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A Momoir, Chapter 5: The Magnitude of the Middle-Aged Mom

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I’m at that age where my chin hair is growing in quicker than my leg hair.  It’s okay, so far there’s not a lot of it.  Just the occasional (cough, frequent) white, barbed wire-ish strand that I’ll absent-mindedly touch, then maniacally pick at, then frantically keep feeling for, then obsess over for the remainder of the day until I can yank it.  (I now keep tweezers in my desk at work.  I also keep fiber powder in there, too, so I bet you can tell where this is heading.)  It’s not pretty but it turns out there are far worse things to fret about once you reach The Milestone birthday.

 

I try to remain positive but I’ll admit I’m finding middle age to be quite galling.  Things are happening to my body utterly out of the blue, completely without reason and entirely against my will.  Yes, there are things women who’ve celebrated The Milestone know are coming.  We’ve been duly cautioned that hitting a certain age may find our hair turning to straw, our necks morphing into topical maps and our midsection gaining independence as its own sovereignty. We’re also aware that despite how much we slather, our crypt keeper hands will forever tattle our true age.  But hang on now.  There is some serious unpleasantness happening on the downslope of that hill that people keep leaving off the memo.  Some of that stuff probably deserves a heads up.

 

For instance, how come no one ever tells us we will never sleep again?  FortheloveofGod, most of us haven’t even caught up yet from the sleep deprivation of having babies.  It is cruelly ironic that this bombshell comes on the heels of hearing every fitness expert alive shouting the same warning:  that women cannot ever (EVER) lose weight unless we are getting a good night’s sleep.  Whaaaaat?

 

Where’s the asterisk on this throat-punch revelation that also reveals – SURPRISE! – 90-minute-intervals of (let’s call them) naps are your new nighttime from this day forward.  Hissss.

 

Every single night I find myself sweltering …  until I am convinced I am frost-bitten … or I am passed-out-exhausted …. until I am wide awake an hour and a half later – for the rest of the night.  My better half and I (wisely) upgraded to a king-sized bed a few years ago and between our alternating aches and pains and our temperature battles and our long-nights-journeying-into-days… I’ll be dammed if that bed sometimes just isn’t big enough.  It really blows.

 

Also, speaking of missing chapters in the guidebook, what about the poo?  (That opening paragraph wasn’t a red herring; you knew this was coming.) Good grief, just when we’ve got diapers AND adolescence (those inimitable non-flushing years) in our rearview mirror, all of a sudden poo is a thing again?  What.  The.  Fkkkkk?   I used to go away for entire weekends and – legit – not go to the bathroom until I was safely back home three days later (yeah, that freaked out my man in the worst of ways).  I used to marvel at friends who could effortlessly go multiple times a day, whenever and wherever they wanted to (complete freaks, if you ask me) because nope, that was not me at all.   Welp.  No sooner did I blow out a few dozen candles on a birthday cake did a tsunami of change sweep in.  I’ve had more times when I’ve entered a ladies room to pee and — what the – let’s just say did a helluva lot more than pee in there.  No joke:  when it first started happening my initial shock was palpable:  I wouldn’t have been more surprised if another baby had dropped out of my body and into that toilet.   Worse, no sooner did the new me start seeing lavatories in a different light did my doctor start heralding fiber as the cure-all to everything.  You have got to be kidding me (now you understand the aforementioned office staple, next to my tweezers).

At this point though, a couple of years into my brave new world of Milestone Menopause, my reaction is a more mellowed meh and a shrug.  Sigh.  Tis just poo.

 

Fo’ sho’:  this getting old thing is not for the weak.

Without question, there are some pretty awful things about middle age: the overwhelming feeling of incompetency that comes with re-entering the work force (or – kill us — the dating game), having to navigate the holy hell that is social media (screw you, Snapchat, you’re stupid), even the phantom pains that spring up for no apparent reason (like rising from the couch.  UGH).  Throw in ridiculous weight gains and all the daily directives to give up sugar and dairy and alcohol and animal protein and carbs and be sure to walk six miles a day and do yoga stretches and meditate and take your Me Time and enjoy life (without dairy or alcohol or animal protein or carbs) and OHMYGAAAAWD.  Who saw this coming?  Remember when we used to complain about baby throw-up on our shoulders?

Deep breath.

Here’s the glass half full:  It’s not all doom and despair.  There are some super cool things about middle age, too.  It is without question a great, great time to be a mom.  Our kids are getting older, becoming real people, doing awesome things and becoming more companions than charges.  Somewhere down the road they become fun:  we can now play off-color board games with them and watch R-rated movies without hiding under pillows with embarrassment.  Another truth: I am a completely different mom than I was so many years ago, a lot calmer and less uptight.  Hell, I’ve even stopped screaming.  Now I go low:  the more my kids yell in protest (because hello, I’m not dead – there are still RULES, PEOPLE) the lower my voice gets when reacting to their nonsense.  It’s like a villainous whisper out of a Saw movie and I highly recommend it; kids can’t grasp what hit them when we start acting like Anti-Mom, the total stranger who’s shown up to guide them from this day forward. Trust me, good times.

Middle age also gives us a boatload of hall passes for dumb things.  We can completely ignore pop culture now because it has very little to do with us and that’s a blessing.  Remember when it did?  Remember when a sexy, ripped sweatshirt, some leg warmers and a dream made us believe we could escape a steel town?  Remember when we wore business suits with (cringe) sneakers and socks and didn’t think for a minute it’d hurt our chances at a promotion?  Remember how we worried if our lives measured up without city friends or coffee shops or Manolo Blahniks?

Turns out, a surge of self-confidence comes in with The Milestone and makes us realize we could care less what people think about our minivans and mom jeans.  I don’t understand any song on the radio and I don’t want to because it seems everyone’s supposed to be grinding or smoking weed or living the thug life.  Please.  I’m happy to stay out of the loop on a lot of things now.  Pass the Dutchie and allow me my presets of classic rock stations, thankyouverymuch.  Keep your Kardashians and if I need a role model I’ll just Google Christie Brinkley because holy mackerel, have you seen her lately? — that chick is ridiculous

 

We’ve been liberated:  anyone out there really give a rat’s ass about Iggy Azalea?  Didn’t think so.

We’re in a pretty good place now for sure but I’d be remiss if I didn’t reveal the absolute worst thing nobody ever tells you about hitting The Milestone.  This one’s a doozie and I completely understand why no one talks about it.  It’s the freight train that body slams you and knocks out your breath and is far more sinister than sleepless nights and bowel issues and belly fat and reading glasses in very room of the house.

 

What could be so bad, you ask?

 

How about the insane ticking of time – more like a Telltale Heart thumping – that is constant within your head?

 

Once you’re over The Milestone mountain there’s rarely a day that ends without at least one thought about the passage of time.  It usually catches me by surprise when I least expect it, on the most innocent of occasions, and some days it’s just devastating.  I once scrolled past a Facebook meme and became paralyzed at the words:

“One day you will pick up your child for the very last time and not even know it…”

The raw truth of that statement shattered me.  My mind raced to try to remember.  When did I last hoist any of them up onto my hip?  How old were they… five?  Seven?  Eight?  How could I not know?

 

How could I not know?

 

That simple sentence stayed with me – and saddened me – for days.

 

Another time my son tried to drum up some laughs by popping in an old video of his mom — super-duper un-sober — at a neighborhood party a dozen years earlier.  Alright, alright, alright, while not my finest mom moment, I’ll admit it was pretty funny.  But as the tape played I soon became fixated at the sight of him — my tow-headed little prankster — running around the scene in the background, no more than 5 years old.  It was like falling down a rabbit hole.  I became transfixed, watching him jump into my lap and snuggle into my neck, my neck which now, a dozen years later, may be morphing into a topical map.

It was debilitating.  I pretended to laugh along with him in present day but inside … my heart was aching at the past, watching both his little hands hold my face and kiss me sweetly.

My eyes flickered between the screen and his college-age, muscular, hirsute frame.

 

How in the world did I get here so fast?

Tick tick tick.

Thumpthumpthumpthumpthump.

 

I don’t care about my crows feet.  I don’t mind the girth of my muffin top.  And being ready for bed by 9pm most nights really doesn’t bother me, either.

But the ferocious speed of traveling down the other side of the hill?

That is without question the absolute worst part about hitting The Milestone.

Really.  I’d take the poo any day over that.

*     *     *      *      *      *

Missed the start of A Momoir?  Catch up here:

Chapter 1, Click here:   https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/07/29/a-collection-of-eyerolls-chapter-1-yes-billy-joel-we-will-all-go-down-together/

Chapter 2, Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

Chapter 3, Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

Chapter 4, Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram. 

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One of my very best friends just received a tremendous promotion, catapulting her into a very high, very-six-figure salary range. I learned of this after she tossed me a perfect size-six pair of Manolo Blahnik pumps that she’d just received as a Christmas present from her boss.

“Here, take these, she bought the wrong size and I’m too embarrassed to tell her.”

While I inwardly chuckled at the thought of vacuuming in them – because really, where was I going in them? – I couldn’t help but notice the card of the Neiman Marcus personal shopper still in the box. Obviously had she returned them her boss would never have known. Hmmm…was I to suspect a little pity-present was happening here?

While I love her and couldn’t be more thrilled for her, it’s no surprise that such great news has caused me to reflect on my own personal state of affairs. Professionally, we worked together for a number of years (okay, truthfully, I hired her). Socially, we did happy hours. A lot. When I left our profession to begin raising a family she was beneath my middle management level, but in the past few years her ascent up the ladder has been both exciting and troublesome for me. My feelings fluctuate between “You go girl!” and “Hey, wait a minute, couldn’t that – shouldn’t that – be me?”

Making the decision to become a stay-at-home mother is one of toughest choices any woman will ever have to make, and granted, it isn’t for everyone. But standing by and watching a former colleague crash through the glass ceiling is pretty profound by any standards.

Foregoing a corporate career is not something I regret, but there are some amenities that I miss occasionally. Recognition is the biggie. I take my job very seriously and may do it exceptionally (er, most days), but not much gets noticed on a daily basis. On my best days, beds get made, kids get fed and I’m wearing make-up. On my worst, bills get paid (really) late, yesterday’s make-up will do, and there’s cereal for dinner. With reactions like “Captain Crunch? Cool!” my family clearly does not differentiate between my stellar or stinking days. There’s no promotion waiting down the pike for me, and no one’s going to take me out to lunch for acing the vomit virus that befell my toddler throughout the night.

It is a bitter, bitter pill that is swallowed each and every day. And there are constant daily reminders that the playing field is uneven. Routine phone calls from my husband throughout the day can set me off: out of nowhere I will suddenly become incensed that I must pick up his dry cleaning or bring in the garbage cans from the street. Do it yourself, dammit! I want to scream. Or during the course of midday check-in if I’m asked what I’ve been doing all morning I will stifle the urge to erupt into sarcasm (Scrubbing the effin’ toilets— what else would I be doing with a master’s degree?)

I am certainly not the first woman to question a life choice and I’ll be far from the last to complain about it. But as each year passes I just can’t help but feel the pangs of jealousy and insecurity bubble within me when the passing calendar months seem to mock me: Hello, February! As of today, you have now been home exactly the amount of years you commuted to work. Or worse, Greetings April, at the start of next week you have officially been OUT of work twice as long as you were actually IN work. Still worse, Happy Birthday August, now that your oldest child is a teenager, the suits in the back of your closet will forever be Halloween costumes.

Envy comes and goes for me. Some days I want to be thinner, blonder, tanner, healthier, even more organized than a friend appears. But some days I don’t care about any of that stuff at all. For the most part I am confident and self-assured. Why is it, then, that I always seem to care about my worth? And why must my worth be measured in terms of a fat paycheck or a great designer suit? That alone angers me more than being asked to make a meatloaf.

Not surprisingly, all my driving from schools to doctors to playing fields to play dates certainly allows time for introspection, and I believe a little jealousy is healthy for friends. It offers opportunities for genuine wake-up calls. While my friend’s lawn is looking rather lush right now, reflection has a way of putting things into perspective. When she tells me how much her heart hurts because she hasn’t seen her baby boy in two days because of work, I believe her completely because I know. And when I nonchalantly remark that I’m really not that busy with four kids and would love to take on some freelance work to help her out if she’s swamped, she pretends not to hear the desperation in my voice because she knows, too. Friends have that way of knowing.

 

Trading in my blue jeans for nicer clothes would be great, and finally having some disposable income would be even greater. But would I trade in my so-old- I-can’t-remember-where-it-came-from coffee mug for a fancy cardboard cup? Could I give up the sheer decadence of driving a child to school in my pajamas? Would I be able forego a Happy Meal for an expense-account lunch? Oh yeah. One day, for sure. Just not yet. For now, on the days when I am immersed in macaroni and cheese and picking Legos out of every hidden crevice in my couch, I am going to remain insanely jealous of my friend.

And then I’m going to make myself feel better by wearing my Manolos to the supermarket and wondering what my friend and I will get for Christmas next year.