Notes from the Middle

I celebrated my birthday this last weekend. It wasn’t a big one or a milestone––just a normal, next year sort of birthday. I’ve been in the process of recovering from a terrible cold since Christmas. It goes in waves and I’ve maxed out on all the drugs so was reduced to napping on the couch, sipping an apple cider vinegar and cayenne pepper concoction. Fortunately, after a feverish night, I felt well enough on my actual day to enjoy Frank’s boeuf bourguignon an afternoon of hanging out.

I was talking with a friend about this stage in our late thirties. We’re not really in the young parenting years of the “tired thirties,” though we’re not fully out of them yet, either. Nor are we yet in the world-conquering decade of the forties. Our kids are more independent but not fully. My identity is still that of stay-at-home mom, though I’m seeing a new season quickly approaching.

It’s a year that I could easily wish away, in pursuit of what’s next.

I recently got a book by an author I really like about being in her forties but just a few paragraphs in, I knew it was too soon. I’m not there yet. I liked what she had to say and am looking forward to reading it when the time is right but it’s just not yet my season.

I’m learning to be careful about living in the moment. I’m a person who can not only plan for what’s next but also romanticize the next stage. When people say, “Mamas of littles, it gets better!” I suddenly find myself fighting discontentment. I start noticing all the ways it’s not better and looking forward to the ways it will be.

But that’s not reality. Each season has its strengths and struggles and I’m remembering to embrace both. For me, this looks like having endless tea parties with Elle because it’s the last year we’ll have time and space to do whatever we want together. It’s blogging without goals of platform building or book publishing because that’s what I have the capacity for in this moment. It’s remembering the choices I’ve made and the fact that seasons of transition are just as important to embrace as the full-on season itself.

I love dreaming the big dreams and spinning ideas for what life could look like in the next years and decades. It’s fun and energizing. But I never want to take away from this moment. From walking to school and volunteering and having the space to just take a day off to rest or see a movie with the girls. These are unique and precious years, I know.

So just like my one word for the year is not a word at all, I’m starting this next year of life without much of a guide. I’m learning to plant my feet in the space I’m in now, to pursue dreams and ideas while holding them lightly. I’ll both expand on ideas and read more novels. I’ll invest in my community and in my small family. I won’t pick up the half-finished Costco box projects just yet because I’m starting to see the beauty in those games.

There’s something peaceful in sitting with this moment. I’m spinning less, comparing less, and finding more ideas that I hadn’t considered. I’m learning to lean into that freedom and my shoulders are relaxing a bit. Who knows where this year will end––I never do, right?––but for now, I’m thankful for the time and space to stop and enjoy.

What about you? Are you in a season of hustle or pause? Are you pursuing the next right thing or are you breathing in this moment?

In the Middle of the Tired Thirties

The Tired Thirties. This phrase, first coined by Sloan Wilson in Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, was used to describe that period for businessmen when they tried to balance family life with the long hours and demands of working their way up the corporate ladder. It has since been taken over by young mothers after Madeleine L’Engle used the term to describe her own experience in raising small children.

img_3103We’re certainly right in the middle of the tired thirties. The girls are at a demanding stage. Even if they can play independently, that only goes so far. And the routine itself can get monotonous: breakfast, get ready, school/playdate/errands/activity, lunch, naptime/quiet rest, late afternoon destruction of house, dinnertime, bedtime, repeat.

And yet, I can’t bring myself to use the tired thirties as an excuse. I am tired but when I take a look at what is most life-giving in this phase, it is the very thing that makes me most tired.

I suppose that’s the way it goes. What makes us most happy, what gives us the most joy, is what we give our time and energy to. Whether it’s children, a job, a calling, these things energize and fill. And they also can be consuming and draining.

There’s the balance – that happy medium. In many ways, it’s harder to draw the same boundaries around my children than I can about volunteering or work. I can’t just be done with mothering.

So I’m getting more creative in ways I can be less tired. Sometimes this means spending more time with the girls, since they do thrive on that routine. Sometimes it means taking time for myself. Mostly it means constantly changing my expectations and what works because what works yesterday most likely won’t work tomorrow.

And I’m learning that the reason these tired thirties are so tiring is probably the best reason to be tired.

How do you balance the tiring with the life-giving? Are they easy to separate or are they intertwined?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is Middle.