How To Turn 35: Part 1 – Why Am I The Value Of My Income?

Caroline Angus Baker
Are the wrinkles about to start appearing?

Five years ago, I was lamenting on losing the superpower which is being in my 20’s. Only I didn’t really appreciate my 20’s at the time (as people probably don’t). I did take pride in the fact that I ‘knew myself’, knew who I was, who I wanted to be, a feeling which kicked in around 28-ish (not realising this is, in fact, an evolving process which changes quite often).

Around this time, I was told that I am intimidating. Whaaa? Why? How? And to whom?

As the nodding of the group confirmed, everyone thought me intimidating, I wondered. Perhaps. I spend quite a bit of time around other mothers, but don’t enjoy standing around talking parenting lala. There won’t be a mothering blog where I complain about sleepless nights. All my boys have been sleeping through since a month old. If I spent all night awake, it is because of son no.1 and his breathing disorder. I was kicked out my ante-natal baby group at two months – the mums were talking sleep and feeding, and my son, at 5 weeks old, had his ribs broken, so his heart could be removed, repaired and put back in his body. I worried about medications, and, you know, him not dying. My concerns made things awkward. I was ejected.

In a bad mood, I once snapped at a mother at school, who bitched about having to take both of her own children to the supermarket. I have four kids. I take them all to the store. I told her of the time I, eight months pregnant, was sped along the tarmac at Munich airport, from one plane to another. Oh, my son was 3. Another was 2. The other was 1. I was a whale, a child in my belly. I was lucky to even be accepted onto the 28-hour multiple plane flights. It was a mission. You worry about the supermarket? Woman up. Again, that’s me ejected from a group. No bother, motherly gossip bugs me anyways.

I digress. I will be 35 in a few months. No one tells you how hard it is. The more I age, the more I understand my own mother, who died young herself. I have never been one to appreciate the little things; I want to go global on everything. I have buckets of ambition. I want to embrace everything new; the ideas of the past hold little interest (which is odd, I  am a historian, after all). I love my life. I’m not young and blonde and instagramming my travels, or taking daily photos of my feet on the beach (though I guess I could), or greeting dignitaries or whatever, but life is pretty sweet.


Mother of four boys

Eight-time published author

Intern educator at Auckland Museum

Volunteer Sailing Instructor

Student of ecology at university

Qualified sailmaker

Volunteer at Refugee Resettlement Centre

(Soon-to-be-qualified) Whale stranding officer rescuer person

Historian (expert subject – Spain)

(Soon-to-be-complete) Close quarter hand-to-hand combat ass-kicking woman

Local school volunteer swimming supervisor/reading and spelling tutor/running coach/child herder/school trip taker

Volvo Ocean Race
Living my Volvo Ocean Race dreams. Did I make much money? No! Is it easy working for free sometimes? God no!

I have travelled the world multiple times. I got the chance to live in Spain, aka, the best place ever. I nursed both of my parents as they had terminal cancer. I have had cancer removed from myself. I have survived a mental illness. I have narrowly missed a terrorist bombing. I almost hit Lance Armstrong with my car.

You know what I don’t have? A full-time paying job. When someone asks me what I do, as you can see, it’s a real jumble. Having skills like being an expert on Spain, or the Tudor period, or Jack the Ripper isn’t exactly a bill-payer. Neither is writing. Or volunteering your time to places which can’t afford to pay extra staff. And, ultimately, people are measured on their ability to make money.

I hate that.

Having an overpriced house (which is all of them here), driving a fancy car, taking spontaneous family trips to Hawaii – these things have a high value where I live. These are markers of success. I don’t want these things – it’s just stuff. (I’ve been to Hawaii several times though). I value experiences over stuff. But at 35, there are expectations about how much stuff you ‘should’ have. You ‘should’ be married, you ‘should’ have a kid or two. But, as a woman, you ‘should’ also being working, full-time preferably. You ‘should’ make sure your children have the best of everything (and I’m talking stuff, not love, time and patience, which they actually need). My oldest son is nearly 12, and his classmates agonise each morning over which Macbook to bring to class, since they have too many laptops at home to choose from.

I was born in 1980. There was never an issue about motherhood vs. work. The whole ‘women can have it all’ thing was drummed into me young. I never questioned it. My mother had a job, raised me and my brother on her own.

I will be 35 soon. I want to have it all. I want to have it all ON MY TERMS.

Isn’t that the definition of a woman having it all? The right to choose? I want to be there for my children, as I am able to at the moment. I do schedule my life around always being the mother at drop off and pick up, the visible parent (as the teachers say), the one there after school, playing games and colouring in. I have the fortune of being able to make these choices. I don’t want to have to feel guilty for that. I understand others struggle, but I am tired of being made to feel guilty for not working nine til five at a desk, or behind a counter. I do work, I do contribute to my family, my community, to the environment. No, I don’t have a huge amount of money earned at the end of every week, but do we have to live in a world that looks down on me because I give some of my time for free? When did it become to lowly valued?

Sorry for not earning huge amounts of money to spend on stuff. I have my family fed, clothed, housed and educated each week, and that is enough by my standards. Guess what, I don’t want more stuff anyway. Stop judging me, world, because I don’t want to play your game anymore. I don’t want to be measured by the Baby-Boomer or Generation X point of view – have the same job forever, get a crippling mortgage, save for retirement, and die. I want a more Millennial-style life, where you have to change and grow and evolve, just like the world we live in now. My parents both died loooong before retirement age – and my genes tell me that my life won’t be a long one. I am not going to apologise for living it up, my style, while I have the chance.

I’m the one who gets on the red carpet with the Blackcaps, but glory comes with sacrifices.

Rant over. Next week, I’ll delve into something new. Because turning 35 is more important than I expected.