I’ve always loved birthday celebrations. For me or others, small parties or big to-dos, celebrating birthdays brings me great joy. It’s a Leo thing, I’ve been told. I was never one who was afraid of aging or hitting certain milestones. Twenty-five and thirty went by without much thought, although I did throw an epic dance party for the big 3-0. Thirty-five was a little more emotional, as it officially put me into the “geriatric” category when it came to fertility and our complicated family-building journey.

But, 40, for some reason, has me shook. And not in the “I’m old and washed up” kind of way, but in more of a “I thought I would have more of this figured out by now” kind of way.

What “this” is, I also have no idea. But I guess that is kind of the point. I have vivid memories of interactions with cousins or teachers when I was younger and thinking they were so cool and grown up. They were all much younger than I am now. I also chuckled recently thinking about my dad only letting us listen to oldies and Motown in the car growing up. And, even though I loved it, how OLD that music seemed at the time, yet it is not as old as my music is to my kids now. All these “real adults” seemed to really know who they were and what mattered to them. They were not perfect or infallible but still seemed rather solid on who they are.

I, on the other hand, do not feel that way at all.

I think I am going through some kind of reckoning. I suppose one could call it a mid-life crisis; I have reached that middle-aged category.

I’ve always thrived in order, structure, and game plans. My mom used to call me the camp counselor for all my friend groups since I was often the one coordinating our trips and activities. I make the menu and organize the logistics for family holidays and gatherings.

But these past 6+ years of family building and motherhood have really put what I knew about myself to the test. I’ve been forced to live within mess and chaos — both literal and figurative — and have come to terms with being surrounded by more unknown than known.

To add to that, my career of 15 years, which I always considered my calling, pretty suddenly felt like it no longer aligned with my life — my big picture. I felt disconnected from my work — and disconnected from my purpose. I called into question everything I thought I understood about the kind of work I thought I would be doing for a lifetime. I felt some pressure (internally and externally) to stay the course and keep on the path that was expected from my family, friends, and colleagues.

But I did what I have been trying to do more and more, and I listened to my inner voice telling me it was time for a change. The process was hard — the great resignation, economic uncertainty, and a family relying on me and my income was scary. But after six months in a new line of work, I am excited I found something that is rewarding and challenging and provides more of the flexibility I need in this season of life.

I’ve also always known myself to be a people pleaser. From a young age I learned that making my parents and other adults proud was a good thing and that I would receive praise and validation from it. I felt I should do whatever it takes to do that, including getting good grades, overachieving, and not putting myself in risky situations. But over time, that mindset did take a toll. I took on perfectionistic tendencies at the detriment of my physical and mental health.

Eventually, I learned I could not please everyone; by earning praise one way, I would not be meeting expectations somewhere else. That knowledge helped me break that cycle and begin to seek only internal validation. Which is WEIRD.

While I have felt somewhat lost, confused, and foggy at times, I have also discovered some pretty basic things about myself.

First, I need alone time to recharge in order to be a better human and parent. It’s not preferred; it is a requirement. I have forced myself to carve that out, even briefly, every day.

I also operate at a much higher level on days when I move my body. Movement had always been part of “operation shrink my body by any means necessary,” and while I got a dopamine rush from a good workout, it was specifically for that purpose. Now, I take the classes and do the workouts I enjoy, for any duration that works, and I walk away happier.

I kind of hate cooking. I don’t like being in charge of all the plans. I know I need therapy, meditation, and sleep. I prefer music with no words to focus. And, for the first time in my life, I identify as creative. That may sound weird, but when you’re a kid and you’re good at something, like math, you become that person. And that gets absorbed into your identity.

So, maybe I am not just the analytical, organized, logical people pleaser I’ve been deemed. Maybe I am a creative-thinking, frazzled introvert? Who knows. I am still figuring it out.

I guess what I am saying is, if you have more questions than answers, that’s OK. Just keep asking the questions!

Colleen Lubin
Colleen Lubin grew up in Arlington, MA and dragged her Yankees-loving New Yorker husband back to the Boston area after years of splitting the difference in Connecticut. After getting her master's degree at UMASS Amherst, she worked for 15 years in higher education across New England. Recently, she made a career change into the Learning & Engagement world within Human Resources. Colleen is most passionate about supporting women and families navigating infertility, pregnancy loss and the postpartum experience. Colleen's most used coping mechanism is laughter, so she utilizes honesty, authenticity, and humor to talk about tough subjects including grief, loss and mental health. Colleen is a mom of two miracles, Liam and Logan, born in 2018 and 2020, and is therefore very tired all the time. When not "momming so hard" you can find her at the beach in York, ME, riding her Peloton, taking a dance class or sleeping whenever humanly possible.


  1. This hit SO close to home. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this! It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one who has been struggling with identity in this way after motherhood.

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