In our 20s we're figuring it out- how to balance work, relationships, and maybe the desire for or the beginnings of a family. We leave home for good. We realize what kind of people we want to be with. Basically, we finish growing up (if you can ever actually finish that).
By the time we hit 30, there are some things we need to have figured out. Not only do we need to know there is balance, we need to have achieved some semblance of it. We need to know how to put ourselves first. If only for a day. If only for an hour or so at a time. We need to feel successful, at least in one area of our lives. Below you'll find 30 things the working mama should have learned by her 30th birthday.
That's right, because maybe your twenties were. And, in general, there's nothing wrong with that. Your twenties were a time of adventure and discovery, of falling in and out of love. You were focused on you. That's good. There's a time and space in your life for that, with your teens and twenties being the perfect spot. However, by the time you turn 30 you should know that other people, and their equally busy lives, are just as important. They have wants and needs the same way you do, with your kids being no exception. They're dreamers too, and working moms need to find a balance between achieving their own goals and helping the family reach their joint ones.
Because you can't be a mom or a career woman all the time. You need quiet. You need to be an individual. That's all okay, as long as it's not the majority of your life. In fact, in making room for you to feel cared for and engaged, you're teaching your sons and daughters to prioritize themselves so they don't get lost. You know you can't forget that you put in time and hard work just to get here, a feat that deserves some pampering. If you're looking for a product to help with this, Mommyish just did a piece on Costco's 4-foot tall wine glass. Indulgent? Maybe. Perfect for winding down? Hell yes.
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You could have once been a people pleaser. It could be there was a time in your life you struggled with the confidence to say no. Yet, by the time you're in your 30s, you've developed a phrase you come back to again and again when you have to turn someone down. You say things like, "I can't do that," or, "Sorry, that doesn't work." You do it because you know what makes you happy, what you can fit in to your and your family's schedule, and have learned the hard way that you can't be in two places at once. You try to be responsible and not take on too much, something you know will stress you out.
Some things we can't or shouldn't say no to. However, there may have been a time in your life you avoided things that were hard or things you didn't feel like you were up to snuff for. Now though, by 30, you've learned to face those obstacles head on. You have faced them. And you've learned that with your dedication and perseverance you're a tough mama. After all, you gave birth. Birth! If you can pass another person through your body and walk an hour later there's not much you can't imagine yourself not being able to do, with the right preparation. Instead of saying, "I can't," you tell yourself, "It'll take time, but I will."
For the first time in your life, being a student didn't define you. For a while, working and paying off those student loan debts may have. It can take time and a serious amount of effort for young women to establish themselves in professional careers, time and effort that can feel like it's taken over every aspect of life. Your friends were co-workers. Your nemeses probably were, too. By the time you're 30, you've learned that you are not your job. In fact, your job would go on without you, with someone else taking your place, if it all went sideways. It's something you do, but it's not who you are. It's just one piece of the greater puzzle.
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Don't get us wrong. Every mama is an integral part of her family, and every mama's family alters the way she interacts with the world. Yet, moms know they are not their families. They are not defined by who their parents, their spouses, or children are. A woman should know by the time she's 30 that she's the sum of her experiences and dreams, that she's made up of more than just relationships. Being a mom, just like being a career woman, is a piece of the overall puzzle. It's probably a damn big piece. Nonetheless, it's just one part. Motherhood, like childhood, is a stage of life. The woman within the stage is more than that by far.
Because by 30, she's been burned a lot. It's not all bad, either. Getting burned by friends or lovers, coworkers or anyone else has taught her more than anything to appreciate the people in her life who've got her back. She's a lived and learned type of gal, the kind of friend other people want to have. You may not have a ton of friends like you did before your family came along. That's okay. You know the kind of people worth treasuring and the kind of bonds worth nurturing. Those people will wait for you when your life hits a busy streak, and you know your friendships with them will pick right back up where they left off. You take care of your friends, and they take care of you.
Like Ariana, by your 30th birthday, the working mom shouldn't have an issue with saying, "Thank you, next." You've learned that your time is valuable. It's too valuable to be taken up by people who won't appreciate you. You know that constant negativity or uncompromising behavior can suck the joy out of you. You're not down for that. You've got kids to be thankful for and joyful with. You've got a career that pays the bills. Really, you've got everything you need and a lot of the things you want when it comes down to it. When other people can't be supportive of that mind-frame, you're not afraid to put an end to the exchange.
She knows she's not perfect. She doesn't know it all and doesn't pretend to. Instead, she's a dedicated learner in every part of her life. This kind of woman grows at work when something comes up she hasn't dealt with before. She reads parenting books and blogs to see how other people do it, how to handle a problem at home with as much finesse as she can muster. She says, "I don't know," because she knows that doesn't mean she's lacking. It means she has something to study. By the time you're 30, you and she are the same. You've mastered the quick search and don't shy away from explainer videos or life hacks. You don't mind your kids knowing you're not an expert in everything. After all, you wouldn't want to raise a little know it all either. Those kids are the worst.
You've learned the lbd can be a powerful thing indeed. You have one. It makes you look and feel like a million dollars. You've seen that it can have an effect on other people too. Whether it's for Valentine's Day dinners with your significant other when things have been dull or cocktail parties for work, you know when to use that tool from your closet. In it, you're Sasha Fierce to your daily Beyonce. Perhaps someone close to you even knows that when it comes out, something's going down. It's an, "ah, that dress," kind of piece. By 30 you know that price doesn't matter. How you feel in the lbd, now that's the most important thing.
This doesn't mean you're rich by any means. It means, instead, that you know how much money is coming in and where it goes. Bills aren't some magical, money eating closet monster anymore. You no longer spend and hope that your bank account has your back. You know how much work goes into what you do, and you know what your time is worth when it comes to money. Have you asked for a raise? That's a big step in the maturation process. In fact, this NBC News article says that other generations can learn something from millennials about knowing and voicing their worth. It says that in the past two years the majority of millennials have asked for a raise. If you're one of them, go Mama!
By 30, it's a safe bet that you've lost something you truly loved. Whether this was a job you liked, a person, an ideal, whatever, you know that loss is painful. Kids grow up. Families change. Very few things will or even can stay the same. Looking back on your journey, you've changed too. While loss can be very painful, you've learned there's no use fighting it. You can't deter things from happening, but you can ride out the storm and come through the other side. That sort of endurance is something that makes you resilient and a leader. You, lady, are strong and made more so by the tough times.
You've learned to use your voice when it's necessary. This goes for your kids, too. Heck, maybe it was because of your kids that you harnessed that inner spitfire. There's nothing as ferocious as a mama bear. Whatever caused the awareness of your power to speak up, you harnessed it and have been better off for it. You don't let things simmer under the surface, turning things toxic. You say what you need to and let it go. You've probably taught your kids the importance of doing the same. You'd never want to see them allow people to put them down, and you've worked out ways with them to peacefully but powerfully raise their own voices.
Because by 30, you've had time to live in and get comfortable with that body. It's done some amazing, near miraculous things for you. It's given you your family. It gets the job done every day whether you're sick or stressed or just plain exhausted. You know what you like and are able to communicate that to your partner. Gone are the fumbling, embarrassing teen and early 20s interactions. You're a master at you now. The idea of you being a sexual being doesn't freak you out. You've accepted and embraced this part of your life. If only those old boyfriends could see you now.
Sometime before hitting 30, you came to realize you cannot survive on pizza and Taco Bell alone. While you may not be an iron chef, you at least have a few fall back recipes you can use to feed your family. You have food in the cupboard, leftovers in Tupperware, and have snack options available in a wider variety of colors than you did in college. While no one may call you health conscious, you acknowledge that your growing kids need decent fuel for their busy days. You too know you need this to operate at your best. You use a chopping board and have once gotten something for your kitchen for Christmas. Here's to hoping it was one of those cool electric wine preservers.
Remember that one time you peered in the mirror and realized you look a lot like your aunts or your mom? That's not a bad thing! It reminded you though that it was time to start thinking about your skincare game. If you're anything like us, your 20s were a time for sleeping in your makeup and thinking sunscreen was unnecessary. Now, you know that sunspots and wrinkles are real, and they're really coming for you unless you learn what type of skin you have and how to best take care of it. You're not vain. You're just trying to be healthy as well as confident in your skin. Go ahead and Amazon those products that'll make it feel lush and young.
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By your 30th birthday you've learned that women helping women is the way the world is supposed to work. Mothers. Cousins. Good friends. Whether it's just good advice or a leg up in the business world, you know that there is a circle of good out there. You're one cog in it, and someone once helped you out. If you have daughters, you're trying to pass on this good vibe to them too. Women, you know, are incredibly strong and wondrous creatures. We're only stronger and more in tune with our fellow woman when we're praising and raising each other up.
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It seems like a little thing. Yet, your credit score is what makes you eligible for good apartments, for buying a house, or for getting a car. When companies look at you on paper, too often your credit score is what they see. While this was another one of those phantom things when we were younger, now the credit score is often the end all, be all in a negotiation about high ticket items. Knowing what it is is a solid step in the process of the American dream. Getting it cleaned up, now that can be just the opposite.
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Whether it's using your phone as your personal assistant to call in car repairs or check the kids' grades or planning date night with your partner, you know how to get it all done. You can work and be mom. Just as well, you can be mom and be a girlfriend or spouse. If there's a kitchen tool you love, it's because it can do a hundred different things for you. That's a good analogy for what you do for your family and your employer. Basically, you're the Swiss army knife of motherhood. You're resourceful with what you've got, and when there's something you just plain can't do, you know how to find the person to do for you.
Gone are the days when you just ordered whatever was pictured on the menu, written on the board, or cheap. Now, you know what kind of tastes you prefer. You can order your drink confidently, almost offhandedly. Whether you're a frequent cocktail hour participant or you only have a glass a few times a year, you have a drink that soothes you without knocking you under the table. It's something you can have with co-workers or out on a date with your honey. And, unlike those early days of drinking, it doesn't fall in the conspicuous yet vague "jungle juice" category.
Memories can be so fleeting, and your time with your kids while they're still kids is short. Thus, you're the mom with the thousand pictures. They could be on your walls. Maybe they're saved on your phone. Wherever they are, you know someday you'll appreciate having spent the time to snap the shot. You'll look back on those smiling faces and relive a little bit of the joy from that day, that stage, that other life when you were so busy you didn't really get to revel in it. While the kids may roll their eyes, don't feel bad about asking them for just one more pose. They'll treasure those captured memories too one day.
While indulgences can be fun, you know what your family really needs vs. what it is they may ask for. This includes the most splurgetastic time of the year, the holidays. You know what your family's budget is and are mindful that the kids may want the latest electronics, but what they really need is socks without holes (and that smell that the washer never seems to be able to get out) and a new coat. You spend wisely. It goes for you too. While you may want a manicure this week, you know that both you and your family would be better served by a new box of coffee for the single cup maker.
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There are times that adding in an extra voice isn't helpful. You don't love your son's new girlfriend? Your daughter's pants are a shade too tight? Your man has put on a little winter weight? All of those are probably instances in which you'd choose to keep a lid on it. It's not that you bite your tongue out of fear. It's that you know the people walking alongside you have their own journeys and choices to make. You're not their life coach, counselor, or personal trainer. You're there to love and support them, whether or not you agree 100% with their decisions in the moment.
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That doesn't mean it's the only place you go. Yet, it's the place that feels like home away from home. It's where you know how to get around without much use of GPS. You've taken your family there and loved it. You also may have taken a trip there by yourself or with just your partner to really soak it in and relax. It's a place that has all the amenities and luxuries you wish you could have in your daily life, if only you were stinking rich. This place, however, sometimes convinces you that you are. Your worries are less there, which is one of the reasons you may go back again and again. See the world, but by the time you're 30 you have a few favorite spots on it.
Can your house never be full enough of animals? Do you have a mantra you repeat that goes something like, "There're enough living things in our house, counting the kids,"? Either way, you know which side of the spectrum you fall on. You can be both, but then you have a lot of things to keep alive while working. Mostly, we find that people are one or the other. You know what you connect best with. However, the underlying sentiment is somewhat the same. You like to see things grow. You like to take care of things that rely on you, and you think it'd be great for your kids to do the same. Because of this similarity, plants and pet people can certainly be friends.
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You know the importance of making sure you guys are on the same page. Maybe you didn't do this always, because when you're younger it's easy to get sucked into the mindset of climbing the ladder for the future. Now though, you've come to see that leaving each other in the dark is lonely, and parenting on your own is hard. You'd rather take on the tough stuff together. If you're lucky enough to have spent years and years with your partner, you've probably come to appreciate the way bouncing ideas off them helps you tackle problems that they're not directly involved in. Go ahead and vent to them. They're your sounding block.
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Despite all those self-help parenting books and endless blog suggestions, you know that all kids are different. The very kids in your household may need different styles of discipline. By 30, you've learned what works for your family and what doesn't. You've practiced what you preach enough that setting good examples and appropriate perimeters for behavior doesn't make you sweat (at least until something takes you by surprise). You're still learning who your kids are going to be every day, but they always know what to expect from you.
This is macabre, sure, but you've thought about it. You've looked at those little people that depend on you and worried what would happen if you suddenly weren't there anymore. In your younger years you probably felt invincible, like all those tragedies in news stories could never happen to you. Now, though, you know that the world is a big, unpredictable place. You'd never want to leave your family, but if the worst were to happen you've figured out what they should do next. You probably try not to think about it often, but in some file or surreptitiously placed folder it's there in case it's ever needed.
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Ah, the "junk drawer." Somehow, all the things that you need to have on hand (or could need) have piled up in an easily accessible space. There lay your earbuds, your workout phone sleeves, and your leftover key chains. You've tried to organize it or at least considered tackling it as a weekend project. After all, it's going to take more than just you. Every member of the family owns real estate in the junk drawer. Yet, it never gets done, and you've given up worrying much about it. As long as you can find what you need when you need it, it's serving it's messy purpose.
Perhaps you learned the hard way that you're not at your best when you're exhausted. There're are several times in life when this lesson makes itself known to a working mom. When there's a new baby. Then when you have to go to work after having that baby. When there're practically unattainable deadlines. When you're too busy worrying over what one kid, spouse, or even aging parent is doing. Yet, you've learned that whatever sleep you can fit in is needed. You're not efficient or productive without some rest. Coffee and energy shots will eventually run out, and then you'll crash.
Did we forget any lessons you've learned by your 30th birthday? If so, tell us what in the comments!