I’m turning forty in two weeks, and I have very mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I feel like I’m in a good place. I have accomplished most of what I hoped to accomplish by this age - marriage, children, financial stability, something resembling a career - and so I really can’t complain. On the other hand, though, the dark side of me can’t help noting that, statistically speaking, my life is half over, and the half that’s left isn’t the good half. Instead of having the best years ahead of me, I feel like the best years, if not already in the past, are happening RIGHT NOW, and that scares the crap out of me. The thing is, ten years ago, I’d just had my first child. And ten years from now, both of my kids will be in college. Which means that I’m right there, in the sweet spot between frazzled new mom and devastated empty-nester. I want desperately to be right here, forever. I don’t want my kids to grow up and move out. But, short of falling in love with a vampire and having him turn me and my children into his undead family for all of eternity, I don’t see how that’s going to happen.
Upon realizing this, my first thought was that I needed to have another kid. Because that would, after all, land me right back in the sweet spot in another ten years. But my husband was not so keen on this idea, and wisely pointed out that at some point, I will not be able to keep procreating, and therefore will, also at some point, have to face the fact that my life is going to change as my children get older.
It’s not that I’ve built my world around my children. I’ve found work that I immensely enjoy. I have a fun, loving marriage. I have lots of friends. But for the last ten years, all of that has taken a back seat to my kids. I could be much more productive in my work. My husband and I don’t spend much time alone with each other. I don’t see my friends that often. The truth is, despite the other things that keep me occupied, if my kids were to grow up and move out tomorrow, I think I’d feel that there was a gaping hole where most of my life used to be. Which is why I’ve decided that, in lieu of having another baby, what I really need to do is to develop a ten-year plan.
The plan, as I envision it, is to slowly begin filling that hole over the next decade, so that when my children do finally move out, I’ll actually look forward to having all of that extra time instead of dreading it to my core. My plan, of course, is highly personal to me. I’d like to join a book club, which is something I’ve always wanted to do but have never had the time for. I’d like to take up tennis, so that by the time my kids are out of the house I’d be good enough to have a regular game. I’d like to start reaching out to other writers and find a shared office space, so that I won’t feel so isolated when I’m working every day. I’d like to start volunteering so that, when the time comes, I’ll be experienced enough to take on a more meaningful role. And I’d like spend more time with my friends and cultivate new ones, so that I’ll have a wide circle of people to meet for lunch or the movies, to exercise or travel with.
Of course, not all of this is going to happen over night. My kids still need me now, and I don’t have the time to do all of those things right away. But that’s why it’s a ten-year plan; something to keep in the back of my mind, something to build towards as my children begin to depend on me less and less, even while they’re still at home. What I’m hoping is that, in ten years, when I’m about to turn fifty, I’ll look back on this time and tell myself that I had it all wrong. I’m hoping that there will be more sweet spots along the way, maybe even sweeter than this.
Originally published on ModernMom