be painfully honest and to the point (no filter) and I have no problem saying “no” when I need to.
7. My kids keep me young and vitalized
Although I’m told every day how tired I look , my boys keep me physically and mentally challenged. It takes a ton of energy to keep up with two active boys but it’s given me a strength I’ve never quite known. Just when I think I’m beat down to a pulp of a human, I regenerate when one of them bring me a homemade card they made for me at school.
When I don’t feel like adulting, my kids give me an excuse to be silly and irresponsible – blasting our music out the window and shouting at passersby, or making goofy Snapchat videos.
Even when I finally get them in bed and it’s time to unwind on the couch, I forego the nauseating gratuitous violence on the adult cable channels in favor of the “family and children’s movies” queue on Netflix.
Sometimes I wonder, will it be weird for me to prefer Disney movies even when my kids are grown?