2018 is the year I turn 40. Wow. It seems like such a big deal, this milestone, complete with black “Over the Hill” balloons and all.
No — kidding. I mean, sure I was afraid of 40 once. But, now, thanks to the women in my life who have not only reached this milestone but thrived, turning 40 now represents smart and strong, experienced and confident.
It also represents independence in a way, and with my kids starting to get a little older and more independent themselves, after a full decade of hands-on mothering I’m starting to get some time back to myself and determined to use it to focus a little more on myself..
So, as I look down the gauntlet of the last few months of my 30s, here are some habits and routines I am looking to change before I turn 40. Whatever age you are, maybe they’ll inspire you too.
1. Eat less sugarPhoto: Brigitte Tohm
That’s so boring, right? More like a cliché New Year’s resolution than a turning-40 life change. But when I take an honest look at my health — and the more I try to squeeze into my jeans — I know sugar is the culprit.
About four months ago I cut out most refined sugar — desserts, sugary drinks, even (in a heroic effort) Halloween candy. And the results have been amazing so far.
My lower back aches less. I have fewer headaches. After that first week of detox I yell at my kids less often (sorry for those first days, kids!). I just feel better, all around. So, I aim to up the ante and cut back even more with fewer high-sugar fruits and vegetables, less creamer in my coffee, and fewer “cheat” snacks.
This is one I habit I’d started in my 20s, but by the way my old jeans are now sliding off me, I can tell it’s not too late for me to get started
2. See family more often, if only online
I’m lucky to have almost my entire family in the same town, but even so, I realize I can go weeks without seeing my sister or our extended family. So, I’m going to make an effort to get face time — as in real face time, not FaceTime — with them more often.
My plan is to call around every Sunday, see who’s free for lunch during the upcoming week and get it on the calendar. Because if I don’t, it won’t happen.
For those relatives or friends-who-are-basically-family who live out of state, that’s where I will turn to FaceTime, and sit down to a virtual lunch with them. Tech makes that inexcusably easy, the connection is so good for my mental health, and no one will care if I’m still in sweats and no makeup.
3. Morning coffee, every day.Photo: Mike Marquez
I know this sounds crazy — you mean drink less coffee, don’t you? Actually, no, I mean drink coffee every day.
A little over 15 years ago, I cut out all caffeine from my diet after it had been causing anxiety attacks. I’m so glad that issue has passed, and now I’m finding is that having added coffee back into my routine (out of necessity after adopting our toddler in a process that required two Asian trips followed by, you know, raising a two-year-old girl!) I’ve really come to enjoy it.
Now, drinking coffee one of my favorite morning rituals — and honestly, it’s more about the ritual than the coffee itself.
A decidedly not-morning person, I’m finding it’s great motivation to get up and start the day. It’s a comfort as I get through the sometimes frantic before-school routine. And it’s been a nice respite from the crazy of four kids.
And hey, tea definitely works too, for those of you who prefer the leaves to the beans.
4. Write a family newsletter
I’m not talking about the cheesy “my daughter is on honor roll and starred in the school play and is just all-around generally better than your kids” family newsletter that we all make fun of. Instead, I want to do what Gretchen Rubin described on her podcast Happier: She and her sister send an email once a week to family, updating them on the big happenings of the week, along with the mundane details — like the cat that ate the sock, again.
Because you’re using email or text, it gives your friends and family an easy way to reply back with news from their week too.
My kids are lucky enough to have great-grandparents still around, so we need to make the most of our time with them. Sharing our stories more often brings them joy; while hearing their own stories will help preserve more of our family legacy, — and hopefully bring us all closer to those relatives we see only around the holidays.
5. Say yes to new things
Let’s admit it: getting older makes it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. This is my thing. That isn’t. But, as I’m hitting this middle-age milestone, I’d like to be consciously more open to new experiences.
Recently, my family has gotten hooked on camping. It’s something I wish I’d done a lot more of in my twenties.
Now that I’ve realized this, I’m wondering what else is out there that I might love, that I haven’t tried yet?
Writing poetry, learning a foreign language, trying some bizarre new food trend (hello, goth ice cream), aerial yoga? Instead of laughing off this stuff, I want to give it all a try.
6. Say no more often
I’m a serial yes-woman when it comes to taking on extra responsibility. Like so many of us, I really have a hard time saying no.
But when my kids’ school asked if I’d serve as a room parent again this year, I… said no. And wow, I’m glad I did. It was hard, but freeing, because I knew I just didn’t have time time and if I were pressured into it I’d have felt guilty and overwhelmed. Especially considering I forgot some important things last year like the teacher’s birthday — oof.
It’s so important to have a good sense of when you’ve hit your max on how much you can give, because otherwise, serving others isn’t helpful at all. At all. And I have to prioritize other ways I can commit to my kids, my community, my school even if it doesn’t mean doing it the same way I’ve done in the past.
7. Plan more dates with my husbandPhoto: Brigitte Tohm
A few years ago for my husband’s birthday (which happens to be on Valentine’s Day, awww) I gave him a gift of 12 date nights. They were planned, paid for, and packaged in surprise envelopes to be opened once each month.
Super Pinteresty — I know! I was proud of myself!
I included gift cards for dinner, tickets to a play, a certificate for a round of golf, and passes to the local rock climbing center — and more — in the envelopes.
The best part is it wasn’t just a bunch of unredeemed coupons; we actually made the time to use them! We got out and got active, instead of just ordering in and watching Netflix on our nights off from the kids. And we laughed a lot. Because I am not good at golf — or rock climbing).
Having the time for just the two of us, all prepaid no less, was invaluable, and it really made me see how fantastic our relationship was when we committed to doing more with our time together.
In fact this year I’m going to do this again. But shhh, don’t tell him.