Friday, March 25, 2011

Is this middle aged?

by guest blogger Mama D, J.D.

I’m sure you’ve had a moment like this too.  Or you will.

I remember distinctly walking out of our condo in Adams Morgan in Washington, DC one morning on my way to work when it hit me.  Somehow, I had become a married, homeowning, attorney.  I didn’t feel that grown-up, but there it was. 

Cut ahead a couple more years and there I was, pushing my baby, my baby, down that same street and wondering a similar thought, “how did I get to be a married, homeowning, attorney-mama?”  Another year, and I was calling my husband at his BigLaw job to ask if he might be coming home in time for dinner with me and our toddler (yeah, not so often).  I started writing a book in my free, alone time, “Confessions of a Reluctant Stay-at-Home Mom”™ as I wondered how I got there and what had happened to my career plans.  I began legal consulting work for former colleagues.

Then just a few years later it was, “where did this white hair come from and how is it possible that I’m a married, homeowning, ‘SAHM/WAHM/attorney-mama of two under two, in the ‘burbs! ?”  How can one person have that many additional identities, past daughter, sister, friend, etc.? 

Jump forward three more years and here I am finally eating my breakfast after I just barely managed to get all three of my children, yes now three real little walking talking people with their very own personalities, dressed (I conceded that fight with the four and six year olds this a.m.), fed, lunchboxes packed, backpacks ready, and out the door to their schools.  I got to my office a few minutes late and my boss is antsy about getting a bunch of stuff done this morning and she’s stressing me out, but first I just need to breathe

So I was standing at my kitchen counter pouring my first cup of coffee, conveniently my office is in my home (which incidentally is how I manage to get to work at all some days under the circumstances!) and taking a deep breath.  And that same family of thoughts resurfaces, “how on earth did I get to be this married, suburban-homeowning, minivan-driving, attorney-mama of ‘three under five’ with my own law firm and a whole team of people working with me to help take care of all our clients?”  

Then an even harsher reality sets in: I feel like this person.  I can believe it.  I’ve grown into me I guess.  I have the laugh lines and white hairs and I assure you each and every one was hard-earned; they’re badges of honor and I’m not dyeing them.  Besides, I’m still young my older relatives and friends tell me; the younger ones tease me for being old.  I’m “adorable” as an older-than-me woman attorney recently told me in a professional meeting when asking how old I was, I was turning 35 the next day. 

I asked another older-than-me woman attorney in that same meeting if there was something about 35 that was just different, because for months I’d been starting to feel it.  I wondered if it was the number somehow or if it was something biological, you know, reaching “advanced maternal age.”  She smiled and laughed a little (in a nice way) and said, “I think it’s those three kids!”  She had her first child when she was 42 and assured me she hadn’t felt any different at 35 but she felt a lot different after having a child.

The next day I sat down with some materials to read about advertising for my law firm in local publications.  A chart broke out the demographics for me: 35-49 is apparently “middle age.”  I laughed out loud.  I may feel like all the rest of those labels on me, I’ll admit being horrified to discover 80s tunes on the Classic Rock station, and I confess to occasionally drinking coffee with lunch these days (something I had previously thought the exclusive domain of “old people”) but I certainly don’t feel middle age!  I mean, sure, half of my friends are talking about perimenopause, but the other half are still going out on the town having adventures (OK, maybe less often than a decade ago, but still).  I guess I’m somewhere in between, which is just exactly where I feel.  Ugh, maybe that’s what they mean by “middle” age!

A few thoughts make it all better: (1) my husband still loves me and I think he’s like a fine wine that truly just keeps getting better with age (OK, mostly, lest I sound unrealistically sappy – we all have our moments and quirks of course!); (2) no matter how old I get, he’ll always be a few years older than me (and he’s much cooler); and (3) together my husband and I have a beautiful family and even when all four of them drive me crazy I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything in the world.  I would, however, prefer a boss who were a little more laid back and let me take a day off here and there, jeez!  She’s nagging at me to get back to work; I guess I’d better before those kids get home!

 Danielle G. Van Ess is the Owner and Attorney at DGVE law, LLC on Boston’s South Shore.  She is an insanely busy mother of “three under five” dedicated to helping people add to, protect, and move their families®.  From the comfort of her dedicated home-based office and with the help of her virtual team members, Danielle’s firm, DGVE law ® provides maximum legal quality and client service with the minimum amount of stress (for her clients anyway) to clients in the process of adoption, creating estate plans, and buying or selling real estate.  Connect with her on Twitter @dgvelaw and on .


  1. I have those thoughts, too, at least about being an adult with a mortgage and a family. But if it makes you feel any better, I wouldn't mind being you when I'm 35 :D

  2. Thanks, B! Yeah, a mortgage does feel very grown up! ;)

  3. Great story mama! Thanks for sharing. I wonder the same thing, all the time?!!

  4. I knew I wasn't alone, Anonymous!

  5. I really think you should have waited a number of years before lamenting about middle age.. very immature and such a waste of time coming from a 35-year-old.. get over it.. you aren't the first one to raise children and start your own business... far from it... And I hope your book about being a "reluctant" sahm never makes it to the presses.. the title itself smacks of elitism and a sense of entitlement... please keep in mind many parents would love to have at least some time at home but do not have that financial option... if you were reluctant then dont do it and if you do do it "relucantly" stop playing the martyr and complaining about it.. look up the word relucant... not sure why I'm so annoyed, but I am... And I think the 42 year old mom (gasp) was saying what I thought when I read this.. get over it.. you just seem too self-absorbed to see it...

  6. To the last Anonymous:

    I don't normally get in the middle of comment discussions, but I feel the need to defend Mama D in this case.

    What is with the malicious comment? There is obviously something going on in your own life that is making you this hostile about such an innocent post that most of our readers can relate to, including myself.

    Of course, to each their own, and what we write about on here is our own opinions and I do love to hear from all of our readers, but to wish ill-will on someone (as in wishing her book never makes it to press) is not cool.

    I am only 32 and I think the same thoughts as Mama D all the time. When I was younger 32 was so old - in fact it was ancient to me, and yet here I am a SAHM (not reluctant, but by choice), with one child, a mortgage, a dog and a husband who works 100 hours a week. And sometimes I think about the fact that this is what my life will be for the rest of my years - give or take a dog and plus one kid :) - and I can't believe that I am already here at 32.

    BMB is a open, positive place for Mamas to share their personal stories with other Mamas, and not for Mamas to judge other Mamas. I welcome all comments and opinions of course, and love to start debates here, but your comment was just downright mean. In the future keep those to yourself.

  7. As a mother of 3 almost the same age as Mama D, I have to say that I agree with the "anonymous" poster. All of Mama D's social media postings (not just the one on this blog) most often convey the message that she is a martyr, doing things that most other mom's haven't done. While I absolutely agree that it is important to have open forums to share insights, support each other, etc, I find that we all are "insanely" busy moms juggling a million and one balls and I find it offensive to feel like she thinks other mom's are not in the same league. I find comments like wishing my boss would let me take a day off, somewhat offensive. As mom's, I am not sure we can ever feel like we are able to give enough of ourselves to anything, whether work, school, our marriage, ourselves, etc but it doesn't mean we need to act like as a self-employed mom, we are facing bigger demands than another mom. My guess is the reaction provided by "anonymous" was in response to more than just this single posting.

  8. Thanks for your response, Mama J. I had, however, expected that sort of response. In fact, before I sent this post over, I ran it by a couple of friends who are older than me and most honest critics asking if they thought that raising anything about age like this would trigger this type of reaction, that is, so much emotion that it would be hard for the reader to hear what I was saying as a whole. We agreed, it might. And although I'm sorry it made that reader feel so upset, I still think it's OK.

    I'm not "lamenting middle age" or complaining at all, just observing and in fact embracing where I am at *this* point in my life. Of course this would sound immature to someone older than 35! And it also sounds sooo old to someone much younger. That's the point. In another 15 years I'm sure I'll have a more mature perspective and I'll write about whatever that feels like then.

    Of course I don't think I'm the first to have had children or started a business; that's just silly. I do, however, understand the anger in the above comment about sounding elitist & entitled. And from reading nothing further and knowing nothing other about me than this one little snippet of an isolated blog post, I think that's fair. In fact, I'm sure that's why more women who have similar feelings and experiences don't share them publicly.

    It's true, I was extremely fortunate to have been financially able, because of my husband's job at that time, to choose to be a SAHM. There was never a time when I didn't understand that. The larger truth is that after I left my job as a nonprofit domestic and sexual violence attorney because my salary there would barely have covered the cost of child care.

    I don't feel like a martyr and never did. I felt like a confused professional woman who worked for years to get to a particular point in her career and then suddenly stopped short and had to regroup and adjust to a whole different set of realities. I felt then and still do that it's extremely unfair that other mothers don't have the financial freedom or family or community support to be able to make that choice.

    I would so much rather see all of us mothers come together to support one another through honest, open dialogue in a mutually respectful and constructive way, seeking to find common ground and seek understanding than pit ourselves against one another with reductive labels and their associated stereotypes.

  9. What an interesting exchange we have here! I think it reflects so much of what we heard from moms when we were conducting our research for Good Enough Is the New Perfect. I could write a treatise, but here are the highlights:

    1) A lot of people will not like it when moms who have advantages open a conversation about the challenges in their lives. We felt that way when writing our book; we know that we are extremely fortunate, and we worried that we would sound whiny if we shared our concerns. In the end, we decided that we had something important to say, and that work/life issues deserve a place in the national conversation. Just because you have some advantages doesn't mean you should lose your voice.

    2) It's lonely being a mom today -- no matter what way you classify yourself. We're not our Baby Boomer mothers, and
    while we've inherited quite an abundance, we're not quite sue what to do with it. And moms wanted to feel validated. But with each of us choosing a unique path, someone is always different from us, and that makes us feel alone. It take a lot of confidence to make the right choice for YOU.

    I agree with the mom who said we need to support each other, but even if someone questions your choices, it's OK to be OK with who you are. It's part of the journey of self-acceptance; after awhile, you realize it's OK if everyone doesn't agree!

  10. I've totally been feeling this myself lately (she says, as she sips a glass of red wine and struggles to stay awake til the end of her 38th birthday). As I mentally prepared for another birthday, I realized that I was rapidly approaching 40. I feel like 40 is going to be really hard, and I can't help but wonder if it's because 30 was so easy for me--29 was totally awful, I couldn't wait to turn 30, and

    I totally have those moments, where I almost step outside myself and take a look at my life and wonder how the heck I got to where I am--and whether I'm the only one. I think that's a normal thing to do, not self-absorbed. Doesn't everyone engage in a little navel-gazing every now and then? :)

    So I guess that's my long-winded way of saying, I can relate.

  11. Anonymous 1 and Anonymous 2 AKA Mean Moms: Your words are very harsh! I often wonder if you would say these things to another mom in person....Let's face it, none of us are perfect! Danielle is merely describing her struggles as a working mom MANY of us can relate to...BTW, she never stated that she is the ONLY busy mom. Use some tact, I think in high schools, administrations would use your descriptions as Cyber "Bullying"; be the adult and lead by example. I am not perfect and I certainly have my faults..writing angry mean messages that ultimately can penetrate the thickest skin is just down right vicious. TACT!!! Enough said.

  12. I think perhaps we can all agree that parenting is a challenge (or maybe we can't, but I'll press on regardless). Blogs like this are supposed to serve as modern day communities where people share stories and lessons from life. These modern communities can be a bit cruel. Any writer is brave to open up and share a story because it exposes her to personal attacks that would never occur if one couldn't hide behind anonymity or a faceless exchange.

    I relate to this story as a 35 year old lawyer and mother of 2. Mostly I love my life, but I look around and sometimes wonder how I got here (and how I'll survive it all). Danielle's reflections strike a chord, even though our paths were not the same. I know Danielle as my lawyer and a friend and it is upsetting to see her attacked for sharing her life with strangers. Danielle, continue to be brave and share your writing. If no one is criticizing, then no one is listening...

  13. And you guys aren't angry calling us mean moms and cyber bullies? You put your life out there, you get feedback. If you only want positive feedback then don't do it. And it seems like Mama D doesn't only want positive feedback, its all you others who feel it should only be positive.

    I am a new sahm, 42 years old, 2 very young children. I worked for 21 years and had a salary close to 250k (I only say this for point of reference of my success, not to make everyone go crazy). I "didn't need to work" and people knew my financial situation and questioned why I would work when I clearly had the financial means not to (read, everyone knew my husband did well). It's all a catch-22 and I didn't mean to come across as such a bitch and I apologize for that. When people ask me how it feels to be a sahm after so many years of hard-charging I am honest with them. I say I do not miss the constant emails, conf calls, meetings, being away from home all day, travel, juggling from across the country, deadlines, etc. I never ever say how "fortunate" I am b/c that term just irritates the hell out of me and it is elitist and talking down to people. Sorry, it is. Please find a new way to say why you are quitting the workforce. And I most definitely am honest and say I am not 100% sold on being a sahm. But I never ever over-thought my decision to quit my job. It truly was just the right time for me in every sense of the phrase and I am so tired of us other "fortunate and privileged" moms who do (and I do have a nanny a few days a week, so come after me for that too I guess. But its only b/c I am "fortunate" ie., have more money than you). That was the point of my response. Those women who go over and over and over their worth tied to their jobs bore the hell out of me. Mostly b/c I was so successful and (here comes the bitch again) women who were less successful than me just twist it all up and discuss their decision until they are blue in the face. If you need to discuss it that much then you made the wrong decision. I am very black and white. Very Ayn Rand Howard Roark. A realist.

    And this whole age thing is such a bore. 35 is young. 40 is young. 50 is young. If you define yourself by age then you are over-thinking that also. Because really, what changes the day after you turn 30 or 40? Nothing. Unless you let it get a hold on you. And if it gets a hold on you at 35 or 40, imagine how miserable and so old beyond your years you will be when you are 60 or 70 and still vibrant! Eat well, move your your body and exercise your mind...

    I posted as anonymous b/c Momma D wouldn't know who I am anyway, so who cares. D's response was well-written and she means well. I respect that... but for some reason this post truly rubbed me the wrong way. I look forward to the ongoing debate. But I do miss my administrative assistant.

  14. I'm 34 and have also trod down the lawyer/sahm road. I spent this evening laughing with my dear friend of 24 years about the fact that we got old(er). Sometimes we step out of ourselves and look at how our lives have evolved, and that is always insightful. Thanks Mama D!

  15. As to the negative comments, the way I see it is if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Productive discussion is good, but there is no need for rudeness. It's true; all moms are crazy busy & we have enough that brings us down. We don't need to put each other down.

    As for the article, I feel that Danielle is simply conveying her amusement at how she got to where she is now. I do that all the time. I do happen to be a self-employed attorney who works from home and has two young sons under 5. It is difficult to be a work from home, self employed parent, but that doesn't mean it's not hard to be a parent who works full-time or part-time outside of the house or to be a stay at home parent whose work is running a smooth household. All parents, everywhere are crazy busy, and I think we all step back and think with amusement and reflection, "how the heck did I get here?" I seem to do this when I hear a 20 something friend with no kids lamenting the fact that she is tired or busy, etc.; or when my kids are running and screaming through the toy-strewn house. I don't think Danielle is saying she is special or unique in her feelings or situation, but is simply sharing her personal thoughts and feelings about getting older and the journey she's taken over the last decade.

    Anna from Motherly Law

  16. Such mama-drama. This is just a playful piece about how 'the days go by slowly - the years fly by' go on the attack, the comparisons, the judgements from others are what's destructive to all women. Women judging women is nothing new. But isn't it about time it stop? For the first time we have a real chance to share, speak out, relate through forums such as these and what do we do? We attack each other. Let's step out of the stereotypes and just enjoy the conversation. If you don't relate to one person's story, that's fine. There are many women's stories I can't relate to but I absorb them in an effort to learn about the attitudes around me.

  17. Oh for Pete's sake. Danielle is awesome and having 3 kids under 5 and working is a challenge! This shouldn't be a tit-for-tat issue. We all age, we all work hard, and we all (sometimes) feel that our children give us a run for our money. Thanks for writing this, Mama D. I too have been feeling middle aged!

  18. My head is spinning a bit after reading all of this. I'm totally baffled as to what the issue is, and why some of the commenters were so agitated. I thought Danielle wrote a lovely post about the ways in which life seems to keep moving, and every once in awhile we find ourselves with a moment of reflection, and sometimes what we realize can be a bit of a shock! Thanks, Danielle, for sharing your experience!

  19. I agree with Kami and Carla (and so many of the others). I couldn't find a thing about this post that rubbed me the wrong way, but to each their own. That being said, cruel and hateful rhetoric - particularly when from behind a mask of anonymity - has no place on BBM, a community of mothers dedicated to sharing with and supporting one another.

    All mothers - whether they work, work-at-home, stay-at-home or any combination of the above choices - face challenges and are allowed a voice.

  20. Candice Aiston3/28/11, 2:21 PM

    I agree that the anonymous outrage is absurd. It's really sad that some women are so catty. I personally appreciate Danielle putting herself out there, because her openness has helped me tremendously. I was a WAH attorney mom when I met Danielle, and she was the first person I had met who was doing the same thing that I was. (We've both met a few others since then.) It is hard and crazy and chaotic, and it is isolating. It's like you don't belong in the SAHM world, and you don't belong in the professional world. I remember feeling so glad that someone else felt the same way I did. I am so glad that the internet exists as a positive tool to connect people. I just don't understand why someone would waste the 5 minutes it took to type something spiteful.

  21. Well I sure am glad I was pointed in this direction since I just, and I mean *just* posted to Twitter about my upcoming 35th! I am not now nor have I ever been someone who is nostalgic or a big birthday-celebrator but for some reason, 35 just seems relevant and significant to me. I can't pin-point the precise reasons but if I had to guess, I would say that a lot of them are mentioned in this blog post. I spoke to a MALE lawyer friend tonight, partner in his own very successful PI firm, and he said I remember you as the cool girl who got us into all the best clubs and parties and now you are a keynote speaker at dorky database conventions where you get jazzed up about PowerPoint presentations. He said on a scale of 1-10 you are beyond phase 8 dork. And I laughed because it's true and I love it. The evolution of ME has been hilarious, scary, varied and colorful and I really wouldn't change any of it (divorce warts and all). I think it is valuable, healthy and FUN to look at who you are, who you were and think through the progression.

    Just to join in the debate - I was a full time lawyer, then full time SAHM, then part-time lawyer and part-time SAHM now back to very full-time single mother lawyer. I think each has its challenges and "privleges." I don't think I could work at home because I would watch Real Housewives and eat popcorn in my pajamas instead of doing what I'm supposed to do. I don't think I could go back to having the pinnacle of my day be hitting the grocery store. But life is funny, never say never. I embrace and love it all. The best thing to do is listen and learn from everyone so you can apply knowledge and experience to your own life and struggles.

    Don't be a hater.

  22. joining the chorus of bewildered posters who are puzzled by the negativity. certainly we can always look back at those times when we were younger than we are presently and think, 'wow, i didn't know then what I know now.' no need to judge someone who actually is younger, right? very sweet post, mama D. it's totally appropriate, normal and wonderful to look around and take stock of where you are, and wonder, 'wow, how did I get here?'