This is the most important post on my blog, to date, because it gives my reasons for starting this big adventure called ‘After the Playground’. On my wonderful journey as a parent I have reached the point where the conductor is about to call “All change here” and I didn’t see it coming. I was actually enjoying this journey and I don’t want it to end. Where is this midlife and menopause destination and what am I supposed to do now that I am here?
Why the change – midlife and menopause?
I know that everyone’s life is unique, and that it is almost impossible to generalise about the parenting journey, however, there are certain things that many 50ish year old ladies face at midlife and menopause and here are some of them:
- Our youngest children are leaving, or are about to leave, primary school and that can bring to an end an association that has been going on for many years. When my own youngest daughter leaves primary school next year, I will have been standing in that particular playground twice a day for 15 years. When she walks out of the playground for the last time, it will be my last time too. Overnight it will become a place that I never go to.
- Our older children are becoming more independent and don’t need us in the way that they used to. I feel like a firefighter who has been asked to step down from active duties. I liked being on the front line and I’m not sure that light duties are going to suit me.
- Our older children are leaving home, either to study at university or to set up house with a partner or friends. Empty nest syndrome is sometimes dismissed as a trivial thing but for thousands of women it triggers profound depression and a feeling of loss. At the same time, we are adjusting to additions to our family in the form of boyfriends, girlfriends, fiancés, spouses and, in many cases, grandchildren.
- Our parents are increasingly likely to be frail or ill and many of us have already experienced the death of at least one of our parents.
- We are likely to be approaching the menopause and all the physical and psychological challenges that it can bring including anxiety and a loss of confidence which is not exactly what we need right now!
- As we get older the risk of developing certain diseases and health conditions increases and this includes heart disease, circulatory problems, musculoskeletal problems and cancer. Health scares become a more regular occurrence and can be prompted by our own symptoms or by screening for diseases such as cervical cancer, breast cancer and bowel cancer.
Do you see what I mean? No wonder many of us feel a little overwhelmed.
So what do we do? The American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou summed it up perfectly when she said ‘If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.’ The thing that actually has to change here is me.
I intend to be a strong, confident, interesting mother for my daughters. I don’t want them to pity me or worry about me or dread getting into their fifties in case they end up like me. I want to be fun to be around and have lots of news to tell them. I want them to be able to get on with their lives safe in the knowledge that Mum is doing just fine but to realise that they are still at the centre of everything I do.
And, actually, Mum is just fine. She’s putting on her battle armour and she’s coming out swinging. Midlife and menopause will not beat me!
5 step plan to survive midlife and menopause
Bringing up young children was the happiest time of my life and I think that was because I had to live ‘in the moment’ – one of the techniques recommended by the ‘new’ mindfulness concept. Young children make you live for the moment. Their needs are so urgent that you get absorbed by them. I was living in the ‘now’ and putting someone else’s needs first – I didn’t have time for the future or the past. Now, I have to find things to replace the immediacy that made me feel so content. Here is my plan.
1. Health – after the playground
I am going to pay much more attention to my body as I reach the menopause. It’s a marvelous machine; it nurtured three amazing human beings. Now I have to give it something back. I will focus on how I use my body and explore the role of exercise in maintaining a positive mood. I want to find out what suits my body and what does not. I’ll experiment with different foods and drink, perhaps try out vegetarianism and different cooking techniques. I’ll visit new restaurants and try out new cuisines.
2. Arts, culture, travel – after the playground
You can find such joy in what you see, hear and read. I want to look at beautiful things and listen to music that makes my spirit shine. I don’t know what these are yet although, as my eldest daughter starts her music degree in a few months, I’m looking forward to a lot of classical guitar concerts! After spending many years of watching children’s films (which I enjoy and will continue to watch) I want to explore other film genres, read loads of books, visit exhibitions and take photographs of things that give me pleasure to look at.
3. Education – after the playground
I have always had an inquiring mind and I love learning. I pursued my education as far as I could and gained a PhD in Epidemiology in 1998 – the same year as my eldest daughter was born. Now, I want to start my education all over again. I want to explore courses and learn skills that are completely outside of my comfort zone. I may give archaeology or Latin a go – why not? I want to examine the wonderful new ways we have of learning – from podcasts to skills swaps. I still have (a few) brain cells and I want to use them.
My look – after the playground
This is the tricky one for me because I have never been a huge follower of fashion or worn a lot of make-up. However, I do want to learn to make the most of what I’ve got. This time of life brings changes to your metabolism, complexion, eyes, hair and nails so I will have to embrace the fashion and beauty scene and finally find out what all the fuss is about! I have a lot to learn about midlife and menopause but I’m willing to start.
Motherhood – after the playground
I will try to define this exciting stage of motherhood. At the heart of this is the fact that you never stop being a mother. I will try and identify travel and days out that you can enjoy WITH your teen and young adult children that you will all actually enjoy. I want to show how a family can move forward together when they also have to spend time apart. This is just a different sort of juggling and, as mothers, we are used to that aren’t we?
Take your change please Madam!
Ultimately, I want my blog to serve as a directory that women who are at this crucial stage of motherhood can use to construct their own toolkit to get them through the tough times. Then, when the conductor calls “All change here” we can leap to our feet, grab our coats and stride confidently to our new destination – after the playground.
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