My Thoughts On Turning 40 With No Kids, and More!

I am not, nor have I ever been, a “birthday person.” I don’t go crazy celebrating them, and I don’t think THAT deeply about them. UNTIL NOW.

I’m just going to come right out and say it: 40 is messing with me a little. *gasp*

AND I went on a trip with a couple of my close friends to celebrate this one. *double gasp*

In my “cougar” era in Barbados. This might be cheetah, technically.

Actually, I did a relatively big shindig for my 30th birthday too, but I think the decade birthdays are kind of a big deal, so it feels acceptable. And 40 is definitely a big deal, but in a much more scary, introspective kinda way.

In truth, a lot of the things that I “should” be worried about in respect to turning 40 are not “necessarily” the things I’m worried about. Let’s review what that looks like, typically:

1 – Looks. Honestly, I think I look pretty good for my age (and it took me damn near 40 years to be ok with saying that).

2 – Kids. I was never dying to have kids.

3 – Marriage. I am content with being single.

On that last one. Would I LIKE a fulfilling, healthy and happy relationship? Yes. Am I sad about the fact that I don’t have one right now? No. I like my life and I have plenty of happy, fulfilling moments on my own or with friends.

Society has led us to believe that we should “have” a bunch of things by the time we turn 40 (marriage, kids, house, stable career), and if we don’t have those things, we should feel guilty about it and other people should pity us.

I truly hope that my generation (or Gen-Z, I don’t care) is the generation that turns this mentality around. I have plenty of friends who are happily married with kids, but I also have plenty of friends who are my age and happily single. Why is the former automatically better than the latter? Because it’s expected? Because it’s what we’ve been told is “the next step” in life? Yes, to both. That’s literally the only reason.

I was doing some research on the topic, and a lot of millennials are choosing not to have children, and Gen-Z is even more behind this childfree movement. Why? A variety of reasons, but a lot of it has to do with money, emotional well-being, and climate change.

According to the Pew Research Center Survey, reasons for not having children range from medical and financial, to concerns about the state of the world and the environment. Most participants who do not plan to have children said they simply “just don’t want to.” / Pew Research Center Survey

Here’s another quote from a piece on Business Insider:

Some Gen Zers want more for their kids than just meeting their basic needs. Having children used to be an expected step in a couple’s relationship, regardless of their financial stability. Gen Zers are thinking more about whether it’s the right step. “I would just want to make sure that I’m so financially stable and have the perfect place to live, a comfortable place where I think kids would like to be,” Tess-Mathilde Bryan, a 22-year-old florist and freelance writer, told BI. “I feel like people kind of used to just have kids to do it. It used to just be a normal step in people’s lives, but I think people hopefully now are taking more things into consideration and trying not to put that expectation on themselves.”

Business Insider

I will give props to Gen-Z for this one, because I think that’s an excellent point that people don’t talk enough about. Back in the day, it was like, “welp we’ll just figure it out and have this kid.” I’m sorry but, fuck that? This is someone’s life AND your life. Think it through.

I could ramble on about the kid thing but truly, it’s just never been a priority for me and I have other shit on my mind. As for a relationship? Yes, I would like one of those in my future, but as I said before, I’m not crying about it. And no matter how well I’m doing in life, a lot of people give me that “poor single you” look.

My biggest accomplishment in life isn’t getting “picked” by a man, I assure you. Even if someone did pick me tomorrow, it wouldn’t be my greatest accomplishment, but it would 100% be celebrated as such. And everyone reading this knows that is damn true.

I’ve been on this planet for 40 years and I’m not sure this will ever change. “Congrats, you found someone who tolerates you!” I just don’t fucking get it.

Personally I think it’s way more impressive when you can get multiple people to fall in love with you, then you either self sabotage it or let them destroy your life.

If you’re new here, that was a joke. I have a weird sense of humor.

For real though, where’s the party for starting your own business? Or getting through depression, picking up your life and starting over? Shoebox doesn’t make a “congrats, you didn’t end it” card? Carrie Bradshaw said this (to some degree) on an episode of SATC and even though she mostly sucked as a character, she had a few good points and this was one of them.

But I digress. The point is, no one’s out here celebrating anything for single people, and they should.

Marriage (from what I hear) is hard, but there are other aspects of life that are hard too, and a lot of us have to go through them alone. You can view that as sad or you can view it as strong. Up to you.

In therapy we call this a ~ mindset shift ~

Now, on the flip side of this, I also know plenty of miserable married people and miserable single people. One is something you’re sorta stuck with, the other is a choice. Sounds like I’m shitting on married people but it’s actually quite the opposite.

Marriage, when you remove the sparkly filter, is a legally binding contract that you enter into with someone else. So if things start to fall apart, you can’t just walk out the door. And if you have kids? Forget it. It’s complicated, it’s heartbreaking, and you need a fucking LAWYER to get out.

Miserable single people? You have the power to change your attitude towards this. I’m sorry but you do.

Yes, sometimes a string of bad dates will make you want to lock yourself in your apartment for a week and eat McDonald’s. But here’s the thing…YOU CAN DO THAT.

I’m not advising that you solve your dating problems with isolation, sodium, and trans fats, but there’s literally nothing stopping you from taking a break from it all if you want to. You’re bound to no one but yourself. Shouldn’t that be more liberating than depressing? I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again:

It’s normal to feel lonely when you’re alone. It’s depressing to feel lonely when you’re with someone.

Yet, everyone still thinks being single is the worst fate as you get older.

Will this shit EVER change? We have the ability to reframe our thinking, but we don’t even try. And by the time we do, it’s usually too damn late.

For example. It’s a weird example but just bear with me here.

Do you ever think about why nostalgia content is so big on social media these days? I have a theory or two.

I think it’s because we feel somewhat responsible for it. And by “we,” I mean MY generation (millennials).

We were there for the birth of the internet; it was new, it was exciting, and it gave us the connection we craved through a magical box in our home (the desktop computer).

It may have started with embarrassing screen names and creepy chat rooms on AOL, but it evolved into…whatever the fuck this is.

It moved so fast we could barely keep up, but we never protested it. If anything, we just wanted more of it. Remember when MySpace came out? It was like crack (I imagine, never having smoked crack). Then Facebook happened, also crack-like. Napster. Friendster. WinAmp. Connect, connect, connect. More, more, more.

Ultimately, we helped shape it. We perfected the art of connection through a screen, but now we damn it to hell for what it’s done to us, our society, and our ability to connect.

The whole nostalgia content bucket is anchored in the idea that we didn’t know how good we had it then, and we should have appreciated it more for what it was: a simpler time on the precipice of a new age (i.e. the internet). Enjoying the ride and having some semblance of patience in between dopamine hits. A time before our lives became cluttered with technology, convenience, and instant validations.

Some will argue that it’s specific to the 80’s and 90’s ephemera that has been digitized and brought back to life, and that’s certainly part of it, but I think it’s a little deeper than that (because I think too deeply about things).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still in love with nostalgia content

Ronald Reagan deregulating advertising in the 80’s so that big business could market WILD SHIT to children is definitely fun to revisit after all these years, but to me, it’s more about the PEOPLE of the 80’s and 90’s, and WHY this content hits us so hard in the feels.

To give you some context – I wasn’t alive in the 60’s and 70’s, but I’m pretty sure they had weird toys then, too. And I’m pretty sure they had to wait for commercials to be over before they could resume watching their favorite shows as well. Gratification was not instant.

But THAT generation isn’t the one that built it up only to taketh away, so to speak. My mom’s generation doesn’t sit on their iPhones getting teary eyed over an old Pizza Hut commercial or the sound of a dial up modem. They didn’t care about technology then and they don’t care about it now. Most of that generation still hates it and they’re forced to use it. Us, on the other hand…we loved it.

But deep down, I think we’re all a little disappointed in how it turned out.

And that’s why I think nostalgia content is big. It’s not ONLY because we haven’t seen these things in a while, it’s because we remember that we fucking STARTED IT. And it was so fun and simple! You had the CHOICE to DISCONNECT if you wanted to! We could be as involved as we wanted, and no one shamed you for NOT being involved.

We couldn’t even use the damn PHONE if we wanted to be on the internet back then. Now…it’s in our faces, in our pockets, on our wrists, around us all the time. I currently have music streaming from my phone to my TV, while I sit on my laptop and text my friends from iMessage on my computer so I don’t have to be bothered to lift my phone. And I’m checking emails every 10 mins too.


There was a time when we would sign online and PRAY FOR EMAILS. “You’ve Got Mail” was the most exciting phrase I heard in 1998. Now? I get 200+ emails/day, most of which are marketing emails that I signed up for to get 10% off my purchase and that I’m sure I unsubscribed from 12 times. The math aint mathin.

We pushed this damn thing so far, we kind of hate it but we also feel lost without it.

So…was it really better once you got what you thought you wanted??

If we can kick ourselves for not appreciating the 80’s/90’s (aka LIFE) for what it was when we were in it, why can’t we recognize that we’re doing the same thing to ourselves all over again? Just in a different decade?

Your 30’s and especially your 40’s (from what I hear) can be some of the best damn years of your life. But instead of allowing ourselves to just LIVE it the way we WANT to, and enjoy the damn ride, we feel anxiety-ridden because we’re worried about what comes next. It’s like the nostalgia concept in a different package. We’re constantly chasing these “things” we don’t have and/or kicking ourselves for not trying hard enough to get them.

Here’s an idea for you to try on:

Maybe. We. Don’t. Want. Them.

And. That’s. OK.

I feel pretty content and happy with my life (most days) until someone asks me about the things I don’t have. Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe they’re things I don’t WANT?

Obviously I’m not speaking for everyone, but I think a large majority of us feel this way, we just don’t admit it. Not because we’re ashamed of it, but because we don’t think anyone will believe it.

I’m the type of person that goes after what she wants. If I wanted a husband THAT badly, I’d be out looking for one a lot more often than I do. But…I kinda like being on my own. It has its downsides, of course, like when I have to ask my doorman to zip up a dress for me (true story), but overall, I enjoy my alone time.

And if I wanted kids THAT badly, I would have frozen my eggs by now. But that “I have to be a mother” voice literally does not exist in my head and it never has. When I was in my 20’s, I was actually firmly against kids. I changed my mind to being “open” to it as I got older, but the man had to be right and the relationship had to be right. Haven’t found either yet, so chances are, kids aren’t in the cards. And I’m ok with that. My parents, on the other hand, I know it upsets them and I’m sorry for that. But it’s my life.

PS to all the divorced Dad’s out there, I’d prob make a great stepmom. Sup. *winks*

I’m sorry I can’t be helped.

One thing you can do if you don’t want kids and you’re sick of seeing yet another baby photoshoot on your feed: follow a bunch of “child-free” accounts on IG. There’s A LOT of them when you actually start looking. It made me feel less alone in my thinking, give it a shot.

Now, if you DO want a house, kids, a dog, and a white picket fence (do they still make those?), there is NOTHING wrong with that. And if you don’t have it by now, that’s ok. You have time. Maybe not as much time as you had when you were 30, but putting pressure on yourself is only going to make you feel disappointed with the now. And take it from me, that’s no way to live. Try being happy with where you are and enjoying it for what it is while you have it. Because if you do have kids soon, you’re going to miss those days where you can sleep in for no reason other than “it was Saturday and I felt like it.”

All that said, there are a few “other things” that hang over your head when you turn a certain age. In my case, when you turn 40.

I’m all of a sudden very aware of my own mortality, as well as my parents. I’m lucky enough to be alive (getting hit by cars and falling down stairs, nothing can stop me!) and both of my parents are still alive, but it’s starting to dawn on me that they’re not going to be around forever. No one is, obviously, but the awareness of this fact is so much stronger than it used to be.

It happened a couple years ago honestly, when I was going through my breakup in 2021, and maybe because I had spent the last few holidays with him, I didn’t realize how much smaller my family had gotten. It’s tough to watch honestly, year after year. That’s definitely one upside to the whole kids thing – the family grows, it doesn’t just dissipate. But your family is what you make it, and I try pretty hard to maintain my friendships for this reason.

In fact, to those of you who do have kids and a family, I urge you to check on your single friends during the holidays. Because if we stay single, by force or by choice, it doesn’t mean we necessarily want to sit on the couch alone on Christmas.

That’s one thing I think about often and you best believe I will be crashing the houses of my friends or friends with families for holidays once my parents are no longer around. That’s probably one of the few times of the year that I don’t enjoy being alone. I don’t think any other holiday bothers me, but being alone on Thanksgiving and Christmas just feels sad to me.

And last on the list of things that I’ve been really introspective about: just how fast it all has gone by.

And by “it” I mean my adult life. I’m not sitting here crying and saying “it’s over,” I’m not THAT dramatic, but I do look back on my 20’s and 30’s and feel like it was one big blur. Some of those memories feel like yesterday, while others feel like a truly different life; a version of me that just doesn’t exist anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not “sad” about that, because I’m glad I’m not living some Peter Pan fantasy life. I don’t have much desire to go drinking/clubbing until 5 am anymore and have long, deep conversations with strangers I’ll never see again. The high I used to get from that now feels exhausting. I’m happy that I’ve evolved into who I am and who I’m still becoming, but it’s just crazy to look back on it so clearly. Well, mostly clearly. There was a lot of alcohol.

If anyone in their 20’s and 30’s is reading this, don’t waste those years. Because you can’t get them back. And I’m happy to say that I really lived my life during that time. I did things. A lot of them were stupid. But a lot of them were amazing, too. I did them, I learned from them, and I don’t regret any of them. Even the stupid ones.

Well, maybe I do regret that 7th pickleback shot and throwing up ON MYSELF in a cab when I was 27. Yes. I do indeed regret that. But prior to that I know I had a BLAST.

Anyway. To anyone else turning 40 this year, get out of your own way if you haven’t already. Do the things that make you happy, because joy is just as fleeting as youth. If you don’t nurture it, it slips away.

I think that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope this made you laugh or feel a little better about where you are in life. And if it didn’t and you want to yell at me, you can do that too: @darapollak and my podcast is @youbothsuckpodcast. It’s a hoot!

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