Turning 40: A Beautiful Excuse to Be Selfish

Me on my 40th birthday in my happy place, Big Bend National Park

A couple months ago, I turned 40. I celebrated this milestone by organizing and adults-only hike in my favorite national park, Big Bend. The thought of planning something just for me—when I didn’t have to think about packing water and snacks for other people, or being a cheerleader when my youngest inevitably wanted to give up, or slowing down and carrying jackets and trash and answering 100 questions in 20 minutes—well, that thought was downright luxurious. I felt a twinge of guilt after recognizing that I was a little too excited about the prospect of a day where I could justify being totally selfish.

In the week leading up to the hike I received a text that asked, “Adults only? What do we do with the kids?”

Without hesitation, I texted back, “I dunno. Have your husband watch them?”



Wait, was that mean? Are they going to hate me now?

In the days leading up to the hike my mom guilt started to creep in. Several close friends had traveled long distances to celebrate with me, toting spouses and kids along. Was it mean to tell them to only come on the hike if they didn’t bring their little bundles of joy with them? Was expecting them to figure out what to do with said wee ones unreasonable?

I wondered if I should send a group text saying, “Change of plans! Anyone with kids who would enjoy a six-mile, round-trip hike is welcome to bring them along too.” What harm would be done? After all, I knew it would be a fun day with kids too. But that wasn’t the point.

I never sent that text. Yes, I wondered if my unwillingness to cave or schedule babysitters for others was selfish. Yes, I doubted my plans. Then I stopped myself, took a deep breath, and said to myself, “Cristina, it’s OK to occasionally be selfish.”

My mind turned to the Instagram feed I had seen last year where another 40-year-old mom had the audacity to plan a girls-only beach getaway to a remote island in the Caribbean. The guts to say, “Wait, I’m important too, and I deserve to be the center of attention for once. I deserve to spend a few days celebrating me.”

The hike was glorious. I walked as fast as I wanted, stopped when I wanted, ate and drank when I wanted, gossiped and used profanity like it was going out of style, and had a genuine blast. My dear girlfriends, themselves mothers, also relished the experience of being in the presence of other mothers without kids running circles around us. It was a much-needed break for them too. “At first I really wanted my daughter to come too,” one confided, as a grin spread across her face, “but this is really, really great.”

As mothers, we are often so used to putting others first that even the thought of doing something just for ourselves makes us feel guilty. I am grateful to the mom who shamelessly took an entire group of mamas with her on a vacation to celebrate herself and documented it on social media for me and others to see. To my older mom friend who regularly books solo artist retreats unapologetically. To the moms who leave the kids with the grandparents for a weekend to enjoy a romantic couples’ getaway. If I hadn’t seen these others women doing that and truly enjoying their “me” time, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to openly plan a day that was really just about me and what I wanted. From sunup to sundown. 

In the six weeks since turning 40, I’ve reflected a lot on what I want for myself and my family. I’ve decided that regularly showing my two daughters that Mommy has her own life and needs grownup play dates is a healthy way to not only model self-love, but to be a happier person and better wife and mom. I’ve also found I appreciate my children and husband so much more after I’ve had a healthy dose of me time. With this newfound perspective and confidence, I’m looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead in 2019 and beyond.

Here’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, a sunny, cultura-rich land where la gente are the majority. As a child I spent my days doodling unicorns and puppies and people and anything that caught my fancy. Drawing was my life, and I dreamed of one day being an artist. After high school, I left town for a bit to attend Yale University but ran back to Texas as soon I’d tossed my graduation cap in the air. I got a “real” job in advertising, where I met my wonderful husband, Victor. In 2005, I got a little brave and decided to step into art full time, for the first time. I spent a year recreating the Mexican Loteria, updating it to reflect the symbols and culture I knew: the “Tex Mex” version. The My Loteria game and corresponding line of kitchenware appeared in H-E-B grocery stores and boutiques around the country, which was pretty cool! Fast forward a couple years, and Vic and I decided it made perfect sense to move to the middle of nowhere and sell ice in the desert (in Alpine, Texas, where we opened the Murphy St. Raspa Co., an homage to Mexican shaved ice, candy, art and culture). A baby later and with one more on the way, we decided to come back home to San Antonio to be closer to family. I landed my dream job as the Marketing Director of The DoSeum, San Antonio’s Museum for Kids. Life was good. But I knew deep down in my heart of hearts that I needed to give my art another try. And a little more than a year ago, I took that leap and never looked back. So here I am today: a mom to two awesome little girls, a muralist, portrait artist, wife, and social media addict. I built a tiny house art studio in my backyard, dusted off my paintbrush, and began painting again after a two-year dry spell. I recently completed my first large-scale public mural to celebrate the San Antonio missions’ World Heritage designation, and am plotting my next art move as I type. I spend my days painting portraits, planning murals, perusing social media, and being my kids’ scheduler in chief. And you know what? I’m having the time of my life.