I want to write about being a middle-aged woman, mother, wife and friend with the menopause – my experience is by no means unique, so I am sure some of my ponderings will resonate.
Physically, age happens and I don’t just mean with new aches and pains, grey hair and chin hair, although that is also there. I mean with hormones and the changes that come with the peri-menopause. Functioning with sleeplessness, lack of energy, struggles with concentration and fluctuating hormones, which can make me feel on top of the world and completely worthless from one day to the next. And with this comes mental aging when a different perspective might happen – and it hits us all differently. I am at a point where I want to slow down, I want less stress, less juggling, less pressure and more settledness, more calmness and more freedom to do what I enjoy, both at work and personally.
As a woman who is about to hit 46, life can be very much about fixes – wrinkle creams, concealers, HRT, mood stabilisers, hair dye, getting into shape, dieting… And so it goes on. These things are relevant and irrelevant in equal measure – I will do these things if they are relevant and needed by myself to function better but I don’t want to feel under any pressure to hide my age or to fix my age. I am keen to continue doing what works for me – looking my age, walking for exercise and being aware of what I eat and knowing how I feel if I don’t exercise and if I overindulge on chocolate, cheese, booze and bread. This is will different for everyone.
My biggest changes have been to my lifestyle to manage the hormonal shift rather than battle with it – working less but working smarter, making time for some relax time, making time for the things I want to do and making time to connect with the positive, genuine people in my life. Facebook can make us feel connected but it is not the same as a proper conversation. And I still have plans and ambitions but these are more focused now.
This year I have started to say no more often and this has meant I feel less obligated to do things just because I have been asked. It is very freeing and I feel able to do it simply because I am older and that has provided more confidence.
Since hitting my 40s, I have been more accepting of my flaws and imperfections – I have accepted my depression and anxiety, I have accepted my struggles with worth and rejection, I have finally accepted me and I don’t see any of it as failure or needing to be fixed any more. We are part of a culture that wants to fix everything – but for most things I have now chosen to ride the storm and to adapt to the changes.
I have spent my entire life feeling inadequate – not thin enough, not fit enough, not successful enough, not sane enough and I think I’ve had enough. I’m not feeling sorry for myself but this is often the reality for women, we are often striving to be better. But I’m done so now I’m accepting good enough and I am good enough.
As women get older, maybe we need to find more time for us – this really flies in the face of the work-must-come-first culture we have in western society. But hasn’t there got to be a better balance? I really feel like we need to invest in ourselves so we have headspace, especially as mothers to children and young adults when the juggling and the guilt is so real and so unpredictable and intensely demanding.
Self care is crucial – and what works is down to us as an individual and what we need at a particular time. For me, it can vary from spending time with family or friends to having time to read, going for a walk or just going to bed and enjoying the safety of my duvet. Knowing how to manage our own stress, anxiety and better knowing what makes us tick as an individual can only be a good thing but we also need to make the time to invest in that, and that doesn’t always come easy.
As much as I can I want to Do Life On Purpose, to take control where possible – working with and managing my middle age and my peri-menopause. and all that brings with it, seems better to me than battling with it. But this is why finding what works for us as an individual is what matters because what works for the crowd is pointless if it doesn’t work for you.
Janine Smith | A specialist in pregnancy, birth and parent support