Midlife for women is generally described as beginning somewhere around the age of 40 and ending at about age 60. Although the physical symptoms of menopause are one indicator that a women is in midlife, her state of mind and how she sees her life is also a significant indicator of midlife.
It is not your chronological age that indicates you are entering your second adulthood. It is the feeling that something is missing in your life; feeling dissatisfied with your life, but finding it difficult to know what you’d rather have instead. There becomes a strong inner desire to take charge of your own life-to become your own authority.
Did you Know 50% of Women 50 and Older are Single?
The current generation of women, sometimes referred to as Baby Bloomers, are the first group of women that encompass a big percentage who have the financial capacity to be on their own. They often find that their ability to direct their lives without feeling supervised or monitored by “the man of the house” to be very freeing.
Studies show that during a woman’s midlife, changes take place in brain chemistry which cause her to view her life very differently. What was OK before is no longer OK . . . just because it isn’t! Seeing things in a new way, and wanting to do things in a new way often meets with resistance from family and friends who demand from her reasons as to why she is feeling the way she is. Being unable to rationally defend her feelings sometimes leads to her feeling emotionally distressed.
Some Questions That Pop Up as You are Entering Second Adulthood.
When is it my turn?
When do I get to live my life?
Is this all there is?
What’s the point?
Why am I here?
I don’t know what I want, but I know what I have isn’t it!
I should be happy with how my life is, but I’m NOT?”
I met an 80 year old women in a class I was teaching at the local community college. She had been married her whole adult life, caring for her husband and 8 children. Her husband was ill and she was feeling guilty because she had been wishing her child would move out, and that her husband would die so she could finally have her own life. (It is never necessary for someone to die in order for you to live the life you are meant to live. There is always a way to liberate yourself.)
She raised her hand to ask a question. “Is it really OK for me to think about what I want for myself?” With that question, at age 80, her “midlife” transition had begun.
The good news: whether you are 30 or 80, if you are having these type of thoughts, you are experiencing the kinds of thoughts and feelings that are a normal part of entering the stage of growth that Gail Sheehy, author of New Passages, calls your Second Adulthood.
The bad news: because this generation of women is the first to tackle this transition head on (rather than fade into the background as many of our mothers and grandmothers did) there are not many role models to rely on as you face what feel like sink holes, sheer cliffs, dense fog and intense feelings of confusion that often lead to feeling STUCK!
Help is Available
Because of the huge population of baby boomers entering midlife, there are books, workshops, life coaches, women’s groups, etc., focused solely on the midlife woman’s transition.
Here are some books I recommend to my clients:
Navigating Midlife: Women Becoming Themselves, Robyn Vickers-Willis
Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood, Suzanne Braun Levine
Not Your Mother’s Midlife: A Ten-Step Guide to Fearless Aging, Nancy Alspaugh and Marilyn Kentz
Bring it On! Women Embracing Midlife, Christine Carter Schaap
Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Sue Monk Kidd
Awakening at Midlife, Kathleen A. Brehony
If Not Now, When? Reclaiming Ourselves at Midlife, Stephanie Marston
Facing the Challenge of Transition
Although the midlife transition is normal, it is still a challenging chapter in a woman’s life. If you have a few close women friends to talk to, and you begin discussing the distressing thoughts and feelings that you are experiencing you will find you are not alone (that is, if your friends are honest!).
A women who faces the midlife transition with an attitude of daring adventure, a confident attitude, and a belief that the best is yet to come may find the journey daunting, yet worth it when she experiences the deep satisfaction of coming into her own Authentic Self.