I’ll admit it, I was one of those women who dreaded turning 40. I thought that reaching this milestone birthday meant that I was half-dead. I was afraid that my body would begin to fall apart or that I would have to start behaving like a respectable adult.
Instead, I discovered that turning 40 is both liberating and exhilarating. It made me feel smart and sexy. It helped me rediscover myself. Turning 40 was like a stamp of approval to do all the things I wanted, but was afraid to do, because of what other people thought of me. Now that I am closing in on 42, I can tell you with 100% certainty that this is the best decade yet and it is chock full of life lessons.
Turning 40 has taught me that I am not just a mom
My twenties and thirties were all about my family. From the ages of 26 to 30, I had three babies and they became my entire world. Every day revolved around taking care of them, entertaining them and keeping them safe. I volunteered at their schools, went on all their field trips and threw myself into whatever extracurricular activity they were involved in at the moment. But my forties? This decade is about me.
My children are getting older and more self sufficient. My role as their mom has changed from a hands on approach to a supervisory one. They no longer need me to dress them or wipe their butts. Now I am the planner, making sure everyone is where they need to be. I am the delegator, asking them to take care of household chores or the pets. Or I am the taxi driver, shuttling them to various activities.
But I still have more time for myself than I used to. I no longer have little humans clinging to me all day, every day. Not only do they not need me all the time, they don’t even want to be near me most of the time. This has given me time to actually read a book, take a vacation and remember all the things that made me “me” before my life was solely focused on my children.
I realized that I am more than just someone’s mom. I remembered that I have dreams and goals too, that are not directly related to my children. One day, my children will leave and I will still be here. So I began to write down all the things I want to do, places I want to visit and life goals that I haven’t achieved yet. I will always be their mom, but I am not JUST a mom.
Turning 40 has taught me to love my imperfections
I always used to dream of losing weight and suddenly becoming more fashionable. Or getting cosmetic surgery so I would be the hottest lady in town. I would try to cover up all my greys and cellulite because I thought it was ugly. But now, I have accepted that these things are part of me and I’m ok with it.
I have lines around my eyes because they crinkle up when I laugh. Stretch marks? Yup, I’ve got them all over, but it’s because I’ve given birth to three beautiful children. Of course I have grey hair because I’ve been on this earth for 40+ years and it’s normal to have grey hair at my age.
Do I still want to look like a decent human being and not a troll? Yes, most definitely. But I refuse to spend unnecessary time, money and energy trying to look like I am twenty. Because you know what? I’m not twenty. I’ve lived and my body shows that and that’s ok with me.
Turning 40 taught me that other people’s opinions are not important
I used to spend so much time worrying about what the other moms thought of me. I would change my clothes or put on lipstick to run errands or drive the kids around town because what if I ran into someone and I looked like a mess (gasp!). Or better yet, looked like a mom who had been too busy with the kids all day to take care of herself.
But now, I hope that when people see me, they notice my smile. Or they are happy to see me just because we are friends and not because I’m wearing whatever shoes are “in” this season. Sweatpants are comfy and let me move and focus on what I need to do. So I wear my sweatpants and I just go about my life. If people are appalled by that, they are not my kind of people anyway.
Turning 40 has taught me that adulting isn’t all bad
Being an adult has gotten a bad rap. Yes, there are lots of responsibilities and you have to learn about things like Roth IRAs, but it’s not as bad as it seemed in my twenties and thirties.
It’s actually kinda cool to own a house. Paying off a credit card gives me a little zing. Having people come to me for advice because they think I know what I am doing is a good feeling. Turning 40 made me think that I might be getting the hang of this adulting thing and that I can embrace it and enjoy it.
Turning 40 taught me to take care of my health
Ok, so I wasn’t lying about that half-dead thought in the beginning. Turning 40 was a reminder that I am probably at the halfway point in my life (if I am lucky) and I wanted to have a solid second half.
I had been dealing with some health issues for many years and turning 40 was a slap in the face to take care of them. You can read more about my health journey if you want, but the short version if that I took charge of my health and made some big changes. I feel better than than I did fifteen years ago. I’m healthier, happier and ready to tackle the second half with enthusiasm.
Turning 40 taught me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but I should treasure the time in the tunnel
I blinked and my kids are almost grown. My oldest started high school last fall, which means he will be off to college in less than four years. My husband and I will be empty nesters in eight years.
If you have toddlers, eight years seems like a lifetime. But if you have older children, you know how quickly eight years will pass. The day will come when I will have all the time in the world. And from what people have told me, I will be lonely and bored.
So while I look forward to my children going off on adventures and my husband and I being alone again, I also treasure each moment with them. I know that our time together is limited and I savor every second of it. When a kid wants to cuddle me, I drop everything and cuddle them because I won’t have these opportunities for much longer.
Turning 40 has taught me wisdom
Sometimes, I feel like the wise, old owl that you often see depicted in cartoons. I’ve been around the block a few times and I’ve seen things. Hard life lessons have been learned. I’ve hustled to start a business from the ground up. Wonderful people (and some not so wonderful people) have come into my life. All of these things have molded me into the person I am today.
Plus, I feel equipped to help my children with issues as they get older. I’ve dealt with issues and bounced back stronger. Like the wise owl, I can dispense sage advice for nearly every situation.
Turning 40 has taught me to be adventurous
Call it a mid-life crisis if you must, but turning 40 made me throw caution to the wind. My husband and I booked the bucket list trip to Bora Bora. We swam with sharks. We got dorky, matching tattoos.
I’ve learned to get really uncomfortable and stop putting things off until tomorrow. If there is something I have always dreamed of doing, I am going to make it happen while I still can.
Turning 40 has taught me that life is short
Yes, everyone says this, but it’s not until it punches you in the gut that you truly understand what it means. When a high school classmate dies from cancer, you realize that not everyone lives to be 90. When your family members start to pass away, you are hit with the sudden knowledge that they won’t always be around and you have to enjoy the time you have with them.
Life is a gift and it should be treasured. Turning 40 brought that into focus, made me appreciate my life up to this point and look forward to the next 40 years.
So if you are on the cusp of turning 40, don’t dread it! Instead, learn to embrace this new chapter in your life. If you are already in your forties, I would love to hear your thoughts! What has turning 40 taught you?
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