Q. I think that 30 is the “scary age” for many 20-year-olds. Do 40-year-olds looking back think it was an important year?
A. 30 is scary only if you let it be scary.
I remember a South American woman telling me, “We spend our first 30 years trying to be like other women and our second thirty years finding ourselves”. In many ways, women who see 30 as the beginning of a new decade of discovery found it to be much more important than women who saw it as a deadline for what they “should” have accomplished.
“It’s important but for good reasons! Embrace the fact that you’re coming into your own! I can very honestly say that my 30’s were better than my 20’s and my 40’s are even better yet!”
I think it’s the whole decade that is important for women because it is a period where you can align what you thought your dreams were in your 20s (when perhaps you didn’t know yourself so well) to who you have become and what you are capable of now. It can be very empowering. No doubt by 30 you have learned you are stronger and that you can recover from things that you thought were the end of the world at 20. What we know at 40 is that only get’s better and that you have many more re-set buttons inside of you.
“Turning 30 was a very important and an empowering birthday. While in my 20s, I found myself mostly in a reactive mode. I was so green, very much focused on my job and just taking in everything. My 30s were far better and afforded me much more control. I felt that sense of empowerment as soon as I turned 30. Having said that, turning 40 was even better so definitely do not fear turning 30; it is a great decade so embrace it.”
That said, for many women it’s a time where look at what we have or have not accomplished. Marriage, children and career path seem to take on more urgency and it is important to think about what you really want and how to open yourself up to the opportunities. Many women say the best way to do that is to focus on yourself and what you have rather than focus on what you don’t have. Fear can lead you astray and put up barriers to finding what you want.
As this beautifully honest answer reflects, letting the number alone drive your decisions ends up wasting more than time:
“I met my ex-husband two weeks before my 30th birthday. In the years before that, I had had several relationships; two that were long lasting but that I couldn’t see myself married to, and several that were short. I had an unwanted pregnancy when I was 29 (never trust a condom alone…and that was before “plan B”). I ended up miscarrying, but before I did, I agonized over what to do. I knew I wanted kids. I knew I didn’t want to be married to the guy who had the condom malfunction. I was approaching 30 and knew lots of people who waited to have kids and then couldn’t get pregnant when they wanted to. As it turned out, the point was moot, but I had decided I was ready to have children. I would do it alone if necessary, though that certainly wouldn’t be the way I would choose to go.
Almost a year later, I met my ex-husband. He took several dates just to kiss me, sent me flowers all the time, made me dinner, fixed things at my house, wooed me in all the ways that made me feel special and taken care of. I was weary of taking care of everything alone. I was financially independent with a great career but lonely and wanted to be taken care of emotionally. I never really fell in love with him, but I fell in love with the idea of safety and comfort with him, the promise of him taking care of me and our future children.
I wasn’t really attracted to him, but the normality of being married seemed very attractive. So, I said yes to his proposal. For years, safety and comfort were enough. We had two wonderful children. But he was a workaholic, and never maintained that promise of wooing me and taking care of me like he did when we were dating. So when my children were no longer babies, I started to think about my lack of satisfaction. I knew I was never in love with him. I didn’t even really have fun with him, or consider him to be a great friend. I realized, more and more, that turning 30 and wanting children and a “normal” life were what made me marry him, not my love for him. Things went bad for both of us, and we ended up with a lot of drama and bitterness, and eventually divorce.
So the moral of my story is, don’t let 30 sway you. It is NOT a magic number, or a number to be dreaded, unless you make it one. Age should never motivate you to be with a certain man or have children if you are not sure that that is what you actually want at that point in your life. I don’t regret having my wonderful children, but having to be tied to this man for the rest of my life is not exactly a picnic. Had I not been blinded by THIRTY, I would have seen that his flowers and notes covered up a serious lack of ability to engage in two way communication.”