For many of us, it’s finally here. That formidable opponent called middle age. Mothers everywhere are turning forty-plus—and struggling. Marriages are crumbling behind closed doors, the fear of an empty nest is looming in the distance like an ominous storm cloud, and the motivation to get out of bed each morning is being crushed by the terrifying thought of what we’re really gonna do with our lives as we bid farewell to the promise of our youth. So how in the world did we end up like this?
Let’s rewind. I do recall having a career at some point (though it’s foggy). I remember crying fearful tears in the bathroom of my law firm after discovering that I was going to be a mother for the first time. I was twenty-six, just over a year-and-a-half out of law school, and scared to death to tell my boss. But I mustered the courage, finishing my announcement with something like, “Don’t worry, I’m going to balance it all perfectly. You’ll see.” It was as if I could picture the scales, with work on one side and motherhood on the other, equally balanced, everything nice and neat.
Oh, those best-laid plans. Not long after my daughter was born, the imaginary scales flipped over and fell straight on top of me. At one point, I was running through Walgreens with my screaming, feverish infant, trying to pick up a prescription while holding my phone against my ear during a conference call and trying desperately to close a deal. Then came the numerous “working from home” days, during which I would type maybe ten words per hour as I rushed back and forth between my computer and my daughter (who seemed to be afflicted by a fever, an ear infection, or the stomach bug at least once a week). Over time, I found myself issuing countless apologies to work colleagues and consuming massive amounts of homemade guilt, so I eventually decided to become a stay-home mom. And now, after years of diapers and playdates and chaperoning field trips and watching baseball games and volunteering at school holiday parties, I find myself a little bit lost. As good as I feel about devoting my life to my children, I often wonder where I’ll go from here.
You see, in just a few years, that same infant that I toted through Walgreens will graduate from high school, and she will (hopefully) go off to college. While preparing to fund what could be a six-figure college education, I can’t help but wonder if she’ll eventually end up like me—many, many years of expensive school, a professional degree, a short stint in the working world, and staring mid-life in the face with no real career in sight, scared that my time has come and gone. Is this a good thing? I’m supposed to be her role model, right?
Please understand that I feel extremely blessed and thankful to be a stay-home wife and mother, because I truly believe that family is everything, and that God’s primary purpose for me is to be the best wife and mother that I can possibly be. But at the same time, I’m jealous of my friends that have cultivated their careers and have something in place for themselves. As hard as I try to unselfishly focus on my family, I must admit that I still have these thoughts.
So now what? Honestly, I don’t know the answer. I’m just praying for guidance as I enter midlife, and as God slowly opens the door to the next chapter—whatever it holds—here are three small things that I’m going to do to cope:
- Spending special time with girlfriends. We know the importance of date night with our spouse, but what about time with our girlfriends? As we get older, we give so much of ourselves to our families that we’re often unable to invest time and effort in good friendships. Isolation is a huge danger in the aging process. Perhaps we should make it a point to reach out to friends and schedule more quality time together, even if it’s just once a year. I always feel rejuvenated after a girls’ trip. There’s just something about sitting around with the girls on the back porch in your pj’s—laughing, drinking coffee, and catching up—that’s good for the soul. Especially the middle-aged soul. Girlfriends are a special gift from God.
- Listening to the right voices. The world will tell you that you’re worthless once you get a single wrinkle or age spot or gain a single midlife pound. God will tell you that you’re on a journey that He created for you, and to embrace the next phase. Listen to the Godly voices. Tune out the others. The people that you really want in your life as you get older won’t care how you look.
- Picking one thing I love to do and doing it often. We all have a God-given passion for something. For me, it’s writing. So I started a blog. The fear of failure almost talked me out of it. But I didn’t let it. And now, here I am, writing this piece and getting a tremendous sense of joy by doing so. Don’t be afraid to try something new if you have a passion for it. You never know where it might lead you.
Yes, for some of us, middle age is here. And it’s discouraging at times. But we’re not done yet, moms. Our families need us to be our best. Let’s not forget to lean on good friends, hear God’s voice, and pursue our God-given passions as we navigate through the thick uncertainty of what’s yet to come.