I found a photo of Mum a couple of months ago, taken the day after her 48th birthday. As I looked at it, I smiled at the shirt she was wearing as it was passed on to me several years ago and I wear it regularly. And then I began to think about all the differences between Mum at 48 and me at 48.
48 for now… as tomorrow is my 49th birthday.
And that has made me think about the differences even more. Two women, the same shirt, the same age. Reflecting on an image from the day after Mum’s 48th birthday and the last day of my 48th year.
By the time Mum was my age, she had 6 (nearly) grown daughters and she was a grandmother. She was married for nearly 26 years, and she was a homeowner. Mum had the “successful life trilogy”*: A house, a husband, and children.
Me? I have no children, no home, and no husband.
And despite all the things I do have in this world, I am still regularly reminded by others that I am less of a woman because I don’t have the trilogy. I am to be pitied because it’s just so sad that I am all alone in this work. I am to be prayed for so that I can find a man to take care of me (because, apparently, I can’t take care of myself).
But also, despite all the things I do have in this world, I also wanted the things that Mum had. I wanted children. OK, not as many as she had, but I wanted a couple of them. I wanted a home. Which I had for a while, and hope to have again. But at (nearly) 49, not having one seems like a failing. And I wanted a husband. And I had one; I had a wonderful one. But he’s gone and my attempts at dating have been a failure so there’s no realistic hope of a second chance at marriage.
I’ve been keenly aware of these differences for a very long time. Especially as the years ticked by and all my sisters had children and families of their own whilst I remained alone. I think it’s a common thing that all of us do: We benchmark our lives against others. “When my grandma was my age” … “When I was your age” …
As my life continues, there will be more and more differences between my life and the life Mum lived. Whilst there might be similarities in how we lived our lives in our younger years, Mum’s life and my life rarely mirrored each as I aged.
But that’s not to say I didn’t have anything in common with Mum. In fact, we had a lot in common from our hobbies and views on life to our talents and sense of humour and to our love of Scotland and our love of family.
And, of course, I have Tiger – Mum’s stuffed tiger that I made my own as a very young child. I can’t recall Tiger never being mine and I don’t recall if he was given to me or if I stole him from Mum. But he is my travel companion and my forever reminder that Mum and I shared so many loves in this world.
As I enter the end of my 5th decade of life, I am keenly aware of all the missed experiences that Mum had. And I am keenly aware that I will likely never enjoy most of them. But as I (almost certainly) have less than half a lifetime remaining here on Earth, there is no time to gain the things I missed out on in the first five decades.
But I hope to have at least one more decade, if not two or three (or God willing, four or five). And I need to do what I can to ensure I live these years intentionally and with joy. (Which I always strive for anyhow.)
By the time I write my next birthday missive, I will have been on this mortal earth for half a century. Whilst I am not sad or upset about being (nearly) 50, I am sad that I am at such a place of “lacking” at this phase in life.
The coming year is certain to bring challenges, but I am hopeful that it brings opportunities, too. I am hopeful that this next year will be full of adventures and laughter, family and friends, and good health for all of my loved ones.
I don’t have access to more photos of my amazing Mum as a 48-year-old woman, but here’s a selection of photos of me at 48. The woman you see in these photos is because of my mother. She helped to make me who I am, and I will always love her for that.
* Based on outdated, although still often used, dictates of what a woman’s life goals should focus on.