When I turned 30, I discovered that “milestone” birthdays are just culturally imposed hogwash. I was happy to turn 30…it was almost like I was truly an adult, finally. Wife, mom, author, seminary graduate…with lots more like it to come. And it always helped that my BFF shared my exact birthday, so if it did get tough there was always someone there to join the misery.
So now it’s my 40th birthday. And I’m still convinced that the whole milestone thing is hooey. But since numbers are significant in our world, here’s a top 10 list on why 40 is better than I ever expected.
1. My mothering goals are complete. Well, the part where the kids have all arrived safely and healthy, and I’m still taller than all of them. And now, I can enjoy their personality and intelligence, as opposed to my 30th birthday, when I had one kid and his best friend was Bob the Builder.
2. My mothering days are not complete. I mean, I only have one in double digits and the last one will only be 2 next week. So if my 30s were my “soccer mom stay-at-home” years, my 40s could be my working mom/crockpot mom/teach my teens @Twitter years. Eh?
3. My mind. Speaking of working, I have discovered to my profound relief that I did not donate all my brain cells to Baylor University Medical Center’s L&D ward. Just five months ago, I got hired for a full time job! Yeah, somebody other than my family and friends thinks I’m smart. Of course, it’s early days yet (and yeah, not all my family and friends thought I was smart before).
4. My body. Remember that L&D ward? I visited on four different occasions, which translates into three years of pregnancy and four years of breastfeeding. So for seven years my body belonged to other people. But now, it’s all mine again. Every part. Though, that baby is looking more like a toddler every day, so blaming the extra 20 pounds on him is starting to stretch thin (ha…”thin”). I should probably stop hunting for Blue Bell Ice Cream sales.
5. Battle scars. I take pride in my laugh lines and stretch marks—the first are visible signs of God’s blessings through my life and how I’ve rejoiced in them; the second are…well, ditto, but they give me the added benefit of never having to wear a bikini again. And the little burn marks on my hands and wrists? Proof that, yes, I do cook.
6. My hairdresser. I love my thick, dark brown (my kids say it is black when it’s wet), healthy hair. These stupid gray strands are ruining it. Which is why my hairdresser, Gigi, is a treasured friend. She knows my hair better than I do, and I drive 40 miles to see her every few months. When the gray gets too annoying or starts to overshadow the rich color of my youth, she’ll know exactly which shade of dye to suggest.
7. Friends. Not the sitcom, silly. (Oops, did I just date myself… no, wait, you already know my age. Anyway…) They rock. Seriously. To borrow a phrase from one of my besties, “If friends were money, then I am rich.” Without my girlfriends, and a few guys including and approved by my husband, my life would be less colorful, more lonely, and more self-centered. Nothing means more than to have a friend sit with me in silence as I cry over a miscarriage. Or to have a crowd show up for a “milestone” surprise birthday party to cheer with me. (Romans 12:15) They have embodied Proverbs 27:6 “Wounds from a friend can be trusted. . .”
I love my kids, but they aren’t my friends. And besides, they’re going to grow up and leave me. My husband and girlfriends are forever.
8. Dating. At 20, I wasn’t exactly the dating queen. A few here and there but I was pretty ok with that because I knew I was headed out of state one day for seminary. When I arrived there, dating improved exponentially, as I was outnumbered 10-1 by eligible guys. (Total side benefit to seminary, I swear.) Once I succumbed to the charms of one lucky guy and changed my name to his, dating became a lot more fun. I always knew who my date would be—and that he really liked me. No more trying to impress; lots more just enjoying ourselves and being ourselves.
At 40, dating depends solely on the availability of free or cheap childcare. Which means we are usually home before 10pm.
But that’s ok, because a) My date gets to stay (!), and b) we were about to fall asleep over our wine glasses anyway. Might as well be home.
9. The Internet. Exactly how did my parents help me with homework without Google? Hmmm. Hey, Mom, do you remember?
And however did we keep in touch with old friends without Facebook? Oh, wait. We didn’t.
10. The Alternative. Why fear 40, wondering if your best days are behind you, when you can be 40 and grateful to God for the blessings he has showered on you? When you can look forward to whatever He has in store for you because… you have HIM! Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord will be your strength.”
I got joy, baby, like never before.