Dear Forty-Something-Year-Old Woman…

Dear Forty-something-year-old woman,

Who didn’t see it coming…who thought it would never happen. Who once looked at other ‘middle-aged’ ladies and couldn’t believe that would ever be you. Because it seemed so impossible and you felt so invincible. In your teens, and twenties, ready to take on the world, believing you could ‘have it all’, even your thirties were a breeze compared to this.

I see you, forty-something-year old woman, I pass you every day on the school run. Your car passes mine, and as we make way for each other, we briefly wave a harassed thank you. We pass in the playground, trying to remember to smile whilst realising we have toothpaste on our top and our child should be dressed in mufti…

I see you driving your car, letting me go, just like I let you go, as if there is this silent, unspoken agreement among forty-something mums, that we will help each other out where we can. You smile in exhausted thanks and I smile back. No problem. I know the feeling.

Dear forty-something-year old woman, I see you tapping into your phone while waiting for your child to finish their club and I see the disapproving glares you get from grandmothers and grandfathers. They don’t know what I know. That you are receiving text messages from your teenager, who might miss their bus and might also need picking up, even though that means driving across the other side of town, right into rush hour traffic. That you are answering emails from work as they pop up endlessly on your screen, because you might as well deal with them now so that later you can give yourself to your kids. That you are paying bills with a tap and a swipe, or answering messages to keep your business going.

I see you in the supermarket looking lost as you naviagate the ailsles, torn as always between pleasing everyone, keeping them healthy and balancing the bank account. Someone phones you wanting something from you. Texts bing and vibrate. You don’t want to be there, or anywhere. You want to run and hide.

But you do it all anyway, as if getting married and giving birth automatically allocated the most mundane jobs your way. Choosing the meals, planning the menu, writing the list, driving everywhere, finding a parking space, traipsing the aisles and secretly wanting to ram your trolley into every inconsiderate person who gets in your way. Packing the shopping into the bags for life as fast as the checkout lady can throw it at you. Trying not to displease anyone, and all the time, wishing you could just scream.

I see you when you go jogging, fitting it in when you can, which is never as often as you think you should…I see the guilt on your face that you are doing something just for you, to make you feel better, something that takes you away from your family. And I see your face when you pass your reflection and wonder what happened to the old you, why it’s so hard to lose weight these days, why no matter how much you run, or diet, it’s still just the same, like your body is determined to turn you into a frump.

I see you at the doctor’s surgery, wondering whether you are wasting their time and yours, but worried all the same, about bulging veins, or hot flushes or misbehaving periods. I see you following health advice on social media, noting supplements that might help, whilst all the time knowing deep inside that nothing will help apart from screaming.

Dear forty-something-year-old woman, hot and tired and red-faced, your teenage hormones are back to haunt you. A second adolescence, a rerun of puberty, from bad skin and weight gain, to rollercoaster emotions. One minute you are as high as the sky, without any wine, high on life, smiling to yourself, content and in a perfect dream, everything makes you happy, everything is to hope for and dream for. The next moment you are exploding from the inside, red rage billowing in your guts and spewing like fire up to your flame-red chest. You are gritting your teeth, afraid to let go, afraid to do anything more than sigh or roll your eyes, because if you do, if you open your mouth, if you let it out, give voice to every little thing that has ever pissed you off…it might never end, you might never stop. And then you are crashing, falling, spiralling violently down to earth and after that, just sadness. Almost a comfortable friend. Someone you remember from the past. Tears in your eyes at almost everything. You want to be alone with this. You need to be alone.

Insecurity, self-doubt, urges to self-destruct. What you really need is time alone, or with a friend, with another self-depracating forty-something-year-old woman, who feels the same, who knows what you know and can help put names to the feelings. You want to explode, you want to be seen but also invisible.

But you can’t. Not when there are children to pick up, and playground etiquette to observe, emails to read and answer, lists to tick off, money to save, beds to make, washing to hang out and bring back in and place on the stairs for everyone but you to ignore, toilets to clean, gardens to tend, dogs to walk, homework to supervise, bills to pay, shopping to do, Christmas to plan and in the middle of it all stands you, swimming, while the world spins around you.

I know you sometimes think that you are not good enough. That you will never win, never do it all or have it all, never feel thin enough, that the to-do list will never end, that you’ll always be lacking, torn between kids and work and relationships. I know you fear so much. That your mind turns and your stomach churns with the great unknown, with climate change and Brexit, with plastic pollution and school funding, with things you have no control over, things you want to protect your children from. It keeps you awake at night and hits you cold at the strangest of times. What are we doing here? What is this all about? Is this what I thought life would be?

Forty-something years old…but still you. Still young. Tougher than you know. Shining brighter than you realise. So much would fall apart without you at the centre. Forty-something, but still something…still someone.

Dear forty-something-year-old woman, let’s be friends. Let’s see each other. Let’s smile and wave and meet for coffee and wine. Let’s name our grievances and laugh about them. Let’s swap horror stories and feel less alone. Let’s remind each other that though so much is behind us, including our youth, there is still so much more ahead. That it can only get easier, that the best way through is to laugh and scream and cry and sing. That we are still us and that sometimes we need help and that sometimes we just need each other.

29 thoughts on “Dear Forty-Something-Year-Old Woman…

  1. Let me depress you further. The next 10 years fly past like a super-charged thief in the night. Good stuff though, you nailed it.

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  2. Dear40something from a40something. You made me smile, relate & cry it’s 23:46 & I know I should put the iPad down and sleep before the 8 year old wakes for a mummy cuddle cause he had a bad dream. But I don’t because at 40Something this is my peaceful moment, where I can surf and be 20/30 something before exhausted sleep sneaks in.
    Thank you for your beautiful honest letter x

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    1. What an incredible read, many memories came flooding back to me as I’m 46 and my
      Children are all grown up, and I’m a grandma now, but there isn’t one thing in what I read that I haven’t done or felt, and this was a very peaceful thing to read, thank you.

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  3. Wow, what a beautiful piece of writing. Confirms to me that we need to support each other and find time for that self care πŸ’•. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you so much Sian! I appreciate you taking the time to read and leave a comment πŸ™‚ And I agree. I wrote this after spending some much needed time with a fellow 40-something year old woman, and she made me realise I am not alone in all this!

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  4. Dear forty something woman, oh how I wish I were forty something again. From a baffled sixty something – and unable to get my head around those ridiculous numbers! Another reason too why I am so late to the party πŸ˜‰
    Great piece as ever Chantelle’

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  5. So so true but please don’t leave your non mum friends out of the discussion. We feel the same but possibly feeling the loss of not having children even though we’ve accepted it won’t happen. Or even if we made the decision not to have children, or couldn’t have them for whatever reason. There is a sadness that goes along with the changing hormones in a different way but the ups and downs, the tiredness, the anger, the frustrating and anxiety are much the same.

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    1. Hi Karen, thanks so much for taking the time to read and leave a comment, it’s very much appreciated! I hope my post being somewhat aimed at mums has not caused offence. It was written after I spent some much needed time with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. I’d been feeling very alone with these mood swings and frustrations and it was such a relief to hear her saying she had been experiencing some of the same things, so I suppose I did have mums in mind when I wrote it, as I’m friends with this particular lady due to children. It was also somewhat directed at the mums I pass at school, where no one ever has enough time to do more than wave or smile, so I think that was in my head too. I do have some non-mum friends that I will definitely check in with to see how they’re feeling at this stage of life, so thank you for reminding me not to leave them out πŸ™‚

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      1. Wow! This totally resonated with me! Thank you so much for sharing. It’s great to read this and the comments and to know I’m not alone xx

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  6. I’ve read your article three times and then I had to share it! I was having one of THOSE days, and then I read this and I feel SO much better!
    It just sums up exactly how I feel, most of the time. Thank you !

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    1. Thank you so much Johanna! I am so happy it resonated with you and I hugely appreciate you sharing it too! All the comments coming through for this blog post have really helped me too, because I was also feeling really alone with these thoughts/feelings. It’s amazing to know so many other women get it! I wish I could have drinks of wine with you all! πŸ™‚

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  7. My lovely friend shared this and I’m so glad she did. We’re also 40Something and you’ve pretty much nailed what life is like right now! It’s comforting for us all to know that we’re not alone πŸ™‚ Hugs! xx

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    1. Hi Emma, thank you so much for taking the time to read and leave a comment! I’m so pleased your friend shared it too! I’ve had such a lovely response to this post, that I also feel less alone now and also feel a bit more confident about blogging about these issues in the future. Thank you so much for your kind words and virtual hugs! πŸ™‚

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  8. Loved this, thank you for writing what I’ve been thinking so well! I am about to enter my 50s and feel stronger and better informed that all these thoughts are normal.

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  9. This article is so bang on the mark, the inner feelings that go unspoken!!!!!

    My friend shared this with me. Your words are what us mums feel and fight through everyday but never speak about…as to not burden others with your funk and feel guilty for having these emotions, after all, we wanted this right!!

    Those alone moments you mention, in the car, shopping, housework, we are still thinking of others needs and not our own.
    The important thing through all this, if you aren’t looking after yourself, without our daily unselfish efforts, it would all fall apart.

    Whilst prioritising all this for others for the next many years as a mum, my partner tells me…you worry too much…you do too much…life isn’t all about washing and housework…
    I collapsed in a heap on the bed one day and he said all you do is sleep, that was the final head exploding moment where I could have screamed profanities but maintained my dignity and said I’m not doing it all anymore… everyone else can do it, he soon went quiet, walked away and apologised after acknowledging all my waking breathing moments are for him and our son!!

    The bit about not forgetting the friends who don’t have children.. I get that…they listen but never understand how you feel when they don’t invite you to evenings out and you see them having fun on social media. Or they arrange parties and say no children allowed than get annoyed with you because you tell them how it makes you feel!!
    Life’s a bummer at times and you can’t please everyone.

    To all the 40something mums too, you are good enough, schedule in those alone moments for you, go for a hike, sit in the car with the music full volume and pretend you are in your teens again for that moment, you are still human and have needs too!
    Hang in there and have fun with it all!!!

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting Michaela! It is very much appreciated. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and that it resonated with you. As for music in cars, oh my god, that’s my saviour I think! That and my writing and walking my dogs. I love being alone in my car with the music on full blast!!

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