I recently celebrated
the fifth anniversary of my 29th birthday my 34th birthday, and it got me thinking about an episode of Sex and the City with the above title, minus the Mom part. In that episode, Carrie and friends reminisce — and shudder — over being in their 20s, and consider how much they have grown in their careers and personal lives since then. Some may take offense at the implication that young women in their 20s are not really women until they hit their 30s. And after all, it’s clear that those 20-somethings have some advantages us older folks may lack: they are not yet set in their ways, they are still idealistic and driven to put their natural talents to good use, and they typically have a better handle on new technologies, if only because they literally grew up with them. But then again, it’s also true that no amount of intelligence, education, drive or even sheer talent can compare to the deep inner wisdom gained only through life experience.
It’s a cliche in this country that most of us women with careers spend our 20s establishing ourselves professionally, and then turn to more traditional domestic pursuits, including marriage and children, as we enter our 30s, or at least at some point within that decade. I remember being a 20-something, telling people that I would have children when I was around 37 or 38. Why? Because that seemed like the ideal time to have them. I figured that by then, I would be pushing the limits of my fertility, but would also be far enough along in my career to “justify” (whatever that means) taking the time off for having kids. The punchline is that I’m now 34, with a husband, a mortgage, a toddler and a 9-month-old in tow. And by the way, there is NEVER an ideal time to have kids, as far as your career is concerned. It’s hard because you’re too young and not yet established, or it’s hard because you’re too senior and have too many responsibilities, because IT IS JUST HARD.
I remember reading somewhere a while ago that according to some study (yeah, I know, lazy tonight with the linkies), the key factor that contributes to confidence in parenting is not the age of the mother, but the level of experience that she has had with parenting. In other words, it’s possible that a 22-year-old mom of two kids is more confident, due solely to experience, than the 38-year-old first-time mom of a new baby. While some would argue — as I did, vehemently, in my 20-something days, that <GASP> twenty-two is way too young to be a mom, and that of course a 38-year-old would do a lot better job at it due solely to her LIFE experience, it appears that PARENTING experience is by far more important than the number of years you have walked this earth.
Some of this may sound redundant if you read my posts regularly, because I did something on a similar topic a while back. Hey, my philosophy is to stick with what you know when it comes to writing. But I digress. To change things up a bit, and in
mourning over celebration of my 34th birthday, I’m going to look forward to being in my 40s, instead of dwelling on what is over and done with from my 20s, or be overly preoccupied with what I think I should be doing here in my 30s. So here is what I want to say to my future 44-year-old self:
1. Be patient with me. I know, I made a lot of mistakes, both as a parent and as a person in general. I needed to learn in order to become you.
2. Please tell me you are going to not have the same hair as me. Don’t be that 40-something with the same hair for more than a decade.
3. Your career is the result of the decisions I made, I know. I hope you are happy with it. I am doing everything I can to make you feel fulfilled, but also provide for your family.
4. Look at your kids. I know they can make you pull your hair out, but things would be worse if not for the sacrifices I am making right now to ensure that you pull your hair out over typical kid shenanigans, like breaking an expensive lamp or scratching the car — not calling you to be bailed out of jail, or worse.
5. Thank you for persisting.