I’ve never been one to worry too much about age. After all it’s just a number, right?
Turning 30 was great fun, and I was so ready to take on the next stage of life – family, responsibilities, settling down. I’d worked hard (and partied hard) through my twenties and the next chapter couldn’t have come soon enough.
As I approach 40 in the next 18 months, I haven’t really given much thought to the milestone either, other than how we might mark the moment as a family; there is a 40th every few weeks amongst our peer groups of late so it’s easy to get caught up in the logistics rather than the psyche of it all. After all, we have Dad Muddling Through hitting the big 4-0 before me.
Something however has been playing on my mind of late and that is perhaps a consequence of being back at work, and thrown into the mix of a wider, broader group of individuals, who you could say fall into a different age bracket to the ones I’m used to mixing with in my 38 year old Mum life. A world where it’s all about whether you have tried the latest trampoline park or have you got rid of your play kitchen yet.
After all, sitting firmly in the 35-45 bracket in the company of my friends, with my parents residing in the 55-65 bracket, there has always been a gap in exposure. Who are the 45-55 bracket? And what does life have in store for all of us then?
What I have learnt is that in the next age group up, the one that falls between mine and that of my parents, is a tricky stage.
After all, children turn into teenagers, health issues may come to the fore, and if not those of your own, then those of your elders who almost certainly may start needing a little more looking after and to be doing a little less looking after.
The past decade has been all about pregnancy, babies, siblings… that all consuming stage of parenting which can have the ability to knock you sideways and leave you wondering what day it is. But that stage truly does pass, and what lies ahead for us in its wake?
With teenagers and young adults lies angst (and anxiety) heartbreak, cybersafety, exam pressure, university woes, flying the nest and then often the return to the nest… It’s a stage that looks daunting to say the least and I can’t help but wonder how our two daughters will fare in their teenage years and beyond.
Will there be slamming doors and “I hate you Mum” or will we be the lucky ones, who sail through with a mild mannered teen? Will the girls be wild like their parents? Will we be able to keep them safe from harm and be there to pick them up when they fall?
Will we help them through the academic years and encourage them to work hard to gain results, or will we nurture them and be solid and supportive, wishing only for them to be happy? Honestly, I have no idea what parent of teenager us looks like any more than I can imagine the girls as teenagers.
All of a sudden it seems frighteningly not far away.
In the next age bracket, M is for Menopause. A stage of life I am learning about at a fast rate as friends around me complain of hot flushes and sleepless nights, blaming it on the unspoken, the ‘stage of life’. I wonder as the tables turn on my generations hormones, and some grab the last baby making window of opportunity, how will it impact me, my friends and will it be something we can help each other laugh through together?
Of course the most frightening of all is the inevitability that we will all be a decade or two older. Us, our parents, our loved ones. It’s a lottery of who and when anyone might reach ill health and a reality that is hard to face or imagine. Whilst I don’t want to live in fear, it does us no harm to realise our blessings whilst they are there in front of us being taken for granted. A reminder to celebrate in this moment and cherish every opportunity to make memories together. To look after ourselves and to respect our health, not expecting it to keep delivering like Amazon prime without any consequences of neglecting it’s payment plan.
In the 45-55 age bracket it is likely many of us will have to deal with a deterioration in health of our parents generation. It’s a wake up call, a nudge that perhaps it’s time to be the grown ups and take some pressure off those who aren’t as young or as well as they used to be. To realise that over the coming ten, twenty years, others are going to need us. And, fingers crossed, pray that they, we will remain in good health or overcome illnesses and inspire us into a long old age. But there are no guarantees at all, that is the reality.
Of course it’s not all bad, doom and gloom. The 45-55 bracket will undoubtedly bring great times with our family, as the kids become young adults there will be so much to share together. I can’t wait to know them as people (and get rid of all these toy boxes too). As the trainers get more expensive we will at least have reduced childcare costs and a dual income again…!
In many ways hitting 40 and beyond could be the making of me. In confidence and the ability to take care of myself, have space to breathe and enjoy the less demanding elements of being a Mum. I know who I am, what makes me tick, and where I want to be. That bit is definitely all good.
In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that wellbeing begins to turn a corner at the mid stage of life. Perhaps since all those worrying unstable times of setting up home, career and family are behind you, it really is the time to live your best life.
I am not afraid of growing older, or of letting go of my thirties. There is just one thing that scares me, and that is slipping into a place where I take any of it for granted.