Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness. Proverbs 16:31
A friend recently posted on Facebook that she is about to turn 40. She was looking for encouragement but most of the responses were similar to mine: I wouldn’t want to be 40 again, but 50 is fabulous. I realized that kind of advice is of no help to her. Until it is possible to get into a time machine and skip our fifth decade, all women must live through their forties to get to their fifties. So, what are some encouraging words I could have said to her? Here’s a list of five things I can suggest:
- In your forties, your kids are becoming more independent. This is the age where they learn to sink or swim on their own. You can do as much hovering as you did when they were younger, but not only do they resent it, it is not healthy. The great thing about this age is that other than chauffeuring and funding, they don’t need you as much. That means, you are entering the era where you start getting your life back. This is the time to start dreaming again and investing in who you want to be when they grow up. It won’t be long before you will be finding time for creative endeavors, starting a business or seeing the world. Chin up, it is just around the corner!
- This is the time for you to begin investing in yourself, in your health, emotional, psychological and physical. Set aside time to “work out”, not necessarily the gym kind of work out, but gentle stretching, yoga or other relaxing methods that not only calm you, but make you more aware of your body. Even walking for just ten or fifteen minutes, makes a difference. Just like getting ready for pregnancy, you have to get your body ready for your forties and the changes that will come. Yes, for most women, your forties are the reverse of puberty, your hormones rage, sometimes you feel like crap, but if you are proactive in preparing for it, the time will be easier (not easy, but easier). Your forties are not to be feared, but to be understood. Know that this is part of life, learn all you can. Find a doctor or other medical professional who will listen as much as they will advise. Be courageous enough to tell them if you prefer holistic methods such as vitamin and mineral supplements, food changes, instead of hormone replacement therapy. Before the Change: Taking Charge of Your Perimenopause by Ann Louise Gettleman was a tremendous help to me to understand what was happening and how to respond. In my forties, I invested in a lifelong dream to horseback ride. I bought a horse and spent a lot of time in the barn just grooming him. What will bring you joy? Now is the time to figure it out and act upon it if you can.
- Your forties are the time for you to make some really good friends. Friendships that are not based upon need (help with carpooling, sports teams, birthday parties, etc.), but based upon love and affection. Your forties is a time to laugh. To laugh at the weirdness of your body, kids flying from the nest, husband’s reactions to the changes and just to be you. The you that you thought you left behind when you gave birth. In your forties, you create bonds of friendship that will last the rest of your life. Surround yourself with a few really good, really close friends that you can talk to about your bladder, your anger, your joy and your craziness.
- In your forties, there is more time to invest in your marriage. You can leave the kids alone or with a sitter guilt free now. Even if you can’t afford a night out, take a bag supper or cookout , go for a walk, sit on a bench at the park, talk without interruption. Prepare your marriage for the next phase of your life. Someday, it will just be the two of you again. Remember why you got married in the first place!
- Spend some time getting reacquainted with God. Join a Bible Study or do one on your own. Spend time in prayer beyond, “Please God, let them go to sleep!” Begin thinking about ways you can minister either now or a few years from now. What is your passion? How can you prepare to serve there? How can you spiritually prepare your kids for this next phase in their lives? Remember that at this phase of their lives, they are likely going to listen to someone else say the same thing that you have said for years. Find them some good mentors. Better yet, ask God to send them some mentors. Because the best mentors are the ones that surprise you the most because God selected them.
We women in our fifties tend to look back on our forties and roll our eyes. We are glad to be through the physical changes. But a lot of good comes out of that decade and you end up stronger, knowing more about who you are, what your limits are and what your passions are. You can emerge from your forties raring to go with life, free of the ups and downs of hormonal life, yours and your teenager’s with a happier marriage, contentment with God and life and some really good friends. Not to mention, the most important thing, a realization that perfection is overrated. But, as with any decade, you have to work at taking care of yourself, learning when to say no and when to say yes and when to laugh. Happy forties!