motherhood

Bless Her Heart: Turning 40 as the Mother of a Preschooler

Me and my sweet K
Me and my sweet K

I remember thinking it even if I was too polite to say it aloud.

When I graduated from high school in 1993 and a few of the girls who were graduating with me were pregnant with their first child or would be within a couple of years, I remember thinking, Why would they do that? They are ruining their lives. Or, at the very least, it’s going to take them soooo much longer to reach their goals.

And maybe some of that was true. Not the ruining their lives part, of course. That was just my ridiculous shortsightedness at work. But my mom had me at 19, so I think I was fully aware of the sacrifices a younger mom had to make in order to care for her children.

Particularly as it related to education and career-goals; the pursuit of passions and dreams. My mother waited until she was 30 to go back to school for an Associates degree and didn’t finish her Bachelors degree until she was 46.

That was never something I wanted for myself. Or so I thought.

In the vision I had for myself, my twenties and early thirties were to be about the pursuit of dreams and passions. Getting all the education I could stand. Falling down and getting back up. Meeting people and traveling the world.

And I did exactly that.

And it was amazing.

But… as I’m a few days from turning 40… I find myself thinking that maybe, just maybe, my high school and college girlfriends might just be having the last laugh.

Because as I scroll through my Facebook timeline and see them all taking fabulous cruises to the Bahamas, having a blast at the Essence Music Festival, and road-tripping to to spas in L.A. or New York City, what am I doing?

Arguing with an almost-4-year-old about why wiping well and washing hands is mandatory.

Desperately calling people I trust—which, at 40, is exactly two people—to see if K can spend the night, so Hubby and I don’t implode because of a lack of adult “interaction.” Ahem.

Meanwhile our friends who had children early are “interacting” all over the house. Lol.

And of course, as an older mom who doesn’t run fast and hates to sweat, I couldn’t get the standard issue preschooler. God, that great divine comedian, selected one of His uber-gregarious, fearless, let’s-see-what-it-is-like-to-jump-off-the-deck varieties.

In the words of my side-eying, spicy-tongued elders back home in Kentucky: “Bless Her Heart.”

Yes, please. Bless. My. Heart.

See, I spent my young adulthood doing wonderful, fabulous things. I wrote books and plays and lived in four different cities. I traveled and acquired three degrees. I fell in love with amazing and not-so-amazing dudes. Unfortunately though, like most twenty-somethings, I was long on courage and short on wisdom. But my 40+ girlfriends with kids who are teens, in college or out of the house? These chicks are now experiencing all those same awesome things with the added benefit of the wisdom and life experience to make it more enriching. They can pursue dreams and passions with the advantage of having a clearer picture of who they are, the nature of their gifts, and the knowledge of what they will and won’t tolerate. The margins of error are smaller, I think.

And yet, in spite of this reflection, I wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world. The loving and losing, the falling and getting back up, the fearlessness and the unwise decisions, all of it has shaped me into the woman I am today. And most likely, I hope, it has made me the exact variety of mother my K would need for her own life’s journey.

So I didn’t get it wrong. And neither did my girlfriends. Sure, there are always ideal circumstances but at the end of the day, I got it right for me. They got it right for them. God designed us for a specific purpose (our own and our children’s) and our choices can all feed those purposes—if we allow them to. If we release ourselves from that nasty shoulda, coulda, woulda disease. Reflection is one thing. Regret is entirely another. I can reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of having a child later in life (or someone else having a child early) without regretting my (or their) reality.

I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. – Philippians 4:12 MSG

So I suppose the lesson here is to be content in any and every season we as moms find ourselves in. This is true whether you are a 20-year old new mom, with minimal support, who has to cultivate patience and endurance as you put school off a few years to spend time nurturing and providing for your baby, or you are the free-spirit, artist mommy who has children in her later years and now has to shift herself out of the oblivion of self-centeredness while acquiring the ability to run like Flo-Jo and dive for a ball like Serena.

It really is all good.

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4 thoughts on “Bless Her Heart: Turning 40 as the Mother of a Preschooler

  1. Wow, I am enamored by your attitude. I don’t think there’s a “right” way to do things because both have their perks and their hardships. I think it’s absolutely inspiring that you achieved so much during the years when society emphasizes freedom, growth, exploration, travel, career, and education. You are the poster child! Remember that those “glamorous” trips by former friends now that their kids have left the nest are not always what they appear! 🙂 they can’t compete with the time spent with the gift God gave you or the degrees you earned. Such an insightful post! I loved reading every word!

  2. It really is all good. I would not trade places with your for all of the chocolate in the world. But I am so glad that we’ve grown to the place of self-acceptance where we acknowledge that we don’t have to take the same path to reach the same destination. That’s love. Great job!

  3. While searching books to read on amazon, I just discovered you, reading the 1st chapters of your book. You are a great writer & I am so upset that The Gospel According To Sasha Renee is out of stock! Unfortunately I do not have a Kindle or Nook. I still prefer books the old fashioned way. You did things the right way, your way, what God intended. I have always wanted to be a writer, travel & be a college professor. I wanted to do that all in my youth & get married later. But life got in the way & I became pregnant at 20, quit college, got a regular job & took care of my kid. I’m 53 now & some dreams I have let go. Now I have Freedom. I was confined more or less in my younger years. A child is a gift & you experienced total freedom younger…Now just enjoy raising your daughter. Show her pictures of the things you have done. Everything happens when it is supposed to happen…

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