Last night was a big night for me, the penultimate night of my 30’s! How did I mark the last few days of my middle-youth? I left Big M to put the kids to bed while I had a pedi with a friend. In the mall. It was a crazy night. We even headed out early to have a mooch around H&M (kids section) before our appointment.
I know I need to get out more. I know I should have at least headed to a bar with a bunch of girlfriends. But the truth of it? I had a wonderful night of calm, quiet conversation and, at five months pregnant with a three and a one year old constantly attached to me during the day, it was just the luxury break I needed.
Anyone close enough to hear me grumble knows that a lot of 40th celebrations were cancelled this summer. Once we realized there was another baby on the way the girls trip to Mexico went out the window (Zika virus!). The Saturday night party at a hotel in San Francisco was snaffled (when I finally admitted to myself that 8pm was the new bedtime)… And here’s the thing, although I was disappointed, there was a relief in all of it! Pregnancy gave me the excuse I needed to put on baggy pants, watch tv and embrace middle-age with abandon.
Despite all the attached fertility and health issues, starting a family in your later years is still all the rage. In our peer group of old uni and work friends back home, and certainly amongst our parent friends in the US, the large majority had their first kid after 35 and a surprising portion of that at 40+. And this trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere yet, when I gave birth to our first at 36 I felt ancient, having a third at 40 feels almost the norm.
The obvious down side of being an ‘old mum’ is feeling and looking totally knackered all of the time. At 27 skin is designed to kind of bounce back after 4 hours sleep. At 40 it most certainly is not! Big M and I spend most of our days just clinging on to the edge of sanity and trying to be civil to each other whilst counting the hours before we can sleep again. I don’t know for sure that any of this would feel easier if we were 10 years younger, but I suspect some of the onset Alzheimer’s and psychosis would be lessened if we had a few less years on the clock.
But here’s the not-so-secret flip side… having small humans in your life makes you feel YOUNG! Rearing kids and looking after other humans is the surest way to keep that creepiest element of old age, self-absorption, at bay. It necessarily keeps you fit and fun and, while you might look 100 years old, not having enough time or focus to give a damn about it is actually more youth-injecting than any expensive serum.
And it’s addictive. Having children has become the new mid-life crisis for our generation. Gone are the sports cars and face lifts, these days we just want to keep procreating long enough to complete the ultimate myth of the 90’s kids that 40 is the new 30. Having teenagers in their 40s is what our parents did right? And the biggest fear of the 40th birthday is that finally, inevitably, we have become our mum or dad. The more of us there are, men and women, pushing strollers and making organic play dough into our 40’s the easier it is to ignore the horror of pensions and P&O cruises which, lets face it, are right around the corner.
I was listening to BBC Radio 2 a few days back (well I am now officially 40!) and Jo Whiley was explaining the new-ish phenomenon in the UK of the family-festival. Events like Latitude and Bestival, to name just a couple, seem to be the preserve of the 90’s clubbing generation – all of us convinced that if we can somehow combine kiddie crafts, goat hair weaving and uber-expensive face paints with leaping around to Orbital then we need never become old. If ever there was a symbol of the ‘middle-youth’ syndrome of Gen X then this stretch of muddy fields packed with Audi’s, Volvos and luxury yurts must be it.
So while I dot extra old-lady cream under my eyes and try to push through this final ‘geriatric’ pregnancy, I concede that being an old parent sometimes gives me the best of both worlds… I get to complain loudly about being exhausted and stay in my PJs all day, whilst simultaneously wallowing in the myth of extended youth with the rest of my peers; We are not menopausal, we are not middle aged.. Just look! Our children are YOUNG!