One day while driving my 8‐year‐old to soccer practice, I had an epiphany: I am a soccer mom, a stereotype, that suburban, middle‐aged mother who makes headlines every presidential election.
I quickly reviewed my life to see if the label fit. The evidence was damning. I have two children, one of whom plays soccer. I lost my battle against the minivan and now drive a car that is only slightly shorter than a football field. I wear yoga pants more than I should. Much to the horror of my Los Angeles‐based sister, I sometimes pair tennis shoes with jeans. Years ago I traded city living for a house in a good suburban school district. I shop at Costco—buying two gallons of peanut butter and 10 whole chickens is now practical rather than ridiculous. My husband and I are contemplating getting a dog. I’ve yelled “slow down” at cars zooming down our street. And perhaps worst of all, I was genuinely excited to purchase a new extra-large washer and dryer.
For the first time in my life, I seem to fit into pre‐made mold. When I was a child, I was never a tomboy or girly girl, goth or grunge, a nerd or part of the cool crowd, homecoming queen or jock. Like the rest of my generation I was a fan of The Breakfast Club, but I didn’t identify with any of the characters. I saw elements of certain stereotypes in myself, but never the complete package. I was just me.
Before having children, I made fun of minivans and dreaded driving behind one as it made its way slowly and carefully down the road. I opted to live in a series of run‐down apartments in the heart of the city rather than live in the dreaded burbs. Not surprisingly, I spent as little time as possible in said apartments, and I traveled frequently. I shopped at flea markets, didn’t own a car, ate at hip restaurants, and on the weekends I stayed up late each night and slept late each morning. I owned one pot and one pan and didn’t know what to do with either of them. I knew that I wanted children, but only had vague ideas about motherhood.
I married and had children in my thirties. The years passed in a blur until one day I woke up as a 40‐year‐old soccer mom.
I obsessed over my membership in the soccer-mom sorority for an embarrassingly long time, and then I climbed down off the ledge. The truth is I’m not a stereotype—no one really is. I still wear mismatched socks, view cooking as a chore, enjoy wearing my pajamas until noon on lazy weekend mornings, love traveling and reading, frequently visit museums, eat cold pizza for breakfast whenever it is available, cry when I laugh, feel antsy if I don’t spend time outside each day, and hope to shed my minivan as soon as my wallet and chauffeuring responsibilities allow. I am raising children who love both NASCAR and the opera. Downton Abbey is one of my top ten favorite television shows, but so is The Walking Dead.
The passage of time also has not radically changed my core values. Family, faith, integrity, friends, love of the outdoors, enjoying life and not approaching it as a race to be won, a belief in the importance of laughter—all of these things were important to me in my twenties. They are still important to me.
My midlife crisis ended as abruptly as it began. My soccer mom trappings are just the trappings of motherhood—they aren’t who I am. I suspect that is true for most of us. As middle age approaches, we have children, care for aging parents, strive to advance in careers, and become concerned about saving for retirement. Our bodies issue their first creaks. We may seem to be stereotypical middle‐aged men and women. Under the veneer of age and responsibility, though, our true selves still lurk.
Many years ago, my then-78‐year‐old grandmother told me that in her heart she was still 25. Deep down we are all still 25.