When you get to the grand old age of 40, your outlook on life starts to change somewhat.
The mid-life crisis is a concept that is usually associated with men.
Men are afforded a certain amount of leeway when it comes to rash decisions made after they hit the age of 40. After the hangover from the inevitable blowout has faded, they’ll find themselves taking stock of their lives and then they’ll start second guessing the decisions that they have made. Usually the biggest regret that crops up will be the idea of ‘not achieving enough’. Regardless of how much money they’ve accrued or how much they have done in their life, a man turning 40 will still find a way of doubting what they have done.
There a few courses of action that a man will look to when in the midst of a mid-life crisis. Much like a flighty teenager heading into university, a man will attempt to drastically reinvent their personality in a bid to outwardly exhibit some form of change, therefore proving that the has made some sort of personal progress in their adult life. The classic example is, of course, the ‘Biker Dad’ persona. Yearning to become the ‘cool guy’ that they had imagined they would be when they were a teenager, the Dad will be permitted to buy a leather jacket, a motor bike and perhaps even grow a moustache…to disastrous effect.
Regardless of how a midlife crisis is triggered, the question remains why?
Why this age? Why not 30 or 35? Perceptions on age have been slowly changing over the past few decades. You would have heard the saying ’40 is the new 30′ before, but does this change of cultural perception affect the individual’s opinion of their own age? I would argue not.
There may be dozens of empowered 40-somethings that you might see start their own Fashion Labels, or Hollywood types extending their own shelf-life by playing younger characters, the truth is that these landmarks still hit home hard, especially when you’re a Mum of three whose kids have all left home.
Women are not afforded the same luxury as men in terms of what they can get away with this age, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have similar urges.
When the last of my kids left home for University, the usually tumultuous house was finally silent and the quietness suffocated me. My husband, Nigel, is a travelling salesman and only returns from work on Friday evenings for the weekend. This meant that I now had practically the whole house to myself and a whole load of free time to go along with it. Instead of feeling liberated by this new change in lifestyle, like so many of my other friends, I felt sheer panic.
With the house needing much less looking after (I was essentially living alone for 5 days out of 7), I was left with endless possibilities of how to fill my time, but very few ideas that were actually viable. Little did I know that I was entering my very own midlife crisis. Desperately lonely during the barren weekdays, I considered moving from England to Spain. Buying a villa in Catalonia, I could spend the English winters in the warm glow of the Spanish sun, then return to Blighty once the sun had returned to our shores. After considering Nige’s commitment to his job, that idea soon went out the window.
The next idea was my very own bakery.
I’d always loved baking for the kids – designing their Birthday cakes from scratch and throwing my hat in whenever Bake Sales cropped up during term-time. Before Nige could stop me, I was baking dozens of cupcakes at a time, experimenting with different recipes and staying up at odd hours of the night. I was on the verge of looking at premises, taking a wander through town and I passed a shop that looked eerily familiar. The bakery had a bright modern look, covered in fun designs and the cakes looked fantastic. That’s where the fun ended though. Behind the counter was a bored looking teenager, staring vacantly into the distance and next to her was a manic looking woman in her forties, smiling eagerly at me. That’s when I noticed the sheer mass of stock that they had at their disposal and the lack of customers inside. I smiled weakly then hurried on by, visions of bankruptcy and failure dogging my footsteps.
So, Spain was out and the Bakery dream had burned to the ground before the ribbon had even been cut. Soon, I was back to morosely pacing the house, looking for things to clean and considering how many cats I would need to buy in order to alleviate my sadness.
Salvation came in the form of an article in the Telegraph. As I was sipping on my second Vanilla Latte of the day (I’d taken to spending the days in my local Starbucks, spending a fortune on cake and ogling young baristas), I stumbled upon an article from a few years ago interviewing a woman of 49, nearly a decade older than me, who had had children late in life and even had time to write a popular blog alongside the pregnancy.
I almost choked on my Double Chocolate Muffin.
I know that its not healthy to endlessly compare yourself to others, but there really was no other way around it. Ellie Stoneley had single-handedly bossed Motherhood, building her own website, feeding her own bump and working at the same time!