A couple of weeks ago I turned thirty-four. Thirty-four! The words sound alien because in my head I feel about sixteen. And yet here I am, more than double the age I feel, somewhat bemused as to where the time has gone and how I’ve ended up here.
All in all it was a pretty under-stated and very quiet birthday. My Mum came to visit the day before and we spent a really lovely afternoon in the garden with the girls before heading out to the Town Park for an ice cream. I really miss her (we live two and a half hours away), so I do love it when she comes to visit and we spend ages chatting, even though we talk on the phone a couple of times a week.
Because my birthday itself was a Monday the husband was at work and the girls were at school, though I’d decided to give myself the day off because when you’re self-employed you can choose to do wild-and-crazy things like that. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my day, I just knew that I didn’t want to spend it working, and if I could find a way to do at least some of the things I love then I’d be happy. Not having a plan is always my downfall because I dither for hours, undecided as to which option I want to go for out of the many choices I have. Indecision is the enemy in my little world.
In the end I gave myself a stern talking to, grabbed my camera and headed out. I drove along my favourite stretch of road through Cannock Chase, the sunlight streaming through the windscreen, and arrived in Great Haywood, home to Canalside Farm, twenty minutes later. I popped into the café and bought myself a giant slab of their sticky cherry and sultana flapjack to have later, briefly checked out their summer plant shop for some ideas for our garden, and had a quick wander down to the busy marina behind the farm shop to look at the canal boats.
From there I headed into Great Haywood itself, having driven through it many times but never stopped to explore it on foot. It’s a pretty little village that got me thinking about whether I could live somewhere more rural than we currently do – picturesque houses with neat gardens overflowing with pretty flowers, neighbours chatting over garden walls, and hidden corners that make you wonder what the story is. Maybe one day, when life is a little slower, we’ll end up somewhere like that. I returned via the canal, peacefully walking along the pathway, nodding to the owners of the boats gliding serenely past, chirruping at the robin fluttering in the hedge, my mind quietening with every step.
Once home it was time to launch myself back into motherhood, collecting two of the girls from school and then going back an hour later to fetch Ella from choir practice. Making tea for everyone, doing the bath-and-hairwash routine that gets done on a Monday now because of school swimming lessons. I opened my small selection of cards and presents, all thoughtfully chosen and made, and arranged the beautiful bouquet of flowers that the husband bought me.
I am now exactly the same age that my Mum was when she had me. Except I have three daughters, not one, the eldest of whom is ten years old. It feels quite poignant and I’m not sure why, so I wanted to try and get a few words down to document my thoughts and how I feel about things now. I’ve become acutely aware over the last couple of years that people I love are getting older, people I love are passing away, and their stories are being lost forever. I don’t want that to happen to our story, to my story. So I’m trying to keep a note of it all for my girls when they’re older. So they know who I am.
Motherhood and parenting: Sometimes I wonder if I had the girls too young. I was only 23 when I had Ella and with hindsight, nowhere near ready. Then two more babies in quick succession until by the age of 26 I had three aged 3 and under. If I’d have waited until now, until I was the same age as my Mum was, would I find things easier? Would I be more patient? Would I be able to stay calm and keep my temper in check and my voice quiet? Would I have been ready? I doubt it. I don’t think you can ever be ‘ready’ for motherhood. It’s something that you create as you go, learning and adapting and adjusting as you need to, loving fiercely at all times. These independent, unique little people of mine were meant to be and I learn more about myself through them every single day.
Work: A decade as a therapist and, truth be told, I feel that I’m nearing the end of that particular journey. I’m looking for ways to reduce what I do in that field so I can build more on the other stuff I love to do – writing and photography. I’m learning that the path I ended up on was just an offshoot, a sidetrack, so that I could learn what I needed to ready for moving forwards on my main path. I’m trying to teach the girls the value of working hard, of doing what you have to do so that you can do what you want to do, of following your heart and intentionally doing the things that bring you joy. It’s not easy, and there are days where I don’t get the balance right, but I’m working on it.
Marriage: Almost three years married and nearly thirteen years together. We have days where we barely speak because of opposite working patterns / tiredness / hormones (that last one would be me!). We haven’t had a night away together just the two of us for two years now, haven’t been out for dinner together for about nine months and still have completely opposite views on what weekends are for, but I love this husband of mine and his unending patience whilst I insist on family photographs (which he’d rather not be in), adventures to new places (whilst he’d rather be watching the football) and serving up vegetables (when he’d rather have a takeaway). Watching him with the girls fills my heart with happiness.
Me: I’m feeling more and more comfortable in my own skin. I no longer worry about what other people might think of my choices or my actions, and I’m more confident in speaking my mind, standing up for myself and owning my story. My biggest struggle is still my mind, the little voice of doubt and insecurity creeping in from time to time, bringing on bouts of debilitating low moods and/or anxiety. But I push on through because I know that none of it is real, I know that I am resilient and resourceful enough to overcome it and I know that I am in charge of the actions I decide to take to help me feel better. I screw up (a lot) and I apologise for the mistakes I make, hopefully teaching my girls the art of grace and forgiveness and honesty. I also get a lot of things right. I’m letting go of many things that I don’t need to hold on to any more and I’m finally beginning to feel more free, rediscovering the parts of me that I’d forgotten about along the way.
I know that this next year is going to bring a lot of changes. The autumn months in particular are going to be a steep learning curve, challenging and changing me in ways that I can’t even begin to imagine yet. I’m looking forward to the journey of growth that I’ll be embarking on and, while I know it’s not going to be comfortable, I’m excited about where it’s going to take me. This time next year I’ll be thirty-five. And who knows what our little family life will be like by then?