Life Lessons from a 40-Year-Old, Gray-Haired Mom

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READING TIME: 5 min.

It is all just a phase. From the sleep deprivation we experience when our children are babies and toddlers to the struggles to juggle extracurricular activities. The house is full of toys and messes today. I know someday I’ll miss it. Change is the only constant. This too shall pass applies to the bad moments and the good ones. Memes and well-meaning people will try to inspire us by telling us it is never too late. This isn’t true.

As I write this, 40 is fast approaching. I’ve got plenty of gray hair which I believe means I have some wisdom to share. My children inform me it means I look like a grandma, and my husband jokes that the grays make me distinguished. I’m sure the older version of me in another decade or so will have more to say than what I’m sharing here. But for now, these are some of the life lessons I can share after being lucky enough to have four decades here.

Sometimes it is too late.

At a certain point, we no longer have a chance to do those things we keep putting off. “This too shall pass” includes opportunities, youthful energy, and an ability to function well after all-nighters. Respect and value your time and the time of others.

Be prepared to learn throughout your life.

Don’t refuse to learn new things. Be willing to change your mind and your habits as you learn. Eventually it will be too late but that doesn’t mean you run yourself ragged trying to “do it all,” whatever that means.

We need rest.

We need downtime. We need sleep. Sleeping enough every evening makes a big difference in our well-being and our moods. This isn’t possible for most of us when our babies keep us sleep-deprived for months at a time but, remember, this too shall pass. This time when we are learning to put down a sleeping baby as gently and quietly as possible before tiptoeing out of the room feel stressful. But those skills at not waking them serve us well in a few years when tooth fairy time arrives.

Grow food from seeds. Plant flowers and trees.

You don’t have to become a plant lady. Notice the changes and the timing of the growth. Notice the way the plants lean toward what gives them energy and how often they recover even through stormy weather. Consider how these living things you’ve planted have become part of the world and how their impact will extend well beyond your garden.

Every act and choice we make ripples out and makes our legacy. We raise our trees and gardens and children and hopefully leave the world better than we found it.

Mothers are all tethered by experience, and motherhood is rooted in the unspoken tradition of women guiding each other. We help each other and remind each other when those phases arrive during which we must take deep breaths and keep going.

Community is what we make it.

Remember to support causes important to you. Remember to support the people around you too. I’m an introvert. My circle is small and while I know and love many extroverts, I long ago outgrew any urge to force myself to appease others by fighting my introversion. Protecting your peace sometimes means choosing a night in with your family, and that’s ok.

Let bad blood go.

We all grow and change. Are you the exact same person you were 10 years ago? Neither are they. You don’t have to forget or forgive. But try to let go. You only have so much energy and time to give. Don’t waste it.

Focus on the important things as often as possible.

Don’t judge people based on their appearance or what they wear. I work with college students. There is almost nothing you can tell about someone by looking at how they are dressed, their body art or their hairstyle.

Don’t judge yourself by appearance alone either. Be in the photo. Your children and loved ones will want those memories. And you will too even if it doesn’t necessarily feel that way right this minute. Notice the good.

Keep a journal.

Take notes. Make lists. What was the best thing about the day? What was the toughest thing about the day? What did you do today that future you will be grateful for? Read more. Listen to audiobooks if that is easier. I highly recommend putting on headphones and listening to books or podcasts while folding laundry and doing other housework.

Yes, you truly will need to dust every day. Every. Single. Day. Where does all this dust come from? It is a mystery. Dust is like the laundry and the dishes. It is endless. Change is the only constant in life, true, but I would argue that dust, dishes and laundry could be included too.

I catch myself saying aloud, “Don’t put it down. Put it away,” often throughout the week. Teach this to yourself and your children and you’ll all spend significantly less time tidying up clutter. I am still learning this. This is one life skill I hope it is never too late to acquire. Don’t put it down. Put it away.

If you buy a house in Texas, you need soaker hoses around the entire foundation.

And you need to use them. This is essential if you don’t want cracks in the walls and ceiling in every room. Ask me how I know. Tell the new neighbors who moved to Texas from out of state. Foundation repair is expensive.

Money matters.

Don’t assume everyone in your circle is in the same financial situation. Don’t burden them with expectations that are comfortable for you but may not be possible for them right now.

Take care of your mental health.

Let your friends and loved ones know you’re doing so. The more we can normalize it, the easier it will be for those who come after us. Take care of your dental health too. I have a favorite floss. Find yours and make it a part of your bedtime ritual. Future you will be glad you did. Find a primary care doctor you like and see them annually. Building this relationship, trust, and health history may just save your life.

Try to laugh every day.

Dance it out when your mood could use a boost. Choose kindness and grace more often. We all choose to stay put or keep moving forward each day. It is a privilege to be able to keep going. Eventually, it will be too late. We too shall pass.

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