It’s my birthday next week. My 39th birthday to be exact. How that happened I’m not so sure – I’m sure I was only 27 last time I looked. But you can’t argue with the maths – I’ve definitely only got one year left of my thirties.
I’ve promised myself that I shan’t spend the next 12 months rounding everything up like I did when I was ‘nearly 30.’ Instead I shall remain firmly in my 30s until someone hands me a massive/very expensive present and a cake with 40 on it.
But I shall also be holding my breath waiting for the seismic shift whereby my entire world falls into place. After all, it’s what the magazines have been promising me for more than a decade: that at some point in my 30s I’ll find the perfect hairstyle, I won’t mind my slightly more curvy figure (because it will be toned and gym-honed), I’ll have a husband and kids who adore me, a house full of tasteful buys funded by income from a swish job and still time to go out for cocktails with my girlfriends. It will be hectic (some nights I won’t get a full eight hours of sleep, but a facial will sort that out). But it will be fulfilling and I’ll be having the time of my life.
Except it hasn’t happened yet. It started promisingly enough. At 30 I’d just got married, I had started a degree, I still had time for the gym and friends and date nights as the twins were old enough to be easily babysat.
And then I had more children.
The degree? I have a certificate and a student debt. But shiny careers that allow for family demands are few and far between. And I’d rather spend time with my children than paying someone else to have the pleasure. The marriage is still standing, but it’s funny how Hubby has the ability to do as he pleases whilst I’m luckily if I can have a shower without someone small demanding my attention. I can’t get through a home workout without the smallest trying to play horsey and jogging is trial enough without dragging a 6-year-old along too. And unfortunately everything didn’t ping back as well as it did in my 20s. I can’t afford a haircut, let alone THE haircut that will change my life. And my friends are still wonderful and witty and absolute angels, but getting through a conversation without every sentence being interrupted by a whirling dervish of a toddler never happens.
Which makes me sound so ungrateful, but really I’m not. My children light up my life every day. They exhaust me, cause endless guilt and fear and worry, and they make the house look as though a branch of Toys R Us has been dropped on it at some force. But they make me laugh every day. They amaze me. And nothing feels better than their physical presence, their silky soft skin and embracing arms. And I know that the early years are precious and fleeting and there will be a time when they’re gone to be all independent and although I shall have more time for my friends and my husband, a career and hobbies, I shall miss the chaos of a house with small children in it.
It’s just that it’s not the line I read about time and again.
Maybe there are women out there who do have it all. Women who juggle the career with the kids and still have time for glittering parties and manage to mutter more than a couple of cursory instructions to their partners. I tip my hat to them and wonder how they fit it all in. I can only imagine someone’s invented the 36-hour day, but the email is sat unread in my inbox.
Or maybe all this time I’ve simply misconstrued what it means to ‘Have It All.’ In my world I’ve come to realise it means having spots AND wrinkles, head lice AND grey hair, having to be at work AND at the school play. Although I’m not really sure that that’s what the glossy magazines were suggesting.
Besides which, it all seems like such a lot of effort and I’m essentially lazy. And as Tiana’s dad says in The Princess and the Frog, ‘wishing on a star will only get you so far. You have to work to get all the way there.’ I’d rather have an extra hour of sleep than be up to blow dry my hair. I might loathe my flabby tummy, but Noodles enjoys bouncing up and down on it. And much as I might envy the celebs for the school-run shininess, but at least I can get away with pulling on yesterday’s jeans without fear of being papped.
So what that I don’t have the glossy lifestyle? I have time to spend with my children, to laugh and joke with them, to wipe away the tears, to watch them sleep.
That said, if my fairy godmother would like to come and wave her magic wand in my direction over the next 12 months I wouldn’t say no to having a Kate Middleton mane, the stomach I had at 18 and a satisfying-yet-non-consuming job. But if not, never mind. The shiny hair would only get covered in mashed banana anyway.