On the face of it ‘thirty’ should be just another birthday, but it turns out it's not. I’ve not felt such pressure from my peers to do something special for my birthday since I turned 21. At 21 I had a week long party involving lots of booze, memory loss, the police refusing to take me home because I was too drunk and a trip to Alton Towers. I am turning 30 in less than 2 weeks and I’m not feeling in the party spirit. This is partly because having (practically single handedly) organised my daughter's Christening and my wedding this year I don’t really have the energy to arrange another party. It’s also partly because I feel a bit of a mess: my roots needed doing months ago, I’m about a stone heavier than I was when I left hospital after having Baby M and most of my clothes have never been introduced to fashion, let alone the current trend. And while in my former life most of this would be resolvable I don’t currently have the time or the money to improve things.
I thought I was doing ok, I thought the ghosts that haunt people as they turn 30 wouldn’t get me. Turns out I was wrong. Daniel Levinson* called it the “Age 30 transition”. A stage when people move from “Entering the Adult World” to “Settling Down”. He also identified the next transition stage when people are 40 to 45 when the well known mid-life crisis can occur (Levinson called it the “mid-life transition”).
So I’m having my turning 30 crisis, but why would I be feeling sad? If you asked me when I was at school what I wanted to achieve by the time I was 30 I would probably have said: get married, have my own car and house, have children and have a good job. Well I can tick all of those off. In my less realistic moments I might also have asked to be a millionaire and incredibly beautiful, but I’m not really complaining about being reasonably well off and having a face that, while not beautiful, doesn’t make children run away screaming. Well not if I have make up on.
I think my problem is although I have moved into the “settling down” stage through choice many of my peers haven’t. I have many friends (and sisters) who can go out partying without worrying about who will look after the baby, will she feed, and will they ever be able to catch up on enough sleep to be merely a zombie rather than comatose? They can also spend time shopping to find clothes and get ready so they look amazing when they go out. I can’t even work out how to arrange childcare so I can get my hair done.
To make things worse I seem to know an awful lot of glamorous mummies. I have very few nice casual clothes and what I have seems to quickly get messed up thanks to the baby, cats and grabbing food on the go. Plus I have a limited option of what I can wear that can give me easy access to my boobs.
Very few of the mums I see regularly, and none of the most glamorous ones, are still breastfeeding and probably related to this most of their babies are far less dependent on them. For example one friend left her baby when a week old to go get her nails done and regularly leaves her daughter in the crèche so she can work out in the gym.
And the hardest thing about everything I'm feeling? I chose it all. I wanted everything that I now have. And I still want it, but I miss the things I don’t have:
- I would love to go on holiday.
- I would love some time out: to go swimming, to go shopping, to get my hair done, to exercise, to catch up with friends, or even just an entire day doing nothing.
- I would love to have a number of outfits that aren't all crumpled up and that make me feel attractive.
- After the weather for the last month I would love to be able to sit in the garden in the sunshine and drink a cup of tea.
But I also don’t want to be away from my baby for long.
So I’m going to make myself that cup of tea and if I’m lucky I might get to drink it before Baby M wakes up. I’m going to tell myself that my current depressed state is due to an unavoidable life stage and compounded my lack of sunshine. I’m going to cuddle my daughter when she wakes up from her nap and play with her for the rest of the day.
And I’m going to try not to think “what if?” because deep down I know my life is actually rather brilliant and I just need to try and remember that.
*Daniel Levinson wrote about these life stages in “Seasons of a man’s life” 1985. I have a degree in Psychology, can you tell?