What I Wish I Had Known When I Turned 30

as her 40th birthday looms, a local mother compiles lessons for her younger self

Stephanie Sirek

I’m a few weeks away from closing out my 30s, and I find myself doing the traditional mid-life review. This last decade was busy – I got married and started a family, was promoted within my career, then left to become a stay-at-home mom, lost loved ones to relocations and sometimes death – but thankfully, I’ve seen many more highs than lows. However, if I could go back in time to when I was closing out my 20s, I’d love to tell myself:

 Enjoy the Baby Years

Don’t get me wrong, these are hard years. The constant crying will wear you down. The daily washing of bottles and butts gets old. The lack of sleep will make you wonder how you can even form a semi-intelligent thought. Please don’t forget that although it feels like it is never going to end, it will. They will grow out of that crying stage, bottles will be traded for cups (that thankfully the dishwasher cleans), and they will sleep for longer periods at a time. Enjoy the moments when they snuggle in your arms while feeding or you read them a story. Get down on the floor and play with that annoying toy they love. Hold onto that hug a few seconds longer – nothing will ever be as sweet. Enjoy these years more than you wish for them to outgrow them.

The mom guilt is real. There will be so many moments where you feel like you’re failing. Thanks to things like Facebook, you’re going to see everyone’s highlight reels while you live in the behind-the-scenes chaos.

Don't Let Friends Slip Away

You have a small group of friends, and I know you like it that way. But everyone is starting families and getting busy with babies and work. At first, you’ll still do those weekend play dates, but they will get less frequent. You’ll want to plan something, but zoning out to reality TV sounds easier then meeting for an hour-long play date. I wish you would make more of an effort. Your life is going to start to revolve solely around the kids. You’re going to talk less and less to friends and go out a couple of times a year (if you’re lucky). You’re going to forget how fun it is to laugh about nonsense things, and how much of a relief it is to take off the mom hat – even if only for a few hours. Your friends are on this ride, too. They can relate. They can sympathize. You’re not alone. Please make more mom dates than play dates.

Give Yourself Grace

This is a hard one. The mom guilt is real. There will be so many moments where you feel like you’re failing. Thanks to things like Facebook, you’re going to see everyone’s highlight reels while you live in the behind-the-scenes chaos. You’re going to yell at the kids. You’re going to second-guess your decisions. You’re going to feel like everyone else has it together when you struggle to get out of the house on time. You need to remember that no one lives 24/7 in that highlight reel. You are doing the best you can. Your kids’ happiness and wellbeing are always at the top of your list. We all have moments we regret as parents. You’re no different. Stop criticizing yourself and playing the moment over in your head. It happened, it’s done, and you can’t go back. Apologize and do better next time. Realize that it was one small moment in time, and that it’s not who you are overall as a parent.

Now my 40s are knocking at the door, and I’m ready to embrace them. Over the next decade, the kids will be entering their teenage years and at the end my oldest will be leaving the house. (That’s hard to even digest.) I’m sure my life is going to revolve around shuttling kids to sports and activities, wadding through teenage drama, and hopefully, making a ton of great memories. But when I get to the end of this decade I want to look back with no regrets, so as I start this new chapter, I have set these two rules for myself:

Say 'Yes'

My thirties had me saying “no” a lot. Especially to foods I’ve never had before. I’d never even tried them, but I know that I won’t like them became my frequent response. My unwillingness to try new things wasn’t limited to food but also to experiences. If it was out of my comfort zone, then it was met with a resounding no. Now that my story is close to half written, I want to be open to saying yes. What’s the worst thing that could happen? That the food won’t be my favorite or that I’ll trip and fall while trying Zumba? It will either give me something to giggle about years later or maybe, God forbid, I may just stumble into something I love.

Give Grace to Everyone

I need to continue to offer myself, and my kids, grace. As they get older and start to spread their wings, they are going to make mistakes – they can’t live and grow without them. I hope to be the parent who gives them a shoulder to lean on. The one who gives advice when needed and knows when to let them fail. These might turn out to be the hardest years yet, so we all will need buckets of grace to throw around.

My hope is that the chapters I have left will be filled with funny, embarrassing, and thrilling moments. Watch out forties, here I come!