To the Thirtysomething Mums

Dear fellow thirtysomething mum,

I see you in the supermarket, I see you at the playground. I see you at the school drop-off, I see you on the train and in the kid-friendly restaurants. Sometimes you see me too, and we exchange a little smile, an eye-roll, an “I get it” moment. More often you don’t see me – you are chasing your toddler down the aisles, watching your pre-schooler like a hawk as she climbs higher than you’d like, admonishing your kid for pinching her brother, reaching for a wet wipe, mopping up a spilled drink.

A few days ago I was at our public swimming pool, and if ever there was a stark metaphor for life as a mum in her 30s, the public swimming pool has to be it. There we all are – the stereotypes we swore we never would be – wading knee-deep in the kiddies’ pool, eyes locked on our littles – and genuinely delighted by their antics. Although we may be there in pairs or groups, our conversations are piecemeal, we cannot relax. Our focus is entirely on our children. We are tired. We are distracted. Our tankini-clad bodies are battle-scarred and utterly not what they used to be. 

Up on the hill are the shiny twentysomethings. They are flipping through magazines, chatting to their friends, Facebooking and selfie-snapping on their iPhones. They are rested. They are toned. They are magnificently oblivious to what is coming their way in the future. They don’t even see us. Or if they do, they swear they will never be us.

It’s okay. We were there once, and we know better than to be offended.

You see, the truth is, we thirtysomethings have let ourselves go. No. We have let our SELVES go. We have small children and for the next little while, our SELVES will not come first. We will be sleeping (or not) according to the timetables of our toddlers and/or newborns and/or a combination of the above. Our hair will not be washed as often as we’d like. Sit-ups? What sit-ups? We will be wiping noses and bottoms and messes from the walls. We will be cooking what feels like continuously from breakfast to supper time and not leaving the table until at least a forkful of peas have been eaten. We will spend hours a week kneeling by the side of the bath and then reading “just one more” bedtime story until we pass out on the edge of the toddler bed. We will be fluent in the language of Paw Patrol, Sofia the First, Peppa Peg and Doc McStuffins, and will use said characters shamelessly as threats, bribes, or as digital babysitters so we can dash upstairs to grab a shower. We will find ourselves negotiating with terrorists even though we swore we never would. We will answer to “Uppy” and “More” and “I don’t want to”, and we will say “What’s the magic word?” more times a day than we ever imagined possible. This is thirtysomething. It’s not easy – and that’s the truth.

But there is another truth. Up there on the hill, nestled subtly amongst the twentysomethings, are the fortysomethings. They too are rested. They too are toned. They are alone, quietly reading a book. They see us, and they are sympathetic but also a bit smug. They’ve been there and done it and they know it doesn’t last forever. Girls, fortysomething is the holy grail. Fortysomething is coming.

The decade we get our SELVES back.

Not that I want to wish away the time. Although thirtysomething so far is a bit of a blur, it’s also a kind of magic. Never again will I feel a squidgy cheek rest on my chest in the middle of the night. Little arms reaching up to me after a fall. The delicious baby smell and the little pairs of skinny jeans and sparkly trainers. The scooter rides and monkey bars and the bed time stories with a small person in the crook of each arm. Hearing “I want Mummy,” and “Please can you help me?” and “I want to huggle you.”

Yes, fortysomething is coming, and it’s going to be bliss. But don’t let it come too fast. If I’m to lose my self for a decade, motherhood sure is a delicious thing to lose it to.

Love, Catherine

 

Let’s be friends! You can find me on Instagram and Twitter.

If you enjoyed this article you may also enjoy The Fatigue is Real or The Things We Forget to Tell You.

 

380 thoughts on “To the Thirtysomething Mums

  1. I can’t wait to tell all my fellow 40-something friends with young kids that apparently ‘They too are rested. They too are toned. They are alone, quietly reading a book.’ Has this writer actually met any modern day forty-somethings?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree Lila. Thirtysomething Moms is not nearly inclusive enough. There are teens and twenty moms having a harder time coping also with the loss of their freedom to enjoy their young selfness. And the forty moms have a hard time re-adjusting their routined lives and may have less stamina or have to deal with an emerging illness. You can’t tell your toddlers that mommy needs to take her nap.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! I am a forty-something mother of a 2 year old. I have never lost my SELF, I am toned and feel sorry for those who share the opinion in this blog. Be present in every moment, relish in every win you church in motherhood. It’s tough, but never should your u feel that you are sacrificing your SELF. If you are, you not only aren’t doing yourself any favours but you aren’t setting a good example for your children.

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  2. I am a fortysomething who is on the other side of halfway to fiftysomething and I have to say I am not the one sitting at the pool looking smugly on thirtysomethings and their children. I have been the thirtysomething, who has had the eyes of those older than me, received the smug looks or so I thought. I no longer believe this because I am those people. I am the woman who will try and help you struggling moms by giving you encouraging words. I am the one who feels for the mom who looks so tired because for the 100th time in the last 10 minutes she’s correcting the same bad behavior because the child seems to have amnesia. I am the one empathizing with the mom who wonders when she will ever catch that break from all of it to have a moment of “self”. Kindergarten? Middle School? High School? I am a fortysomething who never got her pre-pregnancy body back. I will NEVER see that body again. My stretch marks are the proof I gave life to 3 kids. Now I struggle with my weight everyday. I struggle with hormone imbalances as a result of my pregnancies. However, I do not see it as a bad thing because my reward is having raised 3 wonderful daughters who are now productive adult women. I am the fortysomething who is willing to give “trade secrets” to motherhood and child rearing if you’re willing to ask or listen. Yes, one day you thirtysomething’s children will graduate from high school and then from college. You will be amazed at the feeling of how “fast” it went even though you know it was years. You will become the fortysomethings you dream about today. You will think you’ve made it to easy street and achieve “our SELVES” once again, but the truth is your children will always have a part of you. You will always worry about them and then eventually you will not only worry about them, but your grandchildren too. You will look at those thirtysomethings behind you and know exactly how they feel and what they are going through. Will you look at them smugly or will you want to go up and render assistance? For now, I only ask that you not look at that fortysomething at the pool and assume they are smugly looking at you. I think you might find we’re the ones who will be your champion.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m in my mid 30s, haven’t had the chance to be a mom, but I sympathize with you. I’m not a mother but I’ve had plenty of practice with my niece and I raised 3 boys with my ex for 9 years. I just wanted to say that YES you can get your body back! It happens Everyday! People who decide to take a chance and even if it’s small baby steps, sets goals, and run with me in a challenge group can & WILL get results. I had to share my thoughts because I have gained weight and lost it with my program.
      I’m not selling, I’m sharing, giving hope, and offering you..ANYONE of you, a chance to get your confidence back. It’s only 30 minute workouts from home, learning clean healthy eating, drinking shakeology, which is AMAZE! It curbs my cravings for junkie foods, gives me energy, helps my stomach issues, and keeps me full til my next meal. I’ll leave my link..which I never do this, But I hope someone sees this and realizes they can do this while the baby is knapping, the kids are in school, they are tucked in for the night, It Can Be Done!🙌 You Have To Make Time, Everyone Has 30 minutes. http://www.beachbodycoach.com/AdrienneBC1

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      • Bearing children CHANGES your body. It is more than weight gain. We can lose the weight, regain strength (and that can be done without paying a fortune for beachbody and shakes), but the body is changed. When/if you are ever a mom you will understand.

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      • I am in my forties! a mom of 4! And is loving every minute of it. I promise it’s getting better for every year. Yes my body did change but it gave me 4 adorable children. I do watch you 30 something and yes I am greatful that these years are in my past. No more baby screams and night wakes. I am embracing my body, soul! And I am now giving myself time to regain my inner dreams.

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    • Amen! I am 50-something approaching the halfway point to 60-something and you are sooo right… the care, concern, and constant vigilance toward our children never ends, it just morphs to maybe a more hands-off process where, hopefully, we get to watch all the principles and morals we instilled during our 30-something years get put into action as our children and, eventually, their children go out into the world. I have NEVER EVER been smug… except maybe when that 30-something thinks she has something to brag about… being the perfect, beach-bodied, super-mom who’s never been tired or discouraged or maybe even a tad embarrassed by some typical childhood mishap. I applaud you 30-somthings, you 40-somethings, us 50-somethings, and all the 60-somethings and onward and upward for having the courage to take on the most difficult AND most REWARDING job in the world. Motherhood. My 80-something mother is STILL teaching me with her wisdom and insights… Thank God, somewhere along the way I learned to listen and be grateful… maybe way back when she was a 20-something and raising her own 5 children.

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    • Well, she did address this to 30 something mom’s. But even then her prospects arent exactly accurate, but a fine goal! I am 31 and started my parenting journey over a decade ago, still in it! I’m thinking this is more of a two or three decade “ordeal” 32 years to be exact from my oldest to youngest by the time she’s no longer a dependant! Those 40 somethings by the pool were probably 20 something mother’s. When I look at them, the 20 or 30 something mother’s of toddlers, I envy! I never thought of those microfocus days as ordeals. I was a young rested toned twenty something mother of toddlers. Naturally a night owl and easy napper, I got sufficient rest. When my older two were older than napping age and my younger two weren’t, I implimented quiet times. I worked out while they played in the room, sometimes picking them up as weights, which they enjoyed. I fed them and myself the simplest whole foods, how affordable it was in hind sight! I was at peace to walk outdoors and sit in the grass and cuddle. Crafts, baking, singing… that is the life! I miss that. Now they are 8, 10, 12, and 14 and I am not fueled by the daily grind as I was when they were small. It was hard but so rewarding! They go to school now, but laundry and dishes are my life. They eat so much the grocery bill is a second mortgage! School work, driving, adding affection to the check list because they no longer crave it consciously, missing them… both stages are hard, this one just not as sweet! These are the days that require determination and future gazing (and future planning, a heavy reality) and always regretting that I hardly touch them on our busy mornings, a “hand hug” reaching through the car window because it hits me that i didnt hug them yet today! People need a minimum of seven hugs a day! Hopfully our new puppy will suppliment thier needs! This year thier school abolished homework! I am more excited than they are, time is too precious, so few hours after school! They need more than an education from us!

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    • I am a 39 year old mom of a 2 year old daughter. I just want to say thank you. It’s women like you who make life as a mom better for all of us. I’m on your team!

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  3. The 30’s, 40’s and 50’s all have something to behold. Make sure every ten years to do something for yourself. This way these years become monuments for you. Learn something new, write a book, do something that shows that even though you were busy helping little ones grow, you were still important to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Once a mother, always a mother. Us 40 and 50 Somethings? Now we have teens. The sleepless nights remain, but for different reasons. Now we are up checking their phones and social media, watching for them to come home after a high school dance. Listening for their car in the driveway. The tears over the blue sippy cup give way to tears over boys and broken hearts and mean girls. We buy modest swimsuits, maxi pads, and zit cream. Talk about preparing for college. Our mummy tummys still there (and NO beachbody will NOT help after 5 kids/4 by section….child bearing CHANGES your body, lol) and our face wrinkling and hair greying. My point? Motherhood is there, it will ALWAYS be there. We will never be the SELVES we were in our 20s. Our SELVES belong to someone else, And that’s ok. Embrace the stage you are in. Don’t look back wishing, Don’t look to far forward. Love on moms in stages you have past. Don’t judge moms who are ahead of you trying to figure out their new stage. Our children our precious, worth every extra pound, stretch mark, wrinkle, grey hair.

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  5. I am the 50 something. Three marriages; divorced, widowed and remarried in the autumn of our lives. Recently retired from a thirty five year career teaching kindergarten. A career I loved and now I’m in the playground of my middle years. Making new friends, trying new activities and planning with more caution our future. I think about how old I will be when this puppy is ailing, will we get our money’s worth adding to our house, should we travel like crazy before it’s a burden?
    My experiences helped me be the woman I am today. With four adult children and one grandchild we never stop being concerned or having an experienced opinion on where the future is headed. Now we add aging parents, death of family members and friends.
    They say 50 is the new 40 but these feet and bones have walked God’s earth for over a decade and parts just start to wear out. It starts in your 40’s with teeth. I thought fillings were forever, but they have to be replaced. Sleep is now interrupted by aches, restless legs or a husband who’s snores could take off wallpaper. We care for aging parents who need us to help them down size or make financial and medical decisions. Like us, we have a spouse who’s parts are also wearing out: hip and knee replacement, heart stents, prostate cancer, arthritis.
    Our kids have their hearts broken from divorce, homophobia, job loss, moving back home;
    and it hurts us twice.
    We worry about our grandson’s future in a world where innocence is lost so much faster than when we were young or raised our own kids. Drugs, terrorists, Pokemon and foods with GMO’s give us something to adjust to everyday.
    Yet we feel blessed, accomplished and grateful. Hopeful that a new generation will have the courage to make the changes necessary to make the world safer, find cures for debilitating diseases and practice tolerance and empathy.
    Enjoy each day. It’s not just a saying.

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  6. I’m a 40 something mom still enjoying my babies. My oldest is only 12, my youngest is 8 months old. There are six more in between them. Lots of deliciousness to enjoy – I don’t get to rest yet!

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  7. I’m 36 and already in the 40 something stage. I went through a divorce 4 years ago because I had a husband who couldn’t understand the 30 something…let-ourselves-go…everything revolves around our children stage. I enjoyed reading this because of how raw and true it is. Life comes in stages, things come and things go. I’m in a very good place in life now…happy with life, myself, my kids and most things in general. I also feel like a survivor because I made it through that stage and a divorce and now have a smile on my face. I sure miss the precious moments of the baby and toddler stages but enjoy the new found freedom of not having to watch the littles like a hawk so much. On to a new stage and the wonderful things that having older kids brings!

    Like

  8. I love this post – I read it & then read it to my husband & have come back to read it a third time! And I had to fight back tears (with a few managing to escape) each time! It’s so emotive & relatable & relevant! x

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  9. I’m in my 80’s and looking back I. Would say the baby stage is much better than the teenage stage. Your worries are much more serious when you’re worried about cars, drugs pregnancies, etc. And when they’re little, they at least think you know SOMETHING!!!!!

    Like

  10. I love this piece, but I’d love to offer a solution to the quote, “We have small children and for the next little while, our SELVES will not come first.” I created Meditations for Mamas and am launching a book precisely to provide the kind of support mamas need — we need a modern day mama soul tribe.

    We need affirmations and reminders that we’re doing a damn good job, simply showing up as we are. We need grounding meditations that can actually fit in our days! And, we need to be able to connect. My aim is to celebrate mamas, which is why my upcoming book launch party is all about that! There’ll be party favors, incredible women’s health experts to connect with, and just for signing up, you receive a free book filled with beautifully designed affirmations mamas especially need to hear. I hope you’ll join me, so that we can support and uplift one another!

    https://meditationsformamas.wishpond.com/booklaunchparty/

    Like

  11. I hate this kind of post. I am a dad on my 40ies with 3 boys. My affair collapsed and I am supposed to stay clear. I am just fed up to take care of kids. My wife is cheating with me. So shut up with this kind of article translated in other countries.

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  12. I think this post is lovely.
    Of course there are 20 something and 40 something moms out there and of course you still care for your children and how silly to be offended by this post.
    This post is for the 30 something mom and I think this post says give yourself grace in this time.
    I loved it.

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  13. Yes!!! This is wonderful post. Our SELVES transform after having babies, and there is a point where we need to realize that we have to find ourselves again. I work with moms to help them find themselves after motherhood, because we so often forget that WE are just as important as our children. Thank you for writing this honest, authentic post.

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  14. Wow, i can relate so much. I am a twenty something and everything written is like it’s been written for me, having two small toddlers myself. Your writing So Whitty and so beautifully written. I’m looking forward to reading more, Ellen, therealistmumma

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  15. Aw so true and what a great read. I really get the “wishing time away feeling”! Once you have kids the time just sails by so it’s nice to absorb the little moments! Love this

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  16. Thank you for these words. They are so helpful after a rough night. Thank you for remininding me that these early years will never come back and are also delicious! 20-something, 30-something, 40-something, no matter at what age you get your kids, the article just says that one day you’ll find yourself back but in the meantime, try to enjoy these years with littles ones. 🙂

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  17. Dear 30 year old mum,

    Up on that hill, the 40s are a mixture of those who have been fortunate to have children and those who may regret (or not) their decision to delay motherhood and live (or not) with the feeling that they missed out on something (or someone) special in life. If you do catch them looking at you and your young family, it is most likely a mixture of distant memories and envy.

    Most will have foregone the tankini in favour of board-shorts, trying to minimise the impact of cellulite spread and pubic hair which they can no longer be bothered to trim. Toned bodies are hard to find. They will now be super scared of skin cancer, possibly having a few BCC’s frozen off by now, so will most likely be sporting a not so flattering rashie and NY cap covering their slightly droopy, pasty and starting to wrinkle face.

    Unfortunately they know the truth – which is usually hidden until you reach your 40’s – that is that the holy grail is a misleading and disappointing myth – the role of mother, nurturer and worrier does not change.

    It is true, we may have more time to read magazines or juggle full time work, however our waking thoughts and sleep patterns are just as disturbed as 30s mums…by teenagers who we know are awake and possibly online with a range of cyber strangers, or out facing other drunken or drugged youths with impaired decision making abilities, undeveloped reasoning and no fear of consequences, violent/abusive or abused and self-harming friends, or locked away in a stuffy oppressing room studying themselves silly.

    Don’t think that you will sleep soundly once you are in your 40s. You will worry about your child’s self image and acceptance, about their social responsibilities, judgement of others and situations, their subject selections and future goals (or lack of), choice of friends (or lack of), if they are eating enough or too much, their choice in music/clothes/partners including sexuality and relationships.

    You will battle whether you should show an interest by being Insta or Facebook friends but then not comment for fear of stalking or embarrassment. You may set boundaries which are opposite to your child’s friends, or what society now deems acceptable and constantly second-guess your gut instincts. Your child will receive invitations by text and event pages and you may feel ignorant and excluded.

    They may get a part-time job where you wait in the car park for their 10.30pm finish three nights a week, only to be grunted a thank you. You may also have many arguments in your head about whether it is worth the effort to ask for help around the house.

    You may become be a stranger to their emerging tall, hairy, overbearing know it all attitude, and become their biggest embarrassment. They will only come to you when desperate and feed you cryptic snippets of information which you will hang onto, think about, ponder, worry and mentally work out how you can help – before deciding they need to make their own mistakes sometimes.

    You will learn to provide advice and direction in the most subtle way known to man. You may have your head bitten off by too many questions, a concerned look or a sideways glance, so will learn to communicate only necessary information. You will restrain yourself from tidying up their pig sty of personal space as you are secretly scared of what you may uncover.

    You will listen patiently while they explain what tattoos, piercings and hair dyeing they will get done as soon as you are no longer ruling/ruining their life and will listen with fake enthusiasm as they talk of seeing the world (unlike you have) as soon as they are free of you.

    When they are older and possibly just as obnoxious, you will drift between wanting them to move out forever and keeping them home. You will want to be their friend but remind yourself they need a parent more. You will want to turn back the clock and long to have them curl up in your lap, safe and sound. You will walk this fine line everyday.

    You will not have little ones crying out for you at night -but will listen out for them just in case. Your head will still turn each time a child calls out “muuuum” in the supermarket. You still love them unconditionally – you have known them their whole life and know they still live inside that often angry and confused body.

    Your teenager needs you to be strong in the most vulnerable part of your life – the time when physically you are winding down and noticing your own moods and hot flushes signalling the beginning of menopause. Your relationship with your partner will be lucky if it has kept its spark and you may feel isolated and bored. Your friends may also work full time and you might also have ageing parents to worry about. But by now you have learnt to suck it up, find that fake confidence and enthusiasm for everyday life as your offspring will immediately lose their respect if they notice you hungover, weak or tired. Gone are the days of bribes and rewards – you have no more carrots to dangle, only the threat of disconnecting the wifi.

    Keep enjoying your 30s, just as you did your 20s, but do so realistically. It is not all doom and gloom and they will occasionally provide you with a smile making it all worth while 🙂 Know that there will be no magic age of relaxation anytime you are a parent – as a wise person once said “you will only ever be as happy as your unhappiest child” (no matter their age – or yours)

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  18. Chères non mères trentenaires

    Vous y êtes allées, vous y êtes passées sur la table du gynéco, les cuisses grandes ouvertes, vous avez subies le scanner avec injection de produit dans tous les trous, vous avez supportées sans broncher ou avec quelques larmes, les radios avec produits de contrastes dans le vagin, non non ca ne vas pas vous faire mal ! Mais quelle chochotte ! Vous avez subi la prise de sang : désolée votre taux d’hormone n’a pas doublé, ça doit être une fausse couche … Désolée vous ne subirez pas les nuits sans sommeil d’un nouveau né, les crevasses sur les seins et les cicatrices d’episiotomie, on en pleurerait presque de n’y avoir pas droit ! J’ai juste envie de leur dire à tous ces bien intentionnés, tous ces cons : allez vous faire foutre et bien profond ! Allez vous faire foutre aussi profondément que notre douleur de ne pas être mères, aussi profondément que notre détresse devant la maternité resplandissante de nos copines, aussi profondément que le désarroi de nos maris ou compagnons désemparés. Allez – vous – faire – foutre – en espérant que vous en sortirez un joli poupon !

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  19. Well, I’ve apparently sacrificed 3 decades to this you speak up. Had my first in my twenties, second just before 30, third almost mid thirties, and then became very ill, so no more babies. Until… forties. I lay here on my side, hungry, and wishing this squirmy little human would come out already. My oldest just grabbed her keys and hopped in her cute white Jeep to go to church. She has combined her Jr and Sr years to graduate early. She is the teen people only dream about, except she is my girl and it’s real. This will be my fourth girl. I also have a second grader and seventh grader. Meanwhile, I’m learning to make myself more of a priority and have better boundaries over all. That is one of the things many forty or fifty-somethings might have a better grip on. What tough, besides the other tough things, is the variance in ages and how there is need to juggle such diverse things for said ages. While pregnant, tired, contracting (the kind that are pointless too… sheesh) and not sleeping well. Upside? Sending my teen on an errand on her way home from school so I don’t have to do anything after picking up her little sis. Yes, I have perks too, even in my situation, and will have big sisters to help.

    Anyway, this piece is written from a rather narrow view, but that isn’t a bad thing. It is the author’s life and perception and I’m not offended. And I have been on the hill, with a body that has been through hell, some white hairs in my roots, watching my kids play from afar as they could swim well. But soon I’ll be back in the trenches, flabby body having housed 4 beautiful children, with more wisdom and knowledge than most of the moms in mingling with. And that is just where I am. And I intend to enjoy every second of it.

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