midlife crisis

Northumbrian sunrise

I’m probably overstating things with the title of this post, but I’m approaching a big birthday and it’s bringing with it some big thoughts. Forty *gulp* – it feels significant, and sensible. Irresolutely grownup.

And I’m just not sure I’m ready for that.

I remember my dad turning forty when I was a child. In celebration, I bought him a plastic walking stick filled with smarties. I thought it was hilarious: “Haha, Daddy, you’re so old!” Looking back, I’m not sure what he thought of it and I’m also not sure how I’d feel if one of my sons gave me the same present now. Well, I’d eat the smarties, obviously but does forty count as old? Surely not, but neither does it count as young enough for that joke to be entirely devoid of bite (except where the smarties are concerned hehe – stop eye-rolling, I’m allowed to make terrible jokes at my age).

I’ve noticed recently how forty is spoken of as if it’s crossing some sort of frontier – like a cut off point for desirability and dynamism in our youth-obsessed culture. Of course that’s not actually the case: older people can be every bit as attractive and even if our energy levels are lower than they were in the full flush of youth, our wisdom more than makes up for that. Nevertheless, forty is a point when you quite possibly have more of your life behind you than in front of you and I’m definitely finding it’s making me pause and reflect.

Have I achieved enough? Am I good enough at what I do? Have I followed enough of my dreams? And if the answer to any of those is no, is there enough time left to change that?

I’ve spoken to quite a few people about this recently. Most understand. Some say, ‘Oh forty was nothing, wait till you get to fifty!” with others’ it’s, “thirty was so much worse!” Personally, I barely noticed turning thirty: my eldest son was five months old and I spent my birthday weekend in a ‘luxury eco lodge’ (oh yes) in Yorkshire with some of my best friends. It was all healthy outdoor walks, home cooked meals and woodburning stoves, and between us we had a baby, a toddler and a pregnancy. It may be my least raucous birthday ever. We were all fully settled down and engaged with the homemaking and family-building stage of life.

And that stage of life defined my thirties, really. I had my first child at twenty-nine and my third (and last) at thirty-five. My youngest started school a couple of months ago meaning my thirties almost perfectly encapsulated the pre-school years of parenting. Perhaps that’s why this birthday feels particularly significant. I’m bidding farewell to my thirties, a decade of babies and toddlers, of constant change and challenge, of passionate new maternal love and friendships forged amidst the fires of sleep deprivation and vomit and birth stories and ‘oh-my-god-I-haven’t-a-clue-what-I’m-doing-oh-phew-neither-do-you-let’s-just-figure-this-out-together-ness’.

Of course, I had other focuses during the last decade too, but children were at the heart of it. When they’re little it feels natural for that to be the case – they need you so entirely. And now… now things are starting to feel different. My kids will always be my focus but now they’re all at school there’s more room for other things to enter the frame. And that’s great but it’s also making me feel so nostalgic for all those moments of passion and purpose and awe. For the wonder of creating new life and the craziness of living through those early years of it. Could another decade of my life ever be that intense? Would I want it to be?

And now it’s hello forties decade of…what? Career building? House renovation? (it’s all sounding a bit too grown up) dream following? Of knuckling down and get on with achieving everything I ever wanted to because time is slipping through my fingers and I’m not getting it back?

All of those? Or none of those? Or perhaps it’s just time for some consolidation – for realising what I’ve got and what I’ve created and nurtured and spending time working on the bits that need attention and enjoying the good stuff that comes my way.

I’m lucky, I know that. Lucky to have what I have and even more, who I have in my life. I think it’s enough. More than enough.

Forty isn’t time for a midlife crisis at all is it? It’s time for a midlife celebration!

And as anyone who’s spent any time with me recently will know, I’m having plenty of those! :)


I haven’t joined in any linkies for ages but this is the last ever week of ‘The Prompt’ which is one of my favourite linkies of all – I used to join in with it loads back when I blogged more regularly. Sara’s weekly prompts have been a huge inspiration to me (in fact, the first picture book text I ever wrote came from one of them) so it felt right to join in this last one. The prompt this week was ‘ENOUGH’. Thanks Sara!

12 thoughts on “midlife crisis

  1. Nicola Young

    This is EXACTLY how I felt about turning forty. The thirties really are a whizz of child-bearing and raising and there is a hint of something new on the horizon for the next decade. At the same time, because of the blur that was the last decade, you feel as though it’s come round a little too fast. Anyway, I kicked and screamed my way over the line, then I milked it for all it was worth, getting in as many celebrations as I could fit in the year – has to be done, trust me.

    Hope you enjoy it and all I can say is, welcome to the other side!!
    Nicola Young recently posted…When did it become acceptable to serve alcohol to 14 year olds?My Profile

    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks, Nic, I’m absolutely milking it for all it’s worth too! Has to be done! And I’m finding it quite nice on the other side – so many cool people are there! xx
      Maddy recently posted…midlife crisisMy Profile

  2. Susan Mann

    I got married on my 30th, so this helped soften the blow. My 30’s went by in a blur of young kids. I felt this way about turning 40 a few months back and like you, my youngest has just started school. I think it’s one of those for evaluating your life, it’s weird, isn’t it. You are amazing and happy birthday lovely xx

  3. Marija Smits

    I hear you, Maddy! So far I’ve enjoyed my one and a half years into my forties, so I hope you do too. Having more time for creativity definitely helps with the transition. :-) Wishing you all the very best for your forties! xx

  4. Alice @ The Filling Glass

    Keep enjoying the celebrations! Not quite being 40 yet I have no idea how I’m going to feel, but I think really it all depend on you and your life, there’s no right or wrong. But inevitably these big life moments are a time for reflection. As you are a positive person, I am sure positive will come of it. I like that your 30s have been defined by that young children stage, but now is a good time to move into a new phase! Xxx
    Alice @ The Filling Glass recently posted…Starting again when you’re feeling stuckMy Profile

    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks, Alice. It does feel like good timing, just rather intense timing too. You’ve got a few years yet so make the most of them and get loads of creative stuff crammed in! xx
      Maddy recently posted…midlife crisisMy Profile

  5. Hill

    What an intriguing post. Truly, age is just a number. I say this as somebody who insisted it be the same number for 11 years, but it’s something I believe even more now than I ever did. All your age says is how long you’ve been alive. What you’ve done and who you’ve been in that time is…different.
    We grow at different rates and in different ways. I have been on this earth 754 days longer than you, and yet am I ‘older’? I’m pretty sure I wasn’t when we first met, even though the relative difference then was a lot more than it is now. And now, look at all the great things you’ve done, and do on a daily basis?
    I think the sum of our ‘achievements’ boils down to two things – are we happy, and will people remember us fondly? I have felt for a little while now that if I die tomorrow, so be it, I’ve had a good run, I can’t complain. Obviously I don’t want to die tomorrow…cos that’s your birthday and you might find out and it might be a bit rubbish… But I guess that plays into the second part, and I hope that if I did die tomorrow, there are some people whose lives I have impacted for the better, and who would be pleased they’d known me. And perhaps a little disappointed that we wouldn’t be having just one more slightly confusing conversation or crazy dance or nonsensical messenger chat.
    So think of your 40s as another decade where you get to be you, and get to enrich the lives of all of those you come into contact with.
    Because you do.
    Have you sourced some battlements yet?
    Happy birthday in half an hour Mad lady!

    1. Maddy Post author

      Ah, Hill, I love this comment so much and reading it on the morning of my birthday made me smile enormously and get a bit of a lump in my throat at the same time. I’m very glad indeed that you didn’t die on my birthday because that definitely would have been rubbish. In fact, don’t go dying any time soon because I’d be really put out if you did. As for age – I think you exist in some kind of strange temporal bubble where despite being older than me you are also forever younger – in fact forever young, fullstop. You have certainly enriched my life… for more than two decades, oh my god we are so old… and yet also so young… and also precisely the age we want to be at any given moment. Right I’m going to stop typing now as this comment is degenerating into precisely the sort of rambling conversation you would expect but which is better done over some drinks on Friday!
      Maddy recently posted…midlife crisisMy Profile

  6. Renee

    I think it’s only natural to get reflective on big birthdays, while will inevitably lead to questioning whether we’ve done and are doing enough. In your case my lovely, the answer is very much YES!! Never stop being you, lots of love xxx

  7. Sara | mumturnedmom

    I found thirty more of a big deal to be honest, it brought a lot of change for me, I got engaged and left London and it took me a while to feel settled again, especially as the next decade brought even more change: three kids, a major job/career move and then a move to the US, with no career! I was quite happy to turn 40, it felt like I was moving into a decade of more certainty, and honestly I’m much happier now that I ever was in my thirties. My next birthday will see me half way to fifty though… that may throw me a little more! Having said all that, the last few years have brought a sense of ‘have I done enough’ and ‘am I doing enough now’, so I can completely relate to that. I’m beginning to think that it’s almost inevitable at each significant moment, and perhaps it’s not a bad thing to be forced to reflect every so often and refocus if necessary. And, I’m definitely with you on the midlife celebration! Thank you so much for your kind words, for keeping us all together with the FB group and for joining in for the last Prompt. I am going to miss it, but it’s time for something new :)
    Sara | mumturnedmom recently posted…The Prompt 160My Profile


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