Women’s Midlife Crisis
Published on Monday, August 22nd, 2011 at 6:43 pm and is filed under Woman Psychology
Women’s Midlife Crisis
It’s about time. We can publicly discuss a rite of passage for women that is as prevalent as that for males.
Our young adult years are filled with daily obligations and we tend not to think about what direction our lives are taking. We stay on the bandwagon fulfilling everyone’s needs until something shakes us out our lethargy. Only then do we stop what we’re doing to question, “Does my family really appreciate my sacrifices all these years? What do I want in life?”
These questions may percolate beneath the surface for decades until we confront 1) a milestone in our life, such as turning 40 or 50; 2) a time of transition, as when our youngest child enters adolescence or leaves home, no longer needing our physical presence to the same degree; or 3)a serious crisis, such as the pain of illness or the specter of divorce.
Any or all of these events may lead to feelings of anger, bitterness and even hopelessness. As one woman exclaimed, “I’ve given in throughout my life and I’ve had enough!”
We may shout, “I am Woman” and cry out, “Enough is enough!” but no one can give us the power to change our lives except ourselves.
In a recent article in the Wall St. Journal entitled, Have a Nice Midlife Crisis, reporter Sue Shellenbarger describes what happens when women enter “the age of dissatisfaction.” Some view this time as a crisis that can “justify reckless, self-indulgent behavior.” Other midlife women, “more mindful than their parents about the psychological perils of middle age… are anticipating midlife unrest and trying to turn it to positive ends.”
“A growing number of researchers are defining middle age more broadly and in positive terms,” writes Shellenbarger, “as a good time to reassess life goals and chart a new course.” She quotes an article in the Harvard Business Review, which drew thousands of emails in response according to its co-author Carlos Strenger, an associate professor of psychology at Tel Aviv University in Israel and a researcher and consultant on midlife change: “Midlife is your best and last chance to become the real you.”
The issues are not new. Over sixty years ago, Pearl S. Buck stated,
Woman is in a predicament in our modern world. Man is no longer holding her back. He is urging her on. The day of our grandmothers, and even our mothers, is over. There is nothing for women to rebel against, and many of them are frightened and trying to find shelter and excuse in being “just a housewife.” The responsibility is terrifying now that they can be whatever they wish to be.*
When we reach midlife, to quote Ms. Buck, “Once the what is decided, the how always follows. We must not make the how an excuse for not facing and accepting the what” (p. 79).
In other words, once we express our pain of what is missing, we are ready to define what we need and move on. At that point, we can throw the baby out with the bath water or filter out the bad and keep the good.
One’s Midlife Crisis can become one’s Midlife Opportunity.
*To My Daughters with Love, by Buck, Pearl S. (NY: The John Day Co.,1949), p. 79.
Dr. Mona Spiegel is a Licensed Psychologist and Life Coach. She provides life coaching to women who want assistance and guidance but do not need therapy. She focuses on parenting issues, relationship, communication skills and wellness for single and married women. Dr. Spiegel also speaks to women’s groups all over the country, on a variety of topics related to women’s development and family relations. She is a member of the International Coach Federation and the American Psychological Association. Visit her at http://myfamilycoach.com.