By Rachel Hoeing
The 40’s. Some people call it “over the hill.” Some people call it “mid-life.” Know what I call this stage of life?
Hard. Really freaking hard.
And I’m not just talking about the fact that you’re popping Ibuprofen like Skittles, watching your weight fluctuate like a blowfish, and falling asleep with your mouth open while watching Lifetime.
These physical nuances of getting older are tough, but it’s the emotional trials of this time in your life that can be so so difficult.
Now keep in mind that I am generalizing here by speaking of moms in their 40’s. If you had children later in life, this might pertain to you in your 50’s and if you started a family earlier in life, you may be experiencing these changes in your 30’s. But, you’ll soon get my drift.
We are all pretty well-prepared for the fact that teenagers can be mentally exhausting. We know it’s coming … the teen drama, arguments over everything, attitudes, homework struggles, relationships issues, etc. We all mentally prepare ourselves somewhat. (Although when you actually get there it can be WAY more difficult than you thought it would be!)
But what no one tells you is that after you spend an hour consoling your daughter who was just dumped by her boyfriend, you are driving to the hospital to visit your dad who has been in ICU for the past week. No one tells you that after you take your son to his counselor and pray to God that this is the time that will help him get his head on straight, you are then flying out of state to your parents’ home to help them move things down from the attic as they prepare to downsize. No one tells you that after you spend all afternoon driving your 13-year-old daughter’s soccer carpool, you need to visit or call your dad because he is still trying to wrap his head around life without your mom who passed away this summer. And no one tells you that in the midst of all this you are supposed to feed your family, stay on top of the kids’ homework, spend quality time with your spouse, volunteer in the schools, manage your job, clean your home, do the laundry, and last but not least … try to find a moment to let out some steam and do something for yourself.
We are basically taking care of two families … our spouse and children … as well as our parents and siblings. And it’s tough.
When you’re in your 40’s, you are the matriarch of your own family, but also old enough to step up and help your parents as they age. No one tells you that while your children are trying their darnedest to fly the coop, they still really really need you. And while your parents insist that they don’t need your help, someone really needs to be at the doctor or lawyer along with them to digest what’s going on and how to move forward as they age.
We’re torn between two worlds and we don’t know who needs us the most.
I see so many 40-somethings struggling through many of these issues right now. Do they go to the cross country meet because it’s the last one their son will participate in before he goes to college, or do they go to their dad’s chemotherapy treatment with him? Do they take a weekend away with their spouse because they’ve been going through revolving doors for the past month, or do they stay home because their daughter’s been making some bad decisions lately and they need to keep their eyes on her?
Although I’m right in the middle of the 40-somethings now, my parents both passed away when I was in my thirties, so many of these issues were struggles of mine a decade ago. I learned a lot. More than I wanted to learn at that age. Sadly, I don’t have the answers to it all and I wish I did, but when listening to the challenges of my friends, the best advice I can give is to go with your heart. It’s a constant tug-of-war for us being pulled in so many directions, and you always feel like someone needs you. But you can’t be everything to everyone, and you can’t be everywhere all the time. So you go with your heart. When you wake up and you feel that pressure on your chest because your son is really struggling right now, put him first and spend the day with him. When you’re sitting at your daughter’s dance recital but you just can’t get your mom out of your head as she sits alone at home with an illness, leave the recital and go be with her. When you are crying because you feel that disconnect between you and your spouse, skip the volunteer obligation and have a date night with just the two of you.
Go with your heart.
Another bit of advice, take time for you. I know we hear it all the time, but do we really do it? Please do. When you take time to make yourself happy, you are also becoming a better mom, better daughter, and better wife. When you take time for you, you are helping to make yourself whole and then will be able to give more to others without running out of steam. Whether that means a relaxing massage, a device-free walk on the greenway, or a weekend away to connect with girlfriends, make it happen!
And lastly, ask for help. When friends and neighbors see you struggling, they truly do want to help but just don’t know how. Asking them to take your dog out, or drop your son off at tutoring not only gives you a little room on your plate, but allows them to feel helpful as well. Carpooling with other parents when you have teens who aren’t driving themselves yet can be a lifesaver and can give you back so many hours in the day.
To end on a more positive note, the 40-somethings can also be a beautiful time. You discover so much about life and about yourself. You know what brings you happiness and you learn to say no to the things that don’t. You learn to value your friends and value your family. You have the chance to become a better you.
Welcome to the 40-somethings and the wild run that comes with it!
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