I woke up 44 the other day and was completely confused by this. Wasn’t I 22 just a couple of years ago? I’m also baffled by the idea that I’ve been married for 22 years – exactly half my life. I feel like I’m still waiting for someone to tell me I’m an adult, yet I’m closer to 50 than 30.
I supposed if we’d had kids that might make a difference in my view on this aging thing. Maybe I’d feel more “grown up,” but I’ll never know. We decided in our late 20s to try to get pregnant. It didn’t happen. We never pursued the fertility thing or adoption, and by our mid-30s we thought meh. We figured if it happened, great, if not, that would be just fine, too. Basically, we’re an childless couple who chose to stay childfree.
It’s tough to be childless in a child-centered society. If I had a penny for every time someone told me I didn’t know what I was missing or that I wasn’t a “complete” person or that it was the point of womanhood I’d be at the tippy top of the Forbes 100 list. I taught elementary school for a while and parents loved to tell me – sometimes subtly, sometimes directly – that I couldn’t possibly know what I was doing, since I didn’t have kids. It always made me feel like shit. Forget 2 Master’s degrees, 3 internships, and hundreds of hours of training. I didn’t spawn. For nearly 2 decades I’ve been excluded and made to feel like I didn’t fit in because my uterus refused to do its job. I’ve been treated like a cold, heartless person with no brain because I chose to roll with my infertility for very personal, very sound reasons that are, quite frankly, no one’s business.
And then, in my late 30s, peri-menopause hit, something usually associated with women whose children are grown, or at least in high school or college. So when I look for online resources or talk with women in their 50s about what I’m experiencing, there’s a weird disconnect. I simply can’t relate. People want to tell me I’m too young or to just wait, I ain’t seen nothin yet. And when it comes to “the change,” there are tons and tons of resources and loads of information about actual menopause and beyond, but not the roughly 10 years of hell that precede it.
Even though remaining childless has been a choice, it still feels strangely sad and a little frightening that soon the door will be totally shut on any possibility. Period, end of a story no one wants to hear or talk about.
When they pulled down the shades and sent the boys outside, the little film reel didn’t warn us what this would be like.
Still, I absolutely love being in my 40s. They’re going by too fast and I’d like them to slow down. I want to savor every second. This is the decade where I’ve learned how to set healthy, very strong boundaries. I’ve learned how to say no. I’m finally figuring out what’s truly important to me, learning how to honor that, to honor who I really am on the inside. I’m learning how to advocate for myself and my needs. Hell, I’m finally figuring out exactly what my needs actually are! And I’m learning how to keep moving, because while it may benefit someone else for me to stay stuck where and who and how I am, it doesn’t do anything for me.
For me this blog is about staying afloat rather than adrift in that in-between space so many of us have been wedged into. It’s about giving a voice to those of us who remained childless and/or child free and woke up 40-something one day and asked, “What the hell?”
I may be “middle-aged,” but this is not a midlife crisis.
I have entered the back half of my life, and this is my awakening.