My recent 34th birthday brought a mini-midlife crisis. A 48-hour period of existential questioning concluded with a watershed moment: I need to have more fun.
That’s easier said than done. With work, three little kids, bills, and trying to run a traditional Jewish home, I realized I’ve completely forgotten about fun.
When I was in my early 20s, Saturday nights were spent at nightclubs in the Meatpacking District followed by shawarma runs with friends at 3 a.m. So what happened? After decade’s worth of stresses — which included a husband in surgical residency who was never around, losing my first pregnancy at 22 weeks, and working full-time through nauseous pregnancies with very short maternity leaves — fun had slipped to the bottom of my very long to-do list.
It’s hard to prioritize fun when everyone in your orbit depends on you for survival. But I now realize I need to shift some of these priorities around.
One recent evening, my 5-year-old daughter made a joke, and I laughed out loud. Her response? “Mom, I have never heard you laugh before.” That isn’t true, of course. I do laugh, on occasion — especially when I am watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
But she had a point: I am too serious. My mother — who is smart and loving with a doctorate in Jewish studies — seemed to only enjoy life’s little luxuries once her kids left home, like playing mah jongg and going to the gym. For the sake of my sanity, however, I can’t wait until retirement. I need to lighten up now.
“Me time” is something I realized I’d confused with “fun time” — that an occasional manicure wasn’t cutting it in the “fun” department. But since I’m not able to jet off for a long weekend in Cabo with my girlfriends, I’m learning to recognize that fun can be had during life’s little moments. I’m determined to unearth the slightest instances of humor and lightheartedness in my everyday life — “being in the now” is my new mantra.
Every weekend, for example, my Instagram friends share their “Sunday Funday” posts. I decided it’s time I had a Sunday Funday, too. The Sunday after my birthday, my husband was working, and my kids and me were coughing as if we had hairballs in our throats. But instead of feeling sorry for myself, we all bundled up — it was 60 degrees! That’s cold for LA! — and went to the park.
We climbed to the top of the slide and, one by one, my kids rode down on my lap. We giggled, amusing ourselves in the most simple way. Thoughts of “what should I make for dinner?” faded and I let go of regret that we weren’t going on vacation anytime soon. Instead, I saw the playground through the delighted eyes of my kids. And you know what? It was fun.
Later that week, I brought my 4-year-old daughter to my office. Together, we explored a place familiar to me through her eyes. We ate m&ms and colored at my desk. Another day, my 2-year-old son and I did errands, but we stopped on the sidewalk to wait and watch airplanes in the sky, jumping and squealing together.
Don’t get me wrong, I also need adult fun in my life. There is only so much “being in the now” will accomplish when your kids have been whining at you for six hours straight. Whether it means my husband and I get out more to comedy or dance clubs, or to play tennis, or to drink martinis — or all of the above — I’m working on making that happen.
Still, the first step was me acknowledging that fun is a state of mind. I’ve learned that no amount of money or time or energy will bring fun — the key is being present. As my Nana Goldie always said, “The past is history, the future is a mystery, but the present is a gift.” This year, I am going to relish in the present and laugh a lot more along the way. Who’s with me?