I had a birthday over the weekend.
It was a good one, as birthdays go. No big fanfare, just my favorite flavor of cake (chocolate), my favorite flavor of ice cream (mint chocolate chip), my favorite meal (beef pot roast the way my grandma used to make it). I got to spend about three or four hours doing my own thing (a little horse time, a little sewing, a little crafting), without kids or grandkids tagging along, and without DH interrupting me to ask where this thing is or where that thing goes, or when such and such is going to get done. Probably the most satisfying day I've had in a long time.
Which made yesterday all the more frustrating to get through: interruptions, people wanting me to do things for them, grandchildren foisted on me "for a minute or two" that turned into closer to an hour when I was all ready fairly busy. . .
Blah. I feel like a grumpy old lady. Which, sadly, is nothing new, but in the last several months it's gone from an occasional thing to just about every day . I'm not sure if it's just that time of year (short days, dreary skies, the craziness of the holiday season) or if it's due to the housing situation (having DS1 & family living here with us), or if it's what happens to women in their forties (hormones, you know).
Most likely it's a combination of all three. I suspect, however, being 43 itself has something to do with it. You see, many years ago, I figured out I would be 43 when my youngest child graduated from high school. 43 when I had an empty nest. 43 when my time would be more my own, rather than decided by what kid needed what when and where. My 'retirement', of sorts.
I've looked forward to being 43. Motherhood has been, truthfully, a long haul. I've been at it for 25 years now. Almost 26 if you count from when I first got pregnant with my eldest. Because that was when I started to relinquish myself to the needs of my offspring: eat right while pregnant. Get adequate sleep while pregnant. Stop riding unbroken horses while pregnant. Stop barrel racing horses at 4 months pregnant. Stop riding all together (even on the most trustworthy horses) from 7 months pregnant to 6 weeks post partum. And then, with DS2: no drinking on 21st birthday (pregnant). No drinking at all while pregnant for DS2, DD1 (22nd birthday!), DD2. . . No medications at all while pregnant with any of them, not even a pain reliever (I was a purist). No "dangerous" behavior, no matter how fun it sounded. (Okay, I confess, I did gallop a horse while pregnant for DD1, but I rode in two-point, so not to jostle the baby!)
Not to mention the school functions and the sports events I went to; all of which I wouldn't have attended had I not been the mother of a participant. And with four kids, there have been hundreds of them. Have I ever said that I am not a sports fan? I really, really, have no desire for spectator sports. Yet, I've been to soccer games and football games and basketball games (girls and boys) and baseball games and softball games and track meets. . .
43 has sort of stood in my future like a shining beacon of freedom. Of accomplishment. Well done, good and faithful mother. Nearly 26 years of being 'on the job' 24/7. Who wouldn't be ready to retire after 25+ years of service?
43 has represented completion: no more mandatory attendance at
But now 43 is here. I am little more than five months away from my youngest daughter's high school graduation. Little more than eight months before she leaves for college. And my house is fuller than it ever was. It will not be empty when I'm 43. And I will not be done raising children or putting off my desires in order to make time for their needs.
I'm in a strange place. I cannot begrudge K3 and Toad their need for me when their parents are not home. Nor can I deny that I feel just as strongly about their being with a parent (or grandparent) rather than a babysitter as much as possible, as I did with my own children. I want what I want for them, yet it means more self-sacrifice on my part. Yet on the other hand, I don't want to let go of the dream of what 43 is supposed to be for me. I did my time. I gave it my all, and then some. I'm tired. I want to be done. I want to move on, to get to do all the things I've waited years (or decades) to do.
I'm afraid 43 is not going to be an easy age.