It was the eve of a significant birthday for me recently – 40. Yes, that milestone which is meant to symbolise the beginning of the end, when everything starts to go downhill. A real turning point, they say. But whether it’s a mid-life peak or deep low is in the eye of the beholder.
So with a gin in hand, I wanted to take stock of my life right now and what lies ahead. It’s a particularly interesting exercise when you count what you’ve gained in the last decade – a husband, 3 children, a new country to call home and a house with a hefty mortgage. It was a big decade, and poles apart from those carefree days of my 20s, when I travelled a lot and worked a bit.
Yet on many days turning 30 feels like yesterday. On other days, it feels like a lifetime ago with me now a totally different person to that wandering gypsy. Is this motherhood’s doing? Has family and marriage altered me so much, or is it just my self-perception that has changed? Tricky questions when you’ve been focusing on everything and everyone else for so long.
Yes, motherhood is probably the most life-changing, irreversible experience that can happen to a woman. It’s all consuming as you dedicate yourself fully to your child. One challenge is that many women – including me – feel they leave behind, or lose, a part of themselves in prioritising their children so much.
But now, as we’re emerging from the trenches with our youngest baby, I know deep down that if you dust me off, plump me up and put a bit of lippie on me, I am still the same person I was before kids. I might not go out as much at night, and I might be even less tolerant of fools than before, but deep down I’m still me – a more content, fulfilled version generally. Certainly I’m far happier to sit still for a while than I was before. There is a sense of completeness with this tribe of mine.
However, I am hanging out for the day our whole family goes on a self-drive safari across Africa. That wanderlust will never leave me – a good thing in my eyes. There is so much to be grateful for, and so much life left to live that turning 40 is something to be grasped with open arms. As a good friend said – “take 40 by the horns and wrestle it to ground.”