Reminiscing My 30s: The 40th Year of My Life

A little blog post series: I am turning 40 this week, and I thought it would be fun to look back at my last decade before my birthday. So, every day for ten days, there will be a new blog post reminiscing about one year. Also, check out my Instagram for a few more photos and videos from these last ten years of my life.

The Big Picture

This last year was shaped by us growing as a family. I turned 39, was pregnant with our second child, and about to start a new job. First, we spent Memorial Day Weekend in Vermont where some of our best friends got married. Upon returning, I started the online training to become a coach for the reading materials of a big U.S. publishing house. When they let us know in a call that all of us coaches in New York City would start working in person as soon as possible, we scampered to find a daycare for Josephine.

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After visiting several, we chose a daycare close to us. I felt so torn when we dropped off Josephine there on the first day. Until then, I had spent pretty much every day of her life with her. On the other hand, I wanted to work. Luckily, Josephine loved going to daycare. And I quickly felt better when I realized how much she learned from proper teachers and also from the other kids. I would even say she was absolutely ready for daycare and has prospered since.

What bugged me was that my job suddenly didn’t start as soon. Instead I did more and more trainings throughout the summer. While those were paid, it was at a far lower rate. It had the advantage though that we could spend three weeks in Maine. I have really gotten used to going there every summer. I love the big house with relatives constantly coming and going, the big kitchen, Rich’s cousins’ kids who have started to play with Josephine, the cooler weather, the little house on the lake close-by, etc. Since 2022, our car has stayed up there. It is in the barn during the winter and (kind of) good enough for us to drive around when we are there. In a way, that area of Maine even reminds me of where I come from in Germany: without a car, you are stuck.

Once we returned to New York City, my job was finally picking up. With the start of the school year, I began to visit schools and coach teachers on the new reading program. Judging from their feedback and my own experience, I was quite good at it. A great first job to divert from being a teacher myself.

Reminiscing My 30s: The 40th Year of My Life | janavar

At the same time, I was becoming more and more pregnant. We had been happy to find out early through the blood test that we were expecting another girl. I had switched doctors and the hospital and was very pleased. Because Josephine’s pregnancy had been without issues, they didn’t consider me high risk. So I had far less checkups, which I liked. Towards the end, we also found out that the baby was not in breech. That excited me so much because I really wanted to have a VBAC instead of another C-section. Fortunately, my new doctor and her hospital are specialized in VBACs. While they, of course, informed me about all the pros and cons, I was set on trying it.

At the end of October, we flew as a family to Montreal for a week of vacation. We booked a little apartment in a hotel right in the city center and explored one of my favorite cities. There, Josephine really started to walk distances. It was also much easier to let her go because there were so many pedestrian zones.

My intuition told me that the baby would be a bit early. Especially in the third trimester, I was very tired and just wobbling along. On days when I worked at a school, I left the house at 6.30 a.m. and often only got home by 5 or 5.30 p.m. I was knackered. And very pregnant. Sadly, my intuition was totally off. Ophelia waited exactly until 40 weeks to make her appearance. But I did get my VBAC and a smooth recovery. I also got an amazing second daughter, who I love to spend time with.

Reminiscing My 30s: The 40th Year of My Life | janavar

The tired mom look 😀

When Josephine turned two in February, we switched her to a German daycare. This one is further away, and it took us a few weeks to get used to all the logistics, but we know we made the right call. It is great to have a daycare that focuses on the overall development of a child instead of mostly academics. Now, she goes outside to the playground every day, she also has free playtime, and she has learned so many more things. Plus my very German argument: finally, she wears slippers inside – and she has learned to take off and put on shoes on her own. As a German, it also just makes me very happy to not only give my language to my kids, but also have them immerse in my culture as much as possible.

We flew to Germany in April for a week and realized how much German Josephine now understands and speaks. There, we spent much time with my parents and also visited some relatives. To me, that week passed by way to fast, but we had to travel on to Ireland where Rich’s brother got married. Josephine was the cutest (and only) flower girl, while I mostly took care of Ophelia. They both traveled so well.

At the end of that vacation, I also knew for sure that I would not return to my job. My maternity leave had been unpaid anyways. And I just couldn’t see myself leaving the house for almost 12 hours on many days and leaving Rich behind to deal with both girls. That is not a sustainable way of working for me. Plus, once we did the math, we learned that that job barely covered Josephine’s daycare costs.

Reminiscing My 30s: The 40th Year of My Life | janavar

So for now, I am still at home with Ophelia and enjoy that precious time. The second time around, I am so aware of how quickly everything passes. Therefore, I often just sit down with her and snuggle her. Every afternoon at 3 p.m., we pick up Josephine from daycare and then try to do some fun activity that pleases both of them. I really enjoy my role as a mother. When I turned 30, I was not yet ready for it. And I am confident that in my 40s, I will look for a new professional challenge. But right now, in this moment, I am in the perfect spot of having so much time for my daughters.

My Firsts

Does my first second child count? Initially, I was thrilled about a second child. Then I saw all those memes online about second kids being wild and making everything harder. Finally, we had Ophelia – and everything is perfect. Yes, some days are harder, esp. when everyone has a cold. But overall, our daughters are easygoing. Already, Ophelia sleeps through most nights (the pediatrician says it is due to her great amount of chubbiness 😀 ). And she is just so relaxed. So far, she hasn’t complained even once when I put here in our carrier at 2.30 p.m. to pick up her big sister from daycare. Josephine has set the schedule, and Ophelia kindly tags along.

Reminiscing My 30s: The 40th Year of My Life | janavar

My job was the first after deciding to not be a teacher anymore. I believe that it was the correct choice because being a coach at schools was still adjunct, but also different enough. It gave a good insight what job life can be in a more corporate environment.

What I Learned

Many things. Like how much I like daycare and really appreciate what the teachers there are doing every day. But also how little the U.S. cares about kids. Daycare is super expensive. There is nothing cheaper than 3,000 $ per month around here. It is even more expensive the younger the kids are. Basically, it would be cheapest if I stayed at home with both kids. But I also know that Josephine profits so much from going that I don’t want to take that experience from her. On the other hand, I learned about myself that I simply cannot give my baby to a daycare. I saw the baby groups where parents drop of their 6 week- or 3 month-olds. And I just cannot. Since there is no proper family leave/protection policy in this country, I totally understand why parents don’t have another choice though. I mean, I have now had two kids without getting any maternity leave payment. It is hard.

Reminiscing My 30s: The 40th Year of My Life | janavar

That morning, we took Josephine to her daycare for the first time

This goes hand in hand with what I learned about (some) jobs here. There are laws, and there are always gaps. My position was advertised as part-time. Therefore it was a contractor job, i.e. they pay you only for the hours you work, no paid vacation time or most benefits. It ended up to be a full-time job. Many weeks I even worked overtime – while being constantly reminded we shouldn’t because it was expensive for the company, but also please do your workload. Basically, it did not meet the actual requirements of a contractor job. Plus it paid way too little for a full-time position that required a professional degree.

This obviously also includes me learning how much I am willing to tolerate. Apparently not this. I am also fully aware that my cultural background plays a big role here as there are plenty of people around me who consider conditions like these normal. We will see how this pans out for me over the next months and years. After all, U.S. elections are almost upon us.

Linked to politics is the insight I got into the New York City public school system. As a big proponent of public school education, I have come to the sad realization that I do not want to send my own kids there. The teachers are trying their very best, but circumstances make it almost impossible to succeed. There are constant budget cuts. Class sizes are increased in the middle of the school year. There aren’t even nearly enough resources to support every student. Instead there is (too) strong focus on test results. I know that we have a few years to decide which school our girls go to. But right now I am leaning towards a: Can we please pay a private school, and you promise to study in Europe (saving us the U.S. college tuition)?

Reminiscing My 30s: The 40th Year of My Life | janavar

My Travels

1. Vermont

2. Maine

3. Montreal

Reminiscing My 30s: The 40th Year of My Life | janavar

We visited Montreal again (well, first time for Rich and Josephine), which I absolutely loved

4. Boston

5. Germany

6. Ireland

Reminiscing My 30s: The 40th Year of My Life | janavar

I hadn’t been in Dublin since 2012. I was happy to be back in Ireland, where I spent so much time during my 20s.

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1 thought on “Reminiscing My 30s: The 40th Year of My Life”

  1. Das war eine tolle Zusammenfassung der letzten Jahre. Man kann richtig gut nachvollziehen, wie du so langsam in die USA “hineingewachsen” bist. Und es ist auch gut zu sehen, dass du einigen Dingen wirklich kritisch gegenüberstehst. So unbegrenzt sind die Möglichkeiten auch in den USA eben nicht. Man muss überall seinen Weg finden, durchhalten und u.U. ein wenig für das, was man will, kämpfen.

    Ich wünsche dir und deiner kleinen Familie weiterhin alles Gute!

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