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the joyless 40s

In truth, I never thought I’d be a mom. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always really liked being around children – I used to work with children when I was in high school as a summer camp counselor and then went on to be a front-line shelter worker in a homeless shelter for women and children as well as a worker at a Children’s Aid Society in Ontario.

It’s just that I never thought I’d be in a relationship long enough to have children of my own and I really didn’t see myself having children on my own. So when Meg and I knew that we were going to be Moms in 2011, I was full of nervousness and joy. When we knew we were going to have another daughter in 2015, I was more tired, more full of fear and nervousness but still full of joy.

Being a mom of two at 42 is not unusual anymore but let me tell you, it’s tiring. I think it’s a different experience being a parent with a toddler at 42 than at 32 or 22 when our moms had children. Being a mom with a toddler at 42, with an older child and a full-time, fairly intense job, is stressful. And apparently, according to the Brookings Institute, I’m not alone.

psychologytoday.com article entitled “Miserable and Middle- Aged?” I kid you not.

The world happiness index shows that for those of us in us in our 40s, life isn’t super fun. Apparently, the mid life is a shitty time for happiness but, according to the researchers, it’s higher for those of us who are married than those who are single. What I’d like to know, however, is where are women in mid-life on the happiness curve compared to men? Where’s that research? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s lower. And yet, if you look at the media coverage, men are the ones having the mid life crises. Men are the ones driving the convertibles and having affairs. Men are the ones railing against their own inadequacies and disappointments. What about my inadequacies and disappointments? What do I do with those?

Let’s look at the curve – 42, my age, is a particular low. And apparently it doesn’t get better until after 50. Wow. Another 8 years until my happiness curve starts to go back up? Really!? Do you think this is a function of having young children? Is it a function of trying to do too much? Do you think it’s a function of just trying to “balance” having a family and working full time?

stock photo that the Atlantic used in the article called, “The Real Roots of the Midlife Crisis”.

So what’s the answer? What’s the happiness quotient for a full life in the 40s? What’s the price that we pay for trying to be mothers and professionals? Are we still, as women, trying to “have it all” and failing? Are we still, after how many years, having the work-life balance conversation? I’m not having that conversation anymore. I want to have a different conversation. I want to talk about joy and laughter and love. I want to talk about taking care of our kids and ourselves and our mental health. I want to talk about happiness, yours and mine. What kinds of conversations are you having about where you find real joy and happiness? I hope you have pockets of joy, even if it’s not where you expect to find them. xo Janet

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