When I was a kid, I thought a midlife crisis meant you bought a sports car because you felt bad about getting old. I also thought it was a guy thing — an old guy thing. Yet here I am, proving myself wrong: a 50-year-old mom with no sports car on the horizon, standing at the crossroads of the rest of my life, freaking out about what to do next.
For me, this is not an identity crisis. One of the best things about turning the big 5–0 is finally being able to live out who I am with security and confidence. That’s been a hard-fought, hard-won battle, forged through years of therapy and “doing the work” it takes to get there. So, it’s not that that I’m grappling with.
It’s literally the question, “What now?” that has had me spinning my wheels for the last several years. And the more I try to figure out the answer, the more I freak out about getting it wrong.
Let me back up the truck a bit to put this in context.
I’m a smart cookie. Hard to know how to say that without sounding arrogant, but it’s the truth. I have a high IQ, have excelled academically, and I have a variety of natural talents. I also chose to be a stay-at-home mom at 24, when I had my first baby. Those two things are not antithetical, but it sure feels like that’s the assumption everyone makes.
I had my first son when I was 24, and five years later we began our adoption journey(s). At 29 and 31, I welcomed home our next two daughters from Korea, and I was livin’ the mom life in full-force for the next ten years or so. That’s not to say I didn’t earn money over that time period, but I didn’t have a career to speak of. I did everything from painting pet portraits, to cleaning houses, to interior decorating — and the extra money afforded us family vacations and stuff like that. At 40 years old, our lives took a major detour from the original plan when I went on my first mission trip to Africa…and long-story-short, we ended up adopting a son and daughter from Uganda. Unquestionably, all five kids needed me home, available, and highly involved.
But, fast-forwarding to now, our oldest is married, our three daughters are in college, and our youngest son is about to enter his junior year in high school. Everyone (thank God) is doing great and well on their way to becoming well-adjusted, productive adults.
So…(twiddling thumbs anxiously)…what’s next?
The reality is I am NOT sitting around twiddling my thumbs. Or vacuuming my house maniacally. Or even bored. Seriously, I don’t even know what it feels like to be bored.
But here’s the quandary, and what’s fueling my midlife mom crisis: I like to do a lot of things.
And I do a lot of things pretty well. I’ve developed a ton of interests and skills over the last 25 years. Most of them are self-taught, but I have had some training and education. I’ve taken a few grad classes and finished a two-year program at a coaching institute. I’ve published a book, even. But I feel lost as to how to make everything (or anything, for that matter) I know or can do into an actual career. A career that makes actual money.
And here are the crossroads I’m facing, which, together, make me feel confused and directionless about what to do next:
- I don’t need a career to define who I am, yet I want my life to have the definition and structure a career gives.
- I am creative and entrepreneurial, yet afraid to manufacture a career of my own. I’ve gone down a few of these avenues already, and they’ve pretty much ended up being dead ends.
- I stand behind my choice to be at home with my kids 100%, but I still find myself justifying/apologizing/qualifying when asked, “So, what do you do?” Hello, insecurity, my old friend.
- …also, the dreaded resume filled with “life experiences,” rather than employment…
- …and…I’m. Afraid. of. Failure. (there, I said it.)
What’s a midlife mom to do in this situation? How do I sort out my interests and skills and knowledge and priorities and actually point them all in one direction?? (You’d think I’d know this after 2 years of coaching instruction, but that’s another story.)
Recently, someone asked me to title the current chapter of my life and I responded: Trying to Herd My Inner Cats. Seriously, it’s like that. Each thing is so interesting and full of life but seems to want to go its own way.
And I feel like I’m back in college, senior year. On the doorstep of the rest of my life, not really knowing what to do, afraid to take that first step.
Except this time, somehow, the stakes and expectations seem higher — at least for me. I don’t want to be the crazy cat lady who can’t focus and fritters away her remaining productive years. Perhaps the solution is letting some of those cats out the back door to go play in the yard, and keeping just a couple inside.
I have an idea what those might be, but you better believe I’m not making a public announcement of my “new career path.” Been there, done that, back-tracked, felt foolish. I may be an old dog (with no sports car) but I’m still learning new tricks.
To be honest, I had hopes that writing all this down would alleviate some of the angst, but it’s still there. And it would’ve been great to have some sort of happy ending right here at the bottom of the page, but there just isn’t one yet. Yet is the operative word, because ultimately, I do believe I’ll get there. I’ve learned a lot about hope and determination, the payoff of hard work, and the grace of God to lead you on the right path. My very full life of past experiences has taught me that.
Maybe I’ll add that to my resume.