Susan Dunlop

Women in Mid-life

Today I’d like to focus on you personally. That is, if you’re a woman in the age bracket mid-forties through to mid-fifties. Or possibly,  you know someone who is?

I did some work on this in 2017 when I first became a coach when I was trying to find what area I needed to focus on. Interestingly, it obviously was really something I needed for myself too at the time.

I think it was probably that the work I was doing in those early days of becoming a coach, was “coaching myself first before I coach others”.

I had a research project to complete as part of my certification, and I focused on the topic of whether coaching would be effective for women as they transition to midlife and all the challenges of it.

It made me really look into a lot more about what midlife entails.

What were the top challenges? Because, who am I to say! My experience could be different to another woman’s experience of midlife. Was what I was experiencing what other women experienced too.. or was it ‘just me’?

It did surprise me when I eventually came up with a list of the top 10 issues women in this age-bracket manage, sometimes all at the same time, sometimes one or two one after the other.

So just briefly I’ll touch on them with you.

Mid-life refers to women in the age bracket between 45 and 55. And the most commonly repeated definition of midlife is the time of a woman’s life that she might pass through menopause while simultaneously experiencing other life events. Other life events, such as the transition of children to adulthood, their subsequent independence, a divorce or separation can quite often come around about that time when the children have left the home.

Often women come to that space where it’s just you and him or just you and her and you find yourself wondering, well, is this what we really want now as we move forward in life?

You might also become the support person to an ageing parent or the key person in that respect, with families spread out across the globe.

A lot of women have experienced that these last two years with COVID. Where the family hasn’t been able to get around and help out as much as they otherwise could have.

Understandably, a woman in the midlife age bracket basically can get quite rattled because if you think about it, they’re dealing with quite a lot of challenges in that time.

Common questions that come up too, which I’ve documented from my clients as they approached me for coaching: What is my role now that the kids are gone? Where did my sparkle go? When did I become invisible? 

The invisibility is quite a big piece that gets played out a lot, that feeling of being alone.

Other questions like: Who can I confide in? Who’d understand? Because it’s hard to confide in your daughters. In my case, at that stage, when I was going through it, it was hard. I’m around 25-30 years older than each daughter, so I can share with them, but to confide all my feelings, and contemplate together, how did I actually get to this? I was at a loss for who I could find that I could safely have that deeper conversation.

There’s also the question about what you do for work: I’ve been so long in this job, is it too late to change now? Because even that job you are in, you might’ve been in really for the reason to support your children. Is it truly what you want to do for the rest of your working days?

I will share with you the top issues a woman will most likely experience in mid-life.

The very first one – ok, what a place to start! No. 1 is a multiple choice by rights. There are listed very easy to find on Google as “35 symptoms of perimenopause and menopause”. So I’m not going to break that down, but look it up. If you look up the 35 symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, that’s enough to make you breathe out!

Then there’s the empty nest syndrome, with your children finishing education and leaving home. That can be heart-breaking for some women, a sense of loss or not being as needed as you have been for so long. Alongside the empty nest, a couple of adult children-related issues that can be confusing are the Boomerang Kids. The boomerang generation where our adult children return home to live, quite often on their terms, and you (the parent) are expected to ‘fit in’ with them. If communication skills aren’t substantial, it is hard to find a space of agreement and work interdependently towards the desired outcome that suits all concerned. The other issue is failure to launch, which can come from two angles. One is comfort-zone related on the adult child’s front; the other is a mother not feeling confident to let her children free in the world, worrying for them, so in turn, establishing a far more comfortable, rescuing kind of option that no adult-child can refuse! 

There are relationship problems and separation or divorce. 

There are also the financial implications of separation and divorce. Quite often, that money or credit histories or savings and investments haven’t been managed very well between you. That leaves all kinds of issues for women. As we know, there are a lot of women now we’re hearing of, in terms of statistics and via the media, who are living homeless.

Then there’s getting confidence in dating again. A lot of clients are trying to work out whether they even want to date or they’re fearful of it. They wonder whether they’d rather spend the rest of their lives without even bothering to go there again!

Loss of confidence and self-esteem, loss of identity, direction, and low self-worth.

Being the key support person in facilitating the independence of ageing parents, trying to keep your parents in their dream of staying at home and not having to go into care. That means a lot of pressure on women to try and make that dream come true. It also adds another layer of stress to the happy, empty-nester, comfortable in her marriage or her single freedom, where freedom is within reach. It’s usually the daughter or the woman trying to make the elderly adults’ dream and comfort happen in that family environment as a priority to her dreams and comfort.

And then there’s the death and grieving over the loss of our ageing parents.

Grief often gets shoved down or aside because of all the other issues or transitions you’re trying to manage simultaneously. 

So, looking at that list and the extended list of 35 symptoms of perimenopause or menopause, it came as quite a relief to understand so I could segment out my priorities and ‘calm the farm’ of my mind as best I could.

I’m a woman coming through the other side of midlife and menopause; I believe something that requires a crystal ball to know is true.

I am here for you, and I will hear you. I am unbiased, compassionate, and can laugh at the shared felt experience in a non-judgmental, productive way. Professionally trained and experienced, I’m a person that you can lean out to, to talk to, and we can step by step move you through to one new thing that you want to be, do or have, just for you. What are one to three things important to you the most right now?

There’s just a little bit of information. It was thrilling to understand that for myself when I came across it. Finding out that it’s not just me was a significant relief at the time!

I hope that’s helped you in some way today. Thank you. You take care.

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