I love a good statistic, I can geek out with the best of them given half a chance, but the picture they paint is only as good as the open mind that’s holding the brush.
The latest ONS (Office for National Statistics) report states that despite divorce being at a 50+year low, women aged between 45-55 (I’m going with an average 50/51) are bucking that trend. It’s easy to think it’s got something to do with ‘mid life’.
The American Psychology Association suggest that midlife starts at 35/36, a whole decade before our relationship status maybe put into question. Middle age is defined by our bodies slowing down, and our sense of mortality ramping up. It’s a time for re-evaluation. It also coincides with a woman’s fertility declining. By the time a woman gets to 35, if she’s lucky enough to carry her child to full term, she’s classified as a geriatric mother.
I gave birth to my daughter at thirty-seven. I did have to have IVF which could be text book for that age, but I’d say it was more programming given I’d spent a lifetime not wanting to procreate before I took my almighty pivot. And let’s breeze past the fact I gave birth naturally in four hours flat and was back in my jeans four weeks later. But why let the geriatric facts get in the way of a good argument.
Fifty one is the average age a woman will become a fully fledged member of the menopause so it’s easy to conclude that our decline in hormones equals an increase in divorce. The BMS (British Menopause Society) state that although around 75% of women will have menopause symptoms that disrupt their career and home life due to the changing pressures on their health, 25% of those will be severe which can totally derail them from any kind of sustainable existence – I know this because I was one of them. That’s still a large number of women feeling the menopause tsunami, but does it answer the calling of divorce?
It’s widely reported that in ‘middle age’ we start to feel invisible and uncomfortable, that our career satisfaction will focus more on contentedness rather than ambition and we’ll want to take stock. The midlife crises has been debunked as being a false perception (Levenson 2014) so what is driving this relationship fallout? Our home life reflects in our career and our career reflects in our home life so it’s not sustainable to be okay in one but not the other. If at fifty-one (average) our marriages are failing, what does that say about our careers?
My conclusion is derived from my own experience and those I work with. I am a middle aged woman. I have been in my menopause since I was forty-two due to cancer treatment. I have been divorced and I have started a family after my so called ‘midlife’ began. My severe early menopause put me in hiding for a while until I worked it out, but it never put my marriage in the firing line. Plus I started my own business in the midst of the crazy.
My midlife was nearly not a thing. So getting here only to be handed an invisibility cloak so I could start my decline from valuable contribution horrified me. How we’re perceived as women and how we perceive ourselves after a certain age is wrong on so many levels. And don’t get me started on the many high street brands suggesting we wear their purpose made cotton layers or age appropriate skin care. I’m buying Skims and Chanel and I intend to keep it that way.
The value I give now is the best it’s ever been, I have survived hard things, I’ve created amazing things and I’m certainly not going to let a stage of life, or my uterus, define my place in society.
So when we consider the stats, the menopause, the re-evaluation and taking stock, the fear of being invisible, the industries that overlook women (still) and the challenges life can put on the important relationships in our life, where does that leave us?
I say, rather than becoming just another stat, take stock of your life absolutely, but in an ambitious and visible way ONLY.
I’m a fan of reinvention to let the fresh waters flow, but that doesn’t mean ditching all we know, it means taking those that want come on the ride along with us. And those that don’t want to, that’s okay too. Ultimately, if anyone ‘s going to be unhappy with your life, it really shouldn’t be you (Brook Castillo). Be your valuable self first and see how that identity changes the actions you feel drawn to take.
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