Reflections on turning 40

A few months ago I was feeling discouraged thinking about my upcoming birthday, thinking how little I’ve done with my life.  No fame, no fortune, nothing impressive in any area of life.  Any accomplishments I had felt puny and unremarkable.  

When I was 20 and thought about being busy raising kids for years to come, I’d tell  myself that one day I’d be forty and my kids would be older and then it would be my chance.  Now here I was about to turn forty, still busy raising kids and seemingly not any closer to whatever it meant to have my chance.  I started thinking about how I wasn’t ever going to be any more than I was right then.  I wanted something concrete that showed I was here, that my life mattered in this world, but when I looked at my life all I could see was who I wasn’t and things I hadn’t accomplished.

Then an interesting thing happened.  I stopped thinking about it – fortunately I don’t usually get stuck in negativity for long – and the next time I was thinking about turning 40, things were different.  Not much different on the outside.  But very different on the inside.  Life had settled down and I felt content; this was a particularly notable shift after we started homeschooling again at the start of the school year.  I’m still not rich and famous, still not doing impressive things.  But living in harmony with my values has made a big difference in me being able to disregard those outside voices that were dancing around in my head.

I’m grateful for my life and my family, and I know that even without the things that people in the outside world use to measure value – a value system that I was stressing about not measuring up to – my life has been a success because I’ve lived it in the way that was meaningful to me.  I’ve been an imperfect wife, mother, daughter and friend, but my family and friends love me in spite of that…and I wouldn’t trade the privilege of living this life for anyone else’s.


19 thoughts on “Reflections on turning 40

  1. happy birthday! mazel tov! you have the perfect outlook for a real yiddishe mamme who is raising a lovely family! may you continue to have much streghnth , for doing what you need to do, and much nachas.

  2. BSD!

    Mazal tov! B”H you are where you are, who you are, have what you have, and have accomplished what you have! B”H may you be blessed with many many more years of health, happiness, and the wealth of the life you lead!

    Enjoy your birthday and family and friends!
    ❤️ Sara

  3. that’s so interesting, because when i read that you said this: ” I wanted something concrete that showed I was here, that my life mattered in this world” all i could think was that you have built this amazing incredible family that has inspired so many people, you have created a blog about your life that continues to give so many people guidance and encouragement in their own struggles and their own lives, you led a vibrant and active homeschooling community back in the states (which is how i even came to know about you in the first place!), and you continue to be the go-to authority for so many issues and in so many ways that scores of people you have never even met know your name! so, dear lady, i would say your life in this world matters quite a bit- IN VERY CONCRETE WAYS! hahahaha- but of course you would be too humble to know this, and that is part of your charm 😉 sending you best wishes for a happy, healthy, wonderful birthday- and i hope you don’t delete this message out of a sense of modesty! :)

    1. Julie, you have a way of saying such amazing things in such a sincere way that I know you mean it! It just goes to show that how we see ourselves and how others see us can be really different, and comments like this remind me to value what I’ve done more than I have. Thank you..

  4. Happy Birthday, Avivah! A few people beat me to it…but I wanted to tell you that you inspire and teach people every single day through your blog. Aside from the wonderful children you are raising, k’ah, you certainly should feel a sense of accomplishment from your blog. You are an amazing person, truly an inspiration! Happy, happy birthday!

  5. honestly…birthing and raising that many beautiful children. and sharing your awareness with other moms. ah…can’t imagine what accomplishment could run deeper.

  6. My thoughts totally match “thegardenrenegade”! OMG you are SO young, I had no idea! I used to wonder when that switchover happens when people get old enough that they start looking to people younger than them for advice, like for example going to a doctor who is younger. Wham, here I am! Good thing you caught me off guard! You are totally established as a very wise woman to whom I look to for clarity, reality checks, and (to call a spade a spade) sage advice! No turning back now that I find out your just turning 40! Mazal tov and your birthday and ad 120 to you! a’ali v’hatzlichi! ….whoa, I have to go reel my jaw back up! You’re a prodigy!

    1. Lol, Shoshana! People usually assume I’m older than I am when they know the age of my older kids; then when I’m out with my younger kids or especially just Yirmiyahu, people think I’m younger. It’s funny when people ask me if Yirmiyahu’s my first and I say, ‘no, my tenth’ and their jaws drop and they always ask me again what I said since they’re sure they misheard! I’m sorry to have shocked you.

      Life has a way of maturing us, don’t you think? I’ve often felt my age is less important than the age of my kids since they’ve been a major part of my growing process.

  7. Happy Birthday, Avivah!
    I find it very amusing that you think you haven’t accomplished much concrete, etc… Because when I look for “inspiring woman who does a lot in her life”, Avivah Werner is who comes to mind. Your blog has made such a difference in so many people’s lives, and of course, the impact you have on your children counts for a whole heck of a lot as well.
    You don’t give yourself enough credit! Raising a family, being a wife- those are two very large accomplishments, and not only do you do that, you also reach out and inspire others. You’re amazing and need to give yourself more credit!

  8. Mazal tov, Happy Birthday and thank you for being an inspiring voice in the homeschool community and the natural health world, as well as such a positive role model for having a large family.

  9. Mazel Tov Avivah! You are so young, with a very wise neshama. FYI, back in my homeschool days, you were a beacon of strength and inspiration for me (and still are actually). Now, you inspire me with the possibility of aliyah. May you and your family be blessed with good health, joy, strength, parnassah, and shalom. May we only share simchas!

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