The New Midlife Crisis

The new midlife crisis.  

Jesus.  Anybody else read this article? 

I feel like it’s on every 40 yearish old women’s Facebook feed, it’s in many of the conversations that I’m having, it’s everywhere.

I just finished the article.  I started it many times.  I would get three paragraphs in and then put my phone down to pay attention to a child or make dinner or realize that I was standing in the kitchen reading my phone again and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that.

But it’s been weighing on my mind.  And as I just left a thought-provoking coffee date with the fabulous, I'm remembering how I was the one who brought the article up this time.  It fit beautifully into our discussion of how so many women are seeking something; vulnerability, career change, truth, authenticity, insert 2017 jargon here.  So I decided to finish the article.  

And now I’m depressed.  It does not look good for us.  I am smack dab in the middle of Gen X land and I could have been one of the women profiled, or at least on one of my darkest nights.

I had a successful career that I left in my mid-30’s when I realized that I actually wanted to parent my child, not a nanny.  Silly woman that I was, I thought that’s what I needed.  Until I was a stay at home mom full time and realized that I actually did quite well having adult conversations and that extroverted has nothing to do with whether or not you can talk to strangers, but is actually if you feel more energy coming from external stimuli or internal.  I come from the external energetic stimulus required and preferably of the adult sort.

And children in 2017?  They do not leave the house.  EVER. Unless you tell them to go outside and then inevitably they are back inside in 20 minutes and telling you they are bored.  Now this is not always the case, but often it is.  We live across the street from a forest.  A FOREST that we pretty much give FREE REIGN to our 11 year old son to play in with friends or neighborhood kids.  He has had friends that come over and they come back after 20 minutes and say they are bored.  In a FOREST.  With a LAKE that you can throw stuff into.  That has a PLAYGROUND on the other side.  I’m telling my kids to go outside without an adult and have fun.  Do whatever you want and no one is watching over you (p.s. for any of you out there thinking I’m a horrible mother to allow my 11 year old to do this, my husband has the same concerns).  And they don’t know what to do with themselves.

They would much prefer to be sitting in the living room, 10 feet away from me playing a video game on the screen.  And since I want to limit said screen playing, I find that I’m in the middle of a lot of conversations about what they should do next.  Now, I’m sure this is my parenting style and my child isn’t indicative of all the other kids out there -- but we walk in that forest a lot and it’s rare for me to see kids hanging out there on their own, so I’m just saying.

So my point is, and  I’ll  to speak for me as I get the majority of the childcare duties, I am never alone.  EVER.  If my kids are ignoring me and I go into the bathroom, I guarantee you in 5 minutes they will knock on the door with a question or need something.  And I love my kids.

I don’t even know what the point of where I was going with this was, except for that’s it’s hard to find space for that self care everyone is talking about.  And I know this is true for most women, even those who don’t have children who won’t ever leave the house, since we have a tendency, as women, to also be martyrs and add other things onto our lists of to-dos that do not normally include doing things just because they feel good.

I think part of the problem for us midlife women was because we were encouraged to do whatever we wanted when we were little.  Damn our loving parents who wanted us to have the world.  Often times we were the first generation to go to college for a major that we declared.  We could go to work and in my case, work until I was 35 before I decided to have kids.  I could have done it earlier but I was having fun and didn’t want to.  

At some point, we realize that we aren’t fulfilling the prophesy of “you can be whatever you want when you grow up.”

To refer to the article: at some point we are sitting on a conference call dreaming up names to call our goats, that will give us the milk, to make our cheese, that we’re fantasizing about selling at the local farmers market while sipping fresh squeezed juice…..  

And then we think we’re nuts.  Because how the hell are we going to provide for our family raising goats?

And this is where I start differing from the article.  

Maybe this is where I go too Pollyanna.  Where the life coach in me comes out.

But why not dream a little?  Doesn’t mean you have to quit your job tomorrow and start a goat farm.  But why can’t you do a little something for you?  We give so much for our kids, our partners, our jobs… and the things we are told to do for us feel like another to-do -- to meditate, do yoga, do botox.

But what if we did one little thing to make us feel better because it’s something we’ve always wanted to do?

I have a client who daydreamed of making pottery.  It didn’t mean she quit her job, threw everything out the window bought a pottery studio and now makes pottery full time and is broke and deeper in debt because clay is super expensive.

No.  It meant she took a pottery class.  Once a week she goes to a studio for an hour.  

And you know what she found out?  She loves going to the class.  She loves feeling her hands on the wet clay.  Creating something and the time flies while she’s in there and she doesn’t notice the pain she usually feels during the day or the doubts or anything else. She is fully present doing what she loves.

Or how about if you are sitting at that conference room table, happy with your job but have dreams of greater responsibility or a shift in what you are doing - or HOW you are doing it.  Per this above referenced article, chances are good you are going to be let go in about 10 years, so why not start speaking up now?  Surely can’t hurt and maybe you’ll find that you actually like your job more if you take some more ownership of it, speak up more or do that thing you’ve always wanted to try in the company but just haven’t “found the time”.

Because if this doomsday prophecy is true then it’s all going to shit in a handbasket for Gen X women; we’re going to be broke in our retirement, childless because we couldn’t find a man who wants to marry those of us “of an age” or with children and burdened with an ever increasing tuition, potentially a caregiver of an adult parent or let-go and now have to make do without a job in our 50’s with the ever increasing possibility of no social security benefits to rely on.

What would it mean to focus on that dream for a little bit?  Don’t buy a goat.  But how about buy a carton of goat milk and check out a book from the library on cheese making and one Saturday lock the kids out of the kitchen and see if you actually like making goat cheese.

There are never enough hours in the day.  We never feel like we’re doing anything particularly well because we can’t give it our full attention or there’s too much on our plate, or whatever.  So why not do one more thing on your to-do list not particularly well, in order to find that extra time to focus on yourself?  What would happen if you actually liked something?  And instead of seeing that feed about 6 years ago on Facebook and wondering “what if…?” in 6 years from now, you say “I can’t believe I started that just 6 years ago and look at me now….”

Because really, reading that article it sounds like it’s all downhill from here…   So why not let it be like a roller coaster, hands in the air screaming with terror, but with a big ass smile on your face.  

Jessica McClure