Emily Kirschenbaum

If Age Is Just a Number, Why Do I Feel So Old??

They say age is just a number. And you are only as old as you feel. In that case, some days I am 26 and some days I’m 87. The calendar says I’m 45, but I really don’t understand how that is possible. When my parents were around my age, I was a teenager. I (as much as I’m loath to admit it!) thought they had it all together. They were responsible adults dealing with adult issues that I didn’t have to worry about. So how is it possible that now I am that age, yet I am not a responsible adult and I still have no idea how to deal with so many adult issues? 

Do my kids look at me and see someone responsible? When my daughter was little, she would look at me with these huge, innocent, trusting blue eyes and she would tell me something she was struggling with and then she would say “what should I do about it, Mommy?” She was a toddler, so often the problem was that she couldn’t open the nutella jar – that kind of problem, I can solve! But sometimes she would say – I can’t sleep or I’m worried about something. And I was terrified because I had no idea what she should do about it. Who was this child looking at me expecting me to have answers? 

It’s weird how fast time has gone by. And how hard it felt to have little kids when I was in the thick of it. It was physically exhausting – chasing after them in the park, carrying them, bathing them, shlepping all their gear. I thought it was emotionally exhausting too, and I guess it was at the time because it was all so new. I laugh now thinking about how little it mattered where they went to gan or how much screen time they had or what time they went to bed. 

Now they are big. Parenting is no longer physically exhausting because they are bigger than I am. The emotional exhaustion on the other hand – this is something I could never have imagined! I’m sure in another decade I will also look back on some of these issues and think they also don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but at the moment they seem huge. My baby just finished elementary school and I’m still trying to figure out where her childhood went. I’m trying to wrap my head around the concept that most likely both my boys will be in the army at the same time. 

I used to make the rounds, checking on each kid before I went to sleep at night. Making sure they were all tucked in, that they had their blankets and stuffed animals. Now, most nights I’m sound asleep before they are, often waking up in the middle of the night to make sure anyone who was out has texted me that they are home safe!

It feels like a weird place to be, this “middle-aged” life. I have so much freedom – I can make whatever plans I want with my husband, with friends, to go out for dinner, to travel, etc. No more scheduling babysitters and figuring out each kid’s different logistics. I love this freedom. But, on the other hand, it feels a little empty to not be needed as much. 

I know I’m obviously not the first person to go through this stage of life and I’m lucky enough to have plenty of friends who are in the same place. So, I took an informal poll of about 15 friends. All women around my age, give or take 5-7 years. 

I was very surprised by the answers. The first question I asked was “do you consider yourself middle-aged?” As someone who fully identifies as a middle-aged woman at age 45 (but very much struggling with this), I was shocked that only 1 person said she considers herself middle-aged. And she was not the oldest one in the group. 

When I asked what they associate with the words “middle-aged” the answers included: going gray, tired, sick, our parents, changes in priorities, responsibility, being old. Interestingly, I also would have chosen many of the same words and this is why I am finding it so hard to connect being middle-aged with my preconceived notions of what it means to be middle-aged. 

One of my friends – I mean poll respondents – put it really well. She said: “When I look back to how my parents were at this age, they were more fuddy-duddy than I think I am. Although I look at my parents now in their late 70’s and early 80’s and I think they are in the prime of their lives.” Maybe it’s all about perspective. And maybe I just need to change my own perspective.

I look in the mirror expecting to see my younger-self looking back at me. She’s still there somewhere, she just has a few more wrinkles and a whole lot more life experience. I thought 30 was ancient until my oldest sister-in-law turned 30. Then I thought 40 was waaaay over the hill until I got there. When my first friend turned 50 I was in shock, but now that many of them have gotten there it doesn’t even seem that old anymore. 

I suppose it’s time to stop obsessing over where the past has gone and start (or continue!) enjoying the present since before I know it I’ll be wondering when I went from “middle-aged” to “elderly”!!

About the Author
Emily Kirschenbaum planned to spend one year in Israel 16 years ago...She now resides happily in Ra'anana with her husband, 3 Israeli-American kids and the cutest dog in the world. In her professional life, she runs a content marketing business ( with an awesome partner!