My 30th Birthday is a blur. As a new mom of a 9-month-old, all I cared about was being Sarah’s mom. To be honest, I have no recollection how, or even if, I celebrated that milestone birthday. My new identity took up almost all of my brain space.
Ten years later, the Big 4-0 was another story. Now mom to three girls ages 3-10, I needed a celebration, my marriage needed adult time, and we needed time with our friends sans children. My husband Andrew went all out; 10 couples gathered in a private room of an elegant restaurant in downtown Boston. The women primped for the occasion, and as the “birthday girl,” I made a trip to the hair salon and enjoyed a free (if you don’t count the three products I had to buy) makeover at the MAC makeup counter. The food and wine flowed through toasts, speeches, a poem written by my family and heartfelt gifts. We were not only celebrating my birthday, but also honoring the relationships and supportive community we had built over the last 10+ years. Everything was perfect, at least until I got home that night and learned what an evening of unlimited food and drink does to a person after spending the past three months on Weight Watcher’s trying to lose post baby weight (the baby was 3 ½ years old). But that is a story for another day.
Another decade later, I found myself in a completely different place when 50 came along. We had one child in college, another about to head off to college and a third in high school. Although my friends and I were all still completely entrenched in our children’s lives, we now had more time for double dates with other couples. Book clubs, mah jong, coffee meet-ups and movie dates with girlfriends were happening more and more. We were all carving out more time for fun, and my birthday celebration reflected that. Picture twenty, 50-ish year-old women at my dear friend’s home enjoying a cooking class, catered meal, wine, dancing, (a lot of dancing) a fortuneteller, and a group gifted designer wallet. We were all beginning to reconnect with the non-mom parts of ourselves.
Looking back, I understand that my 30’s and early 40’s were focused on the needs of my family. My time was dedicated to creating and maintaining a nurturing and supportive community to raise children. My 50’s brought on more opportunities to look inward and reconnect with my own hopes and desires. I concentrated on my career, traveling with my husband, being more adventurous and having more fun. However, towards the end of my 50’s I began looking outward and noticed a stronger desire to give back than ever before. Mentoring others, empowering women, sharing my wisdom and making an impact have become my priorities. I knew instinctively how I wanted to celebrate my upcoming 60th birthday.
Last Saturday, my girlfriends, nieces, daughters and sisters-in law joined me at Rosie’s Place (a women and children’s homeless shelter in Boston) to prepare, serve and clean up dinner for the residents. In lieu of gifts, everyone made donations to Rosie’s Place. I want to give a heartfelt thank you to the special sisterhood of friends and family who embraced my invitation. Working beside them while doing something so meaningful was such a gratifying experience. This birthday celebration, much like my previous ones, was my “just right” celebration. Each celebration was perfectly aligned with where I was at that stage in my life.
So how can you create your JUST RIGHT Midlife Birthday Celebration? Follow these five steps:
- Start noticing what lights you up; what you enjoy doing, and what you find yourself talking about endlessly.
- Think about where you are in your life and where you want to be. Ask yourself:
- Do you need to be nurtured?
- Do you need to be honored?
- Do you want to have fun, be adventurous, do a physical or creative activity, be pampered or learn how to do something?
- Do you want to be with a big group, or in a small, intimate group?
- Do you want family and/or friends?
- Do you want both men and women?
- Do you want to travel instead of having a group celebration?
- Do you want to participate in a giving back activity or have guests donate to a specific charity in lieu of gifts?
- Is there a particular gift that you want?
- After you have answered the above questions, start making a list of possible ways that you can celebrate and then do some research. For instance, one idea I had for my celebration was to invite my friends to be part of a breast cancer walk. However, through my research I learned that the amount of money participants were required to raise was more than I felt comfortable asking of them.
- Once you know what you want, share it with those who need to be involved in the planning. Don’t wait and hope they figure it out on their own. If you don’t clearly state what you want, you are setting yourself up to be disappointed.
- Honor what is “Just Right” for you right now, and most importantly…have a great celebration!
For those of you who would like to make more connections with other midlife women, I invite you to join my Midlife Reinvention Facebook Group. You will gain access to training and resources from me and connect to almost 300 like-minded midlife women who inspire and support one another as they navigate and create their most fulfilling next acts.