Growing up, March was for the most part, a magical month. I felt excitement and anticipation, often counting how many times I would have to go to sleep and wake up before it was my birthday. My mother always made my birthdays special, whether it was a big celebration with family and friends where streamers abounded, or a small celebration complete with sparkly confetti, noise blowers, and party hats.
But as I grew older, birthdays began to lose some of their sparkle. Although I was thankful for them, I struggled with the fact that I was getting older. Sure, becoming an “early mama” forced me to grow up rather quickly, but I came to love my young mom status and eventually after finding my tribe — a group of moms in college raising their little ones just like me, and years later, an amazing community via the internet. I realized that I was anything but alone in this.
As 30 approaches, I’ve decided that the best thing I can do for myself is embrace it. Why resist what’s inevitable?
I’ve decided to open my eyes and my heart to the magic that will come with this new chapter in my life. I’ve decided to believe. I’m wiser than I ever was, and while I’ve still got a ways to go, I’m more confident in whom I am, lingering post pregnancy baby weight and all. And it is my belief that I will become even more confident in whom I am as a mother, a wife, and a woman over the next decade (and beyond).
So in celebration of the next chapter in my story, I’m sharing 10 things I’m giving myself permission to do in my 30s:
1. Permission to miss my family.
Several weeks ago my husband and I traveled out of town for a couple of days. And while I was excited to be on an adventure with my husband, I missed our babies terribly. I cried, and couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like had they been with us. We had a great time together, but I continued to struggle with the fact that our children were not by our side — it was my first time being away from my baby since her arrival. Many months before that, I attended a conference and convinced my husband to come and stay the weekend at the hotel so I could see him and our kids every night. It was an inconvenience for him, but he did it for me. Clearly, I have a hard time being away from my family. I love them so much that I want to spend as much time with them as possible. And now that I’ve gone back to work, I struggle with it even more. But after spending the past several days battling a cold, I’ve been reminded of how crucial it is for me to have “me” time, as well as time with just my husband. “Me” time gives me a chance to rest and recharge, and in the end, I am better for them anyway. And date nights are important for my marriage and in that end it benefits our babies too.
This year I’m giving myself permission to miss my family. Realizing that it’s okay if I miss them, because I love them. And besides reunions are the best!
2. Permission to find/pursue/revisit my passion outside of motherhood.
My life revolves around motherhood. Everything else has sort of taken the back seat. The magic of childhood and my desire to be a part of or witness every moment has caused me to devote less time to the things that bring me joy outside of being a mother. In my 30s I want to fall back in love with writing and discover something else I love or dream of doing. My husband often reminds me that one day it will be just the two of us and it’s important that my joy doesn’t leave the moment our nest becomes empty.
3. Permission to say “no” to more.
Recently I read an excerpt in a book (Deliberate Motherhood) that has really helped me in my ability to say no. I’ve had many moments in my life where I’ve declared that I would start saying no more. And for a while I do, but then I slip back into my habit of saying yes, not wanting to disappoint others and genuinely wanting to be helpful. But I realize that I was looking at it all wrong. Here’s what I read:
“Every invitation, request, or obligation that invites me to leave my home is now carefully considered. I ask myself, “How will me being away from home benefit me or my family?”
Those words tugged at my heart strings as did these:
“I didn’t go to serve. I didn’t go to set an example for my children. I didn’t go to relax, have a good time, or come home rejuvenated. I didn’t go to spend time with a family member. I didn’t go to lift and inspire another. I went because I felt obligated to someone else.”
I’m guilty of saying yes when I know that my plate is already too full or out of obligation. But I have reached a place in my journey where I’m ready to say no more so that I might be able to say “yes” to the things that are most important.
4. Permission to think about it.
Along with my tendency to say yes is a sense of pressure and urgency I often experience when asked to do something. But the thing is, it’s ok to think about it — to weigh my options, to discuss it with my family. It’s ok to be still, to process and ponder. I’m striving to be less impulsive with my yes. To give myself time to carefully consider things. I want my children to learn this too. Not to be so eager to please that they don’t think things through enough. Yes, it’s ok to say no but it’s also ok to say “I will need to get back to you.”
5. Permission to ask for help.
Now that I am back at work outside of the home I am realizing how important it is that I ask for help when I need it. Even in the beginning I was trying to be super mom in the mornings by taking care of everything. I felt guilty about having to be at work and had put pressure on myself to do it all on my own. After getting a terrible cold my second week back I realized that my reality now is very different than my reality was when I first entered the workforce. I also realized that in order for me to not be stressed or grumpy or overly tired I was going to have to lean on my support system. I ended up asking my husband to make some adjustments so that he could help me take care of a few tasks in the mornings and already I am less stressed. Going forward I want to make more of an effort to ask for help before I end up feeling overwhelmed in hopes that I won’t get to that point. But I want to do this not just at home but in other areas of my life too. By asking for help I am less stressed and able to partake in more quality time with my children.
6. Permission to make mistakes.
I put so much pressure on myself as a mother. My babies only get one chance at childhood and I want it to be magical for them. But as I mature I realize that magic isn’t just in licking the cake batter off the spoon, holding hands and running from the ocean waves or eating dinner under a tent in the living room. Magic is in getting up after a fall, in the decision to keep trying, in the willingness to apologize and ask for forgiveness. The greatest lessons that I have learned have come from challenges, from mistakes from my do overs and armed with those lessons I believe I’ve been an even better mother to my children. So today I’ve decided that it’s ok that I don’t have it all figured out. It’s ok that life doesn’t look exactly the way I pictured it would at 30. It’s still beautiful, magical and it’s mine. More important than my mistakes are what I do after I make them. I’m raising tiny humans not perfectionists and in the process I’m learning to be kinder to myself.
7. Permission to (eat that cupcake and) embrace my pouch.
Years ago I wrote about learning and teaching self-acceptance; loving the skin I am in has been an ongoing struggle. I want to be at a place where I am striving to be better — more healthy, stronger and at the same time more forgiving of myself. I may never return to the size I was in my 20s, what is important is that I learn to love the skin I am in now. And that I help my daughters to see the beauty in our imperfections. This month I finally splurged and bought myself some clothes that I love rather than waiting until I’m a smaller dress size. And I have to tell you I feel better than I’ve felt in ages. I want my girls to realize that their value, worth and beauty (inner and outer) isn’t dependent upon their dress size. (And the story of my pouch is actually quite a beautiful story. It is what remains of their former home.)
8. Permission to let go.
Thirty years of living has given me time to collect an awful lot of stuff. There are things that I am still holding on to, hurt or disappointment that I haven’t fully let go. Mistakes I’ve made that I’m still not letting myself off the hook for. But there’s freedom in forgiveness — of others and ourselves. By letting go these things no longer weigh upon me so heavily. And there’s more room in my heart for love. I want my babies to understand that hurt and disappointment aren’t things we have to hold on to. We can learn to let it go and make more room for love.
9. Permission to be content.
This year my word for the year is content. I want to feel a sense of peace no matter what is happening in my life. That means even in the midst of adversity I will still be ok. I have to remember that trials aren’t forever. I also want to be ok even when things don’t turn out the way I planned or how I wanted. At the end of the day what is most important is that I am ok and so are the people that I love. Everything else is secondary.
10. Permission to keep believing.
Life is magical. There’s no denying it. Motherhood has reminded me of that. And no matter how old I get I’m holding on to that. Yes, there are times when you have to try a little harder to see the magic but it’s always there. It’s in the smiles of your loved ones, in the way that no matter what happens the sun still rises and with that a chance to start anew and do better — be better. It’s in impromptu dance parties in the kitchen and in the quiet moments in the middle of the night when all you hear is the breaths of the people you love more than anything. It’s in the realization that birthdays are a gift that gets better year after year because we get better. Each year I am blessed with a chance to experience the gift to be had in the present is worthy of a celebration. Whether it’s party hats and sparkly confetti or simply blowing out a candle with the help of my babies.
My 30s will be among the best years of my life. And how wonderful that I get to usher them in with the people I love more than anything.
Here’s to motherhood in my 30s. And here’s to believing.
p.s. Any wisdom to share as I transition into this new period in my life?