This week marks the end of my 30s! The big 4-Oh has arrived with with a bang and I’m entirely undecided how I feel about it!
My last decade change was a funny one. When 30 arrived, looking from the outside in, my sh1t would have appeared to be holding firmly together! We had a lovely home, were financially stable and had a great social life. My career was at a high having developed at a fairly rapid speed during my 20s- I was assistant head of a primary school at 26, deputy head by 27 and at the point of my 30th was being asked to share good practice with other schools. I was at the top of my game, ambitious moving forwards and winning at life from the outside looking in.
But when I think back to that time and look at pictures of my 30th celebrations, I don’t see that. We were 3 years in to a battle with infertility and a month away from starting IVF- I remember that as a time of pain, uncertainty, anxiety and desperate longing!
So the almost 40 me is so pleased that the 30 year old me saw her dream of holding a baby come true… and not once but three whole times! And I long ago made peace with the stress and suffering we went through to get them here- if we hadn’t had the wait, we wouldn’t have got these three specific bundles of madness to keep us on our toes! Those eggs and tadpole fellas had a date with destiny to bring us the 3 wildly different but equally awesome humans that we are now the proud owners of! And everything worth having in life is worth a wait!
So the gaping hole that was present at 30 is now overflowing! But my main issue with 40 is that I still don’t feel like an actual grown up! Aren’t people who are 40 supposed to be on top of life? I was sure by 40 I would have a system for managing my freezer so that I wouldn’t buy an eighth packet of beef mince when there are already 7 languishing a cold frozen death in there from previous shops! I thought I’d have grown out of stumbling to the washer with my arms full of dirty clothes, only to find its already full of 2 day old damp washing I forgot to get out! I thought I’d have an organised box full of batteries in every size, just in case! I thought I’d know who my car insurance was with without having to search through a pile of papers that have been gathering dust on the stairs for 7 months! Or that I’d never run out of bread or that I would remember to get something out for tea or that I would know which coloured bin we’re supposed to put out on a Tuesday! I still firmly feel like I’m winging this whole adulting business and I’m not sure I always pull it off! Grown ups should not have a plant pot cemetery under their sink from house plants they’ve been unable to successfully keep alive!
In the summer last year after turning 39, the first niggles of a mid life crisis kicked in. The fast paced career I mentioned hit a significant bump in the road when Ted came along and a third baby (particularly one with undiagnosed silent reflux who barely slept) tipped the balance against us and caused a revaluation of how our family dynamics were (or were not) working. I took a sabbatical from my job and never went back- opting for a regular supply role at the kids school instead. It’s exactly the right thing for us at the minute- I love being back in a classroom again, I love having hours which are massively more compatible with raising a family, particularly in terms of the workload I used to have when I came home in the evening and at weekends. It’s keeping me in touch with teaching and changes in education but isn’t adding a huge amount of stress and pressure into the mix. But I do sometimes look back at my old life and wonder where I’d be or what I would be doing by now. I think if you are a naturally ambitious person, its difficult to quell that even if you know you’re doing it for all the right reasons. Ted starts school in September and I realistically have another 20+ years ahead of me before retirement. I know that my career doesn’t have to be over and that there is still plenty of time to get back into things when the kids are older. But I think with every child I gave birth to, I also parted with a bit of ambition and a fairly big dose of confidence as well. I found maternity leave a very difficult thing to recover from; having a significant chunk of time off work, your life being entirely flipped upside down during that time and then being expected to slot right back in where you left off is a fairly unrealistic expectation and it definitely contributed to my wobbly self esteem when it came to making decisions about careers moving forward.
40 also feels like a milestone where you question whether you even want to continue down that career path you are on or if its time to forge a new journey. I’d love to own a café! I’d love to have a business that I run from home doing or making something creative! I have a new found love of writing that I never realised was within me as a teenager when you are expected to plan out your life and pick a path! All these things were on my mental list of ‘things I was going to do/investigate before I was 40’ to stem the mid life crisis but Covid and a year of very disrupted living has put paid to having the emotional energy to tackle very much more than surviving the here and now! It may have to be a ‘in the year of my 40th’ list now! I am determined that when Ted starts school next year and I have more time to myself, I am going to make time ‘for’ myself. Time to write the children’s book I’ve always dreamt of or to investigate other possibilities or to learn something new that pushes my mind a little bit. I’ve loved being a parent for the last 9 and a bit years but it is fairly all consuming in terms of head space- time just to think about what I’d like to do with my time will be nice!
So wobbly on the career front, incapable of developing a frozen food rotation system, but do you know what… other than that, I mustn’t bloody grumble! I have the best and most supportive family, an elective and kind group of friends, a marriage that must be ok as we’ve survived 15 months of lockdown and him working from home with only minimal threats of burying each other under the patio! We have a lovely home, live a great life (when Boris lets us!) and in the grand scheme of things, want for nothing (apart from a wee in peace; just once a month would be absolutely fine!)
And the greatest achievement of my 40 years on this planet; our legacy moving forward… our 3 beautiful children. If raising these three has become my new career, then I’d be more than happy with my performance management targets right now.
George is the kindest soul. He is friendly and sociable and always notices if you are sad or need a cuddle. He is so sporty, amazing at maths and holds a head full of the most random trivia- I want him on my pub quiz team in 10 years time! Not everything comes easily to him- his dyslexic traits mean that he has had to battle really hard to conquer reading; but it doesn’t matter if he is tackling something he is really talented at, or going into something he enjoys less or finds tricky, he will always work hard and persevere and do it with a smile on his face. He is considerate and sweet and genuine and notices things that are important to you. He can be a worrier, especially if things are new but he’s gained so much confidence over the years and takes things in his stride more regularly now. He can walk in a room and make new friends instantly. Sometimes it takes my breath away when he walks into a room; my chubby little baby boy is long gone, replaced by a young man who is almost as tall as me and who is growing into an awesome human! George will grow up to do something practical I think- a PE teacher or a gardener or a builder. I feel of all of them, he’s the one most likely to stay close to home. The one less likely to go off exploring and to stay close to the people he loves. Who knows though!
Esme is a complex soul- the boys in our house are basically happy as long as they are not hungry and have something to do but Esme has so many more settings!! She is so bright and sharp and wise and mature far beyond her 7 years. She gets on with everyone and matches Georges sociability, but she sometimes craves the peace and quiet of her own company. She is a proper all rounder, brilliant academically but also creative and sporty- probably hand picking a perfect mix of her parents genetically, getting the bits from each of us that the other doesn’t have! She is sassy, confident and fiercely independent but is also a definite over thinker which can knock her sometimes, particularly in the middle of the night when she wakes and cant quiet her thoughts. She needs to have all her ducks in a symmetrical row at all times and is always five steps ahead of the game! She generally picks most things up straight away and can therefore sometimes lack the resilience of her brother when she finds something tricky- she hates to practise anything because practising involves making mistakes and that is not something that comes easily to her! She is funny, can demonstrate the most amazing emotional intelligence for a young child and I have no doubt that she will change the world when she grows up! I fluctuate between wanting her back in little frilly dresses and bows in her hair to not being able to wait to go for spa weekends and drink Prosecco together in the garden!
Ted is our unexpected bonus! We may have not planned his addition to the troupe but man alive does he add bucket loads to our family dynamic! He is the funniest soul- I have no doubt that the phrase ‘class clown’ will feature heavily in his parents evening reports over the next few years. He does little skits, tells jokes and generally just has a hilarious, slapstick demeanour! He gives the best cuddles- full blown aerial assaults that end with a Teddy Tops nestled perfectly around the whole of you! But don’t blow him a kiss because he will rub it off! He is kind and reads peoples moods really well. He loves big kids and is so grown up for his age- often getting frustrated that he can’t be included in whatever his big brother is off to do! He is by far our most creative player, taking himself off with 3 lego figures and entertaining himself in a magical world for hours at a time. I think he might be the artistic one too- something musical or art based or theatrical, maybe dancing- the boys has moves! He is a bundle of energy- constantly climbing, bouncing, running or launching himself off stuff! Having big kids as role models around him, he seems so much older than his 4 years- whacking a ball with a cricket bat, showing hand-eye coordination I can only dream of, or one-legged free wheeling on a scooter at an impressive 18 months old! He has found this last year hard, whinging his way through the lack attention that lockdown and home schooling the big two has led to. But he is settling back into the old life he can barely remember from before Covid, with me drinking in the last days of having a pre schooler at home with me. In some ways I am desperate for the time to myself that I talked about earlier but the other part of me is going to miss my little wing man so very much! I think there will be considerably more tears in September when he’s dropped off- mainly from me!
So all in all, they are a pretty fabulous collections of miniature human beings that we have created and that’s a great thing to have achieved in 40 years! I love them unconditionally, but I also like them! A lot! They are cool and fun and entertaining! That doesn’t make us perfect parents- they are also not perfect children! They squabble and wind each other up and we shout and they definitely eat too much sugar! But I think we get the balance of imperfection about right, and I think that’s a pretty good place to be in the day after your big 4-oh!