May We Talk About Something?

Recently, in a brick and mortar bookstore, I noticed something. If I were planning a wedding, I'd have plenty of books from which to choose. They'd all look bright, pretty, and cheerful. If I were expecting a baby, I'd be inundated with books. It would take me all of nine months to read them all and then, I'd have a ready supply of parenting books at my fingertips. That's as it should be, I suppose. All those books address big stages in a woman's life and we all agree that we can use all the help we can get when preparing to marry or give birth or raise children.

But what if I wanted to read a book on midlife? What if I wanted to learn What to Expect When Your Hair Turns Gray and Your Kids Fly Free? What if I wanted a helpful, hopeful, realistic, but bright and optimistic book on the next stage? There's not much out there. I might pick up a bestseller. And I might read this:

My personal experience, now shared by millions of others, tells me that the perimenopausal lifting of the hormonal veil — the monthly cycle of reproductive hormones that tends to keep us focused on the needs and feelings of others — can be both liberating and unsettling. The midlife rate of marital separation, divorce and vocational change confirms this. I, for one, had always envisioned myself married to the same man for life, the two of us growing old together. This ideal had always been one of my most cherished dreams. At midlife I, like thousands of others, had to give up my fantasies of how I thought my life would be. I had to face, head-on, the old adage about how hard it is to lose what you never really had. It means giving up all your illusions, and it is very difficult. But for me the issue was larger than where and with whom I would grow old. It was a warning, coming from deep within my spirit, that said, “Grow … or die.” Those were my choices. I chose to grow.


For most women, identity and self-esteem are generated by our associations and relationships. This is true even for women who hold high-powered jobs and for women who have chosen not to marry. Men, by contrast, usually get most of their identity and self-esteem from the outer world — the job, the income, the accomplishments, the accolades. For both genders, this pattern often changes at midlife.


Women begin to direct more of their energies toward the world outside of home and family, which may suddenly appear as a great, inviting, untapped resource for exploration, creative expression and self-esteem. Meanwhile, men of the same age — who may be undergoing a midlife crisis of their own — are often feeling world-weary; they’re ready to retire, curl up and escape the battles of the workplace. They may feel their priorities shifting inward, toward home, hearth and family.


It’s an ironic transposition: The man is beginning to look to relationships for his “juice”; the woman is feeling biologically primed to explore the outer world. In married couples, this often produces profound role shifts. In the best of all worlds, the man retires or cuts back on work, becoming the chief cook and bottle washer at home, and providing emotional and practical support for his wife’s new interests. She, in turn, goes out into the world to start a business, get an education or do whatever her heart dictates. If their relationship is adaptable and resilient, they adjust to their new roles. Some are so energized by their newfound freedom and passion that they fall in love all over again. If a woman’s partner is not willing to grow, however, he (or she) may become jealous of her success and independence, and put pressure on her to continue to care for him as she has always done. He may even get physically sick, often in the form of heart disease and/or clinically dangerous high blood pressure. It’s important to note that this is not a conscious or willful act; he’s simply responding to the promptings of our lopsided culture.


A woman often finds herself in the difficult position, then, of having to choose between returning to the role of caretaker to nurture her husband at the expense of her own needs and pursuing her own creative passions. It’s an old story, common to women in many cultures, not just our own. The woman in menopause, who is becoming the queen of herself, finds herself at a crossroads of life, torn between the old way she has always known and a new way she has just begun to dream of. A voice from the old way (in many cases it’s her husband’s voice) begs her to stay in place — “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.” But from the new path another voice beckons, imploring her to explore aspects of herself that have been dormant during her years of caring for others and focusing on their needs. She’s preparing to give birth to herself and, as many women already know, the birth process cannot be halted without consequences.
Caring for others and pursuing unexplored personal passions are not necessarily mutually exclusive choices, but our culture makes them seem so, always supporting the former at the expense of the latter. This is part of what makes the midlife transformation so much of a challenge — as I know only too well.

Well, now, that was hopeful wasn't it? That makes you just want to rush headlong into this new season, doesn't it? I'm sure your husband will be delighted with this passage.There's just enough ring of truth in it that it is sort of scary. But there's no faith. No foundation in vocation. No honest Christian optimism. 

So, let's discard that book and let's write another. If you were looking for a book on midlife, what would you want to read there? What would you want that book to address? How would you want to come away from the book?

I'm really serious, friends. Really, really serious. Shall we make this book come to life? Together? 

Tell me what you're thinking. 

Comments

  1. says

    I have been contemplating writing an inspiration middle age book for a while now. I think it is an awesome idea. Women like us need some hope for the next 40 years :)

  2. says

    Elizabeth, those brick and mortar bookstores tend to disappoint me every time. I’ve yet to find Real Learning there :)
    Have you read Elyse Fitzpatrick’s The Afternoon of Life: Finding Purpose and Joy in Midlife? I love everything she writes. Personally, I don’t think of myself as mid-life yet (41) and I think it’s because I still have little ones underfoot. Wish I could throw some ideas your way, and if you do write a book about mid-life, I will read it!

  3. says

    I think what you touched on in the last faux paragraph is what I see as a big obstacle: the transition (hey, another birthing term!) I will have children to homeschool until I’m at least 50, so how will I balance growing my interests with finishing the educational path we’ve chosen for our children without shortchanging the youngest child or frustrating myself with delays in pursuing my interests. I can see the temptation to become very selfish at that point. In any case, it sounds like a great topic for a book!

  4. jodi says

    you would most definitely need to address the caring for aging parents thing. i was the primary caregiver for my dad his last 4 months of life 6 months ago, and now am the primary caregiver for my father-in-law in his final months of pancreatic cancer. my mother-in-law will move in with us when he’s gone. i’ve always been able to handle everything thrown at me (with the Lord’s help) but i’m just lost–my oldest is on the brink of getting engaged, my youngest just turned 6. i have 5 others in between, 1 graduating college, one in college, one graduating homeschool and going to college….. and because my husband chose this house we live in (i was not in favor) i have to work 20 hours a week outside the home.
    middle age indeed. hormones, grief of being past childbearing, dealing with letting kids go, standing strong in the parenting of the littlest ones, and not neglecting marriage (we’re past that point, i don’t know when we’ll ever have time to make each other a priority anymore)…
    i was at a favorite used bookstore today thinking we needed the same kind of book
    kinda lost in pa, but right there with ya-
    jodi

  5. jodi says

    and kendra (hey! from twtm boards eons ago)
    thanks for the elyse recommendation. i love her, but had not read that book of hers. i got a copy on amazon for .01!
    appreciate both of you-
    j.

  6. says

    Elizabeth – I’m sixty-five years old and have been married for forty-five years. My husband was medically retired about twenty-five years ago so I suppose my situation is a bit different. Having said that, I love this season of life. I have never had any great dreams to pursue that haven’t revolved around family and home. That has always been my dream.
    We have seven grandchildren who are joy in itself. My parents are quite elderly, and we do a lot for them. We have the lovely luxury of planning our days together and doing the things we love. He is supportive of my writing dreams (which work very well with staying at home) and I encourage him to do the things he loves.
    There wasn’t a book. I would have liked one. But we seem to have just sort of moved into this season of life (not smoothly I must quickly confess; there was a huge period of adjustment!).
    There is so much to say about it. It would certainly make a great topic for a book!

  7. says

    I’m not quite to middle age yet, but I’d love to see how to deal with being the sandwich generation. I was shocked to be suddenly dealing with parent care in my late twenties. We had nothing to work on and go forth from, because everything written about it seems to be geared to people who have adult children themselves, etc. Not people who still had toddlers underfoot, among other things. We were (and to some extent, still are) totally lost.

  8. Liz Latorre says

    I am 38, homeschooling 3, caring for 2 disabled parents, and have been thinking a lot lately about what I will do when young parenthood is done (my youngest is 5 and we have not been gifted with another yet) and how to deal with changes in priorities and relationships. It feels like it could be such a big letdown…..
    I would love to hear/ read/ponder encouraging words on this topic.

  9. Katie says

    Ick. That reads like some of the junk I allowed to fill my poor, college brain so many years ago. I’m 44, so I guess that makes me middle-aged. I’m looking forward to the next phase of my life WITH my husband. And growing and changing that is done should be shared with your spouse, not kept in a secret box to spring on him. My children still need me, though not in the same ways. I have extended family who will need me. People should have something to read that encourages growth but does it in such a way that it enriches their lives and the lives of their loved ones, not destroys the foundations of the home they’ve built.

  10. Marla Lynch says

    I am probably different from a lot of your readers, because I do not have any little ones. I am 49 and my kids turn 20, 22, and 24 this year. I would love for this book to be done and thank-you for letting us have input. I think it is important that the book be hopeful and positive, as there is so much to look forward to. But, honesty about the difficulties is important, too. Maybe I will email you. :)

  11. Susan DE says

    I would say it’s been hard, and it’s probably not over yet. I had kids in my house a long time — I mean, ALL of the kids in my house. I loved it. Two of them even went to college in the same county where we lived (and lived at home, saving a lot of money). We didn’t see them all the time, but it was nice having them around. Now we have a 30, 28, 26, and 24 year olds — the youngest three of those married, and two with two children each — and none in our immediate area (a lot because we moved, but not entirely). (I should say, it was very clear that GOD moved US. I like it here. But it’s an adjustment.)
    The stories I am reading from home educating mamas seem EITHER to involve having your children and grandchildren RIGHT NEAR YOU — which is not our situation…OR having a lot of freedom. But we have four children still in the home, ranging from 9 to 20. I’m 54, probably getting to the end of cycling, and not avoiding conception at all. The woman who talked about grief about no more child-bearing was right! But I’m pretty adjusted to that by now.
    I would say my relationship with my husband is great, but for him, the description in that book above is almost reversed in a certain way. His career has become MUCH more demanding in the last 10-? years, and he was VERY home-centric during those early 10-20 years. He’s STILL home-centric — but it’s just different. The financial freedom is pleasant, but that is another adjustment. But not a bad one, for us.
    I am able to pursue my own interests some, but it isn’t the same when you have young children. And a nine-year-old is young. :-) And I am SO GRATEFUL I have them, but it makes the adjustment…confusing.
    So ONE thing I would like to see is the explanation of the change-over to a time where (let’s be honest) your kids are relating to their SPOUSES. They don’t relate the same way to you. They shouldn’t! But you don’t have “freedom” to be all by yourself and just do your own thing, either. It was (and probably still is sometimes) a pretty painful adjustment. And we get along well with all of them!
    But we see the “closer” ones every few months, and the married with children one sixteen hours away (they moved) not so often. Twice a year, maybe. Maybe three times. And talking on the phone, while I do it, tends to drive me bananas. After all, I DO still have young people right around me, and things to do… I can’t just rest a phone on my shoulder, the headset is a total pain, and I’m otherwise immobilized!
    So…adjustments…and NOT just from the perspective of, they grow up, involve you in every detail of their new lives and relationships, and you all see each other once a week, if not more often. What’s it like when it’s NOT like that??

  12. says

    I’m turning 41 this year but feel like I’m 65 years old. My midlife crisis hit me at 37 years old when I developed Congestive Heart Failure after the birth of my 3rd child. Felt like I still had to go on to take care of my young children but too sick to fulfill the simplest tasks of my vocation. DIFFICULT time for me. But a book like what your talking about would have been a wonderful go to for someone like me who is tired but can’t quite quit yet. While the children are still young, I can still pursue my passion through my ministry / writing books. Although writing is a very difficult process for me, I find much comfort in writing memoirs in particular. Not really sure why but I guess it just gives me a picture of the Lord’s faithfulness to a nobody like me. I’d love to see you write a book again. You have the gift…go for it !!!!!

  13. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m struggling so much right now with crazy hormones that either have me crying or screaming!!
    Today my head seems to be several yards behind me, so I cannot think or type straight!!
    Will ponder your questions, and if I ever get my head in gear will post another comment!! One thing is for sure I do not want to read a book on Goddess Wisdom or becoming a crone… so often they are the only one’s lurking in the menopause aisle of the book store!!
    God truly has given you a gift for writing, so go for it and we’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines.
    Hugs to you
    San xx

  14. says

    Yahooo! Spirit inspired! Would love to see this come to fruition.
    For me, personally, I would love to see addressed the transition from childbearing years to non-childbearing years which has been difficult for me. Also, ways to renew the flame of marriage since by this time, children are older and there may be more opportunities for time to nurture a relationship that maybe has been neglected.
    Also, how to support our adult children or how to deal with adult children who have turned away from God or are making bad choices.
    Just some ideas which I am sure there will be many many more great ones.

  15. says

    Enjoying life! Real life that is. Enjoying the opportunity to ‘court’ your spouse and be ‘courted’.
    I remember my mom (the youngest)saying that after she left home to marry my father that her father and mother fell hopelessly head over heels in love with each other (again).
    Then after my husband and I married I watched my dad courting my mother like he was 20 and my mother blushing like a new bride.
    This is as it should be!!! I SO look forward to making the next 20-30 years of my life (I am 34) the best WITH my sweet husband. I look forward to not JUST being mommy to my children (though that is very special), but to be friends with them as well.
    After I was grown, my relationship with my parents blossomed into one of the most incredibly beautiful relationships that I could ask for. Other than my sweet cowboy husband, my parents are my very best friends! I love to spend time with them. I love to spend time with my sweetheart. I look forward to the day when I can be more than mommy to my children.
    In a nutshell… I look forward to midlife!!

  16. Ann O'Nemous says

    I guess I am chronologically in midlife at 37, and we just had the first “slap in the face” of the reality of ageing parents as we had a health scare with my dad – and my sisters and I feel that “well this time we were lucky but next time?” And I think for me, the biggest thing is building my faith so I can face the ageing and death of my loved ones and myself with confidence and the ability to still find joy in the little things of life. All of a sudden I feel so much older. I have never been fertile/pregnant or had periods, so I don’t have the sense of losing that, but I do have the sense of “losing” my little kids as they grow older and change – less cuddles, more time in their rooms, and I grieve for the babies they were and for the opportunities I wasted. So I think for me, encouragament to grab the moments as they come in whatever stage of life I am at, to live fully, and to build my faith are what I would most look for.

  17. says

    I am just now officially entering the empty nest stage with my younger child’s marriage a few weeks ago. Been pondering some of those questions myself when… for the very first time… all the apron strings have been broken!
    It’s wonderful, of course, to see both my children married to people who walk with Christ and my daughter has five children she is homeschooling. But especially for the homeschool mother, it is a significant life change.
    I found physically the 40s to be the hardest but that was not only when I was going through the usual hormonal changes but I developed a chronic illness which forced me to slow down a great deal.
    Hormonal changes can bring about physical challenges that can color everything that is happening around us. If I were to make just one suggestion to mothers who are entering early middle age it is to realize this fact and to know for most of us, it is only another physical passage.
    I remember reading somewhere in college that there are tribal societies which do not allow women to be in any kind of leadership until after they have gone through menopause. They believe at that time, the women become incredibly wise.
    Having been past menopause for a couple years now, I think they are on to something. :)
    I have also found it very true that even good marriages can struggle during this time, partly due to the hormonal issues in females but men go through their own midlife crisis. They just manifest themselves differently.
    Perhaps the reason there aren’t many books for this age group is that newlyweds and new parents know they are clueless so they want to learn all they can. Once you reach middle age, you have a good amount of wisdom about your life but then it seems a lot of what you know about yourself and others is turned upside down… and we don’t always realize we need to seek information.

  18. Meg says

    Thank you Elizabeth, once again. I find myself the mother of young adults and babies and am struggling to find my place as a 42 year old “someone”. I still wonder what I will be when I grow up! I find myself in a unique identity crisis along with my husband. Such a unique time of life. Thanks for the insights!

  19. says

    What would I want that book to say….hmm. It would have to address physical changes/challenges and how to deal with them. But more critical is how to transition every year or so to the “new normal” as another grown child leaves and how their new life impacts you. And how to be godly in this new stage when you have a million pressures and new roles to take on: whether mother-in-law, or caretaker of elderly parents, or wedding planner…while you are still trying to create a peaceful, steady home environment for the little ones under your roof. How to expand your faith to embrace each role and still exude the sweet aroma of Christ everyday. This is a time of more changes than ever before in life…a book that did not say you had to dump your husband and find a new life would be soooo refreshing! (I think I just skimmed the book you quoted….)

  20. Drollmom says

    Elizabeth, be sure to include the vision of falling more in love with God! After all, we are getting closer to eternity, and we wanna be best friends by the time it’s time to die, right? ;) Mid-life often entails care of elders who are literally at death’s door/the Gates of Heaven, and it is such a privilege to accompany them. I often tell others that as a 20-something I was all about being a midwife (never got around to it, tending to my own 11 pregnancies, raising 8 who are now 18 to 38) but at mid-life I discovered hospice – being a “midwife to the next life”! God is like that!! He makes everything new, at every stage of the game, and it’s like others have described falling in love all over again with their spouse.
    Just today I was marveling how at 62, we’ve just completed 19 years of homeschooling the last 5 in our family, we’ve just welcomed our 9th grandchild, I have the privilege of caring for my 86 year old mother in our own home, and God still gave me enough leisure to organize a wonderful religious freedom rally in our hometown. This past week, two new projects have fallen into my lap, both still being discerned: 40 Days for Life or a Secular Carmelite foundation…? How awesome is that? God has so many new vistas beyond home for me at this age… but then I only have 2 grandkids living here in our town… ;) I LOVE every age I’m at!!

  21. Joy in Alabama says

    I’m 52 and very much into the beginnings of menopause. My husband and I have a renewed love life since he had his own midlife crisis. But dealing with the problems of my older kids (9 children, ages 9-30) and having several adult daughters still at home has been challenging for me. It’s a whole new thing to try to be a good (but not interfering) mother to adults in the home while still raising/homeschooling children. And it’s challenging to homeschool yet spent quality time with the adult kids. At the moment my life is about to have some big changes as I have 3 kids who are about to become engaged and one stay-at-home daughter who is about to move away graduate school. It’s a bittersweet time! I’m over the grief of no more babies and I’m so looking forward to more grandchildren! (We have one in Canada.) I’m not sure anyone could tell me how to do a better parenting job in this season, but I sure would like to have someone try! lol

  22. says

    My take would be on the twists that come when you approach menopause after having children late in life (last two at 43 and 45).
    People don’t know what to do with me. When I was forty and being followed for secondary infertility, I was supposed to start having mammograms. An x-ray tech kind of shook her head and said, “We don’t get epople who are trying to get pregnant and trying to schedule a mammogram.”
    I’m out of step with most of my friends who have returned to school or career while I’m potty training. On the plus side, many of these women positively dote on my little ones.
    My husband gets ribbed about being the grandfather rather than the father and, though he technically could now retire, has many more years of wage earning ahead of him. (At least we hope).
    My real challenge is enjoying these very active little ones who now sleep through the night while i’ve just quit sleeping through the night — probably due to some hormonal fluctuations.
    It’s all so very interesting, and, I should add, a great bunch of complications to have. I dearly wanted more children, and I’m so thankful I have them. The timing was just different than I ever imagined.

  23. says

    I think you have hit on something here…I will be 45 in September and I have been married to the love of my life for 24 years. I started menopause (it’s hot flash central around here) about seven months ago and it is proving quite challenging. I have two adult children including one who is living at home while figuring out the post college life. The other one is profoundly disabled and will be home with us until we can no longer care for her OR God calls her to Him.
    I am from a large family and spend a lot of time with my widowed mother who has embraced her matriarchal role in the family. She is all about listening, praying for and supporting her children and now grandchildren through whatever comes their way. But I know that the time will come when I will be caring for her as well. I am perfectly OK with all of this…it’s life and she has done the same for me. I am blessed.
    I would love ti read something filled with joy and hope because let me tell you all I see is self-indulgent drivel. If I here one more person ask me “what about you Mary? What are you doing for you? This is your time. You’ve earned it.’ I may scream. I understand how to carve out time to rest and rejuvenate my spirit and I have no problem doing that. But seriously, this is not ALL abut me. I have a husband to love, a household to run, a child to care for, another one to encourage and support all while trying to allow as much freedom as possible as well as a church to serve.
    So what does the “middle” look like for me? I am not quite sure and have been in prayer about it. In time I hope to receive an answer but until then…I love my family as best I can, I pray as much as I can and I stick my head in the freezer when the flashes come.
    I will be the first in line to purchase your book…can’t wait. May St. Anne inspire you!

  24. says

    Well, I am right at that point now. Kids almost all grown and gone, parents aging and needing more care, the end of one season and the start of the next. As I look back on this life of raising and homeschooling six children, I have thought often about how it was hard when they were little, but not as emotionally stretching as it is when the kids are older. So, I’d love to see more written about how to make that transition with grace and courage, from being a mom who is trying to respect her growing children, support, and love – even as they sometimes make choices that we would not advice. When to speak, when to be quiet.
    Also, I think it is true that we may have more opportunities to look outward, but it’s sad to me that women at this point in life often feel that have to pursue something outside the home, begin or resume a career in order to feel validated. There is much to do outside the home, for sure, and I feel that draw at times, but I also know that we have gifts and skills from raising our children that are deeply needed, by women in our churches and in our communities at large. We have much to give.
    Finally, I think it is important to address the physical needs that we have and to encourage healthy living. Being physically fit and eating well help to ease this transition and taking time, if you never have before now, to exercise and pay attention to your eating habits, is a wise use of time.
    Thanks for sharing this, Elizabeth, and for starting this conversation. I look forward to seeing where you might go with this. I have often thought that more needs to be written!

  25. Michaeleen says

    This is very wonderful timing. I’ve been asking and praying to find such a book as you describe. My Mother died when I was just a girl of 12 and my dad passed three years after that. I had to read to learn about getting my period, then read to learn about pregnancy and delivery and being a mommy and now about home schooling. Now at 47 and two years passed the miscarraige of my ninth child (5 are living, 4 passed before birth) I’ve had to come face to face with the grief of the end of my fertility. The pain is excruciating. I never knew it could hurt like this. My hormones are insane. The weight gain was unexpected and is very hard to manage/accept/lose. I longed to find a book, prayed to find some resource to help me understand what being a 50 year old Catholic woman will look like when I get there in 2 1/2 years. Seriously I feel like I’m on the “road less traveled” at this point. I love my hubby of almost 18 years and we are still raising our children ages 4-15. Our household activities more closely resemble a younger couple, but we met later in life and so we are “behind” our peers at this stage. Yes, a book, please. God bless!

  26. lauri says

    I think a book would be wonderful, too!
    I see many women becoming selfish at this point in life – all about “me” time now. I don’t know any who are actually where I am – 1 daughter married; 1 granddaughter; 1 son moved out; daughter just graduated; and homeschooling the 6 left at home, including 5 year old twin boys. Actually I do know some women – but we are all so busy that we don’t get time to talk, sadly!
    It’s been really quite comforting reading all the comments here and on facebook and seeing all these women who are so like me!
    So what would I like to see in a book? Discussion about the constant adapting and adjusting to new schedules and routines that comes with a large family comprised of many ages; dealing with lack of sleep from hot flashes and hormones, as well as teenagers who need to talk later at night plus little ones who sometimes wake up and need mommy; nutrition for a woman my age who is battling unexplained weight gain too plus needs to stay active; conflicting emotions as grown children leave home; grief over changes; and also I would like to see Scripture reminding us how we must not be ruled by our emotions – the same message given when we were going through puberty! And how to carry on ministering to and having a relationship with your husband through all this!!

  27. Megan says

    Elizabeth,
    I’m just beginning this journey, and have been learning so much from the wisdom that you post here.
    When I was engaged, I rented a room from an older couple. Their children had all left the nest, and they had been married for 35 years at that point. Every morning they had quiet prayer time together, followed by a homemade breakfast that they ate off of trays sitting together on the living room couch. Every evening they watched a movie together and ate popcorn, then went upstairs and read a chapter of a book aloud. They chose, and still choose, to be falling more in love with each other and with God every day, together. It was beautiful, and a hopeful example for me of a loving and strong marriage. I hope you find this encouraging.
    And, write that book! You’re just the person who will do it well.
    God bless you and your family!
    Megan
    (PS I hope that Paddy’s knee is healing well, and that nobody was injured in the car crashes that happened last week).

  28. says

    That is a bleak picture (either or) and doesn’t honor the natural inclination of women to nurture. It’s natural, not a disorder, which our culture does not support. I agree that any book on the topic should address the challenges of giving care to an aging/sick parent. Add to that the increasing situation of divorced and remarried parents.
    In terms of the relationship between husband and wife, I’d love to hear from some older women who have weathered crises, arguments, disappointments, betrayals, tragedies and transition with faith. THAT would be helpful.

  29. Stacy says

    I haven’t a single nugget of wisdom or suggestion for your book, but I have to say it is a fantastic idea! I am 49, and I can’t tell you how many of my contemporaries and I have been talking about this very thing, this transition phase, I guess you would call it. Our own mortality has been a big topic. :o/ Ways to approach these years with a bit more grace and wisdom and courage, within our faith, would be helpful!

  30. Mary says

    Hi Elizabeth,
    That quote you posted looks blasphemous in the context of your blog! LOL! Seriously though, I think that author speaks of a different generation (and even then, not accurately) Most women nowadays experience much of the “outer world” before they are married. I was married 12 years ago at the age of 26 and had already had a successful career and pursued many ‘personal passions’. When I got married I had experienced enough of the world outside my door to know and understand how truly powerful is the the hand that nurtures, consoles and serves…and yes, rocks the cradle. I couldn’t wait to retreat the from office gossip and politics and backstabbing. I had a successful career, but I chose to forsake it for a life that was far more difficult and heart-wrenching and exhausting and beautiful and meaningful. A wife and mother is who I am, not merely what I do and that is a big distiction here. Even if I choose to return to work after my children are grown my identity is different now then it was when I was a single career woman. I think it is important to not let what I choose to do with my time as I age, dishonour who I am and will be into eternity: wife and mother.

  31. Kathryn says

    I think surrender/balance are two themes that a Catholic, mother of many faces as she wades into midlife.Surrendering herself to a not so youthful body that isn’t completely willing to help her accomplish all she
    hopes to do. Balancing the needs of husband, kids, parents, and older children and somehow not being flung off the merry go round herself. Clinging to God, his mother Mary, and the saints. If anyone can write that story, it would be you. Hope you will bless us with that book!

  32. says

    I am 58, a widowed mother of 3, a granny, a daughter. sister and friend, and you know, with all the sudden shocks – think gravity, a body which develops a mind of its own, the grown up children change, etc – life is still magical. Every day holds blessings. I am in the middle of writing something too. There is so little out there. I would love to see what you have to say!

  33. says

    Very well said, all of it, from the waking due to hormones and little kids, to the weight gain and late nights with teens and most of all, the Word of God to guide.

  34. Jeannette says

    ditto!! ditto!! ditto!! Wonderful ideas that would be meaningful, useful, and very encouraging to women their marriages!
    With teenagers, middle schoolers, and younger ones there is so much to juggle, logistically, mentally, and spiritually.

  35. says

    Speaking as a 55 year old, I think this transition in your writing needs to be approached as another natural phase in life. We need to show the younger generation of women following us that they can be healthy and beautiful without cosmetic surgery, without the waistlines of our youth, & without the goal of finding ourselves + the psychological babble.
    We need to make the statement through our lives that we enjoy our husbands,enjoy marriage, enjoy the families of our grown children, enjoy life, and we are not afraid to grow old.
    It is normal and healthy to look at any regrets made in life at this point, go to Jesus, and then get on with it. Time is too precious to be stuck!
    I tell women in the phase that they will need to REPLACE their time they spent tending to their children and attending sporting events, dance lessons, etc. with ACTION. Personally, I became more active in different ministries.
    Hope this helps with some ideas!

  36. says

    If I were to write a faith-full book about midlife, here’s what I would have to start with.
    * There is surely plenty of Biblical wisdom to explore about growing older. Probably the best known–or maybe most thought of by women?–is “Gray hairs are a crown of glory.” I’d crack open the concordance and see what I find.
    * Kimberly Hahn’s recordings in More Precious Than Jewels had a nugget here and there about later years. Two points that I remember are that the season past childbearing/childrearing can be one of great productivity, creativity, and freedom (often held out as a beacon of hope and balance to those of us in the crazy age of littles outnumbering us); and that we should not succumb to the pressure of the world that, now that we are empty nesters, we should get the career and the societal markers of a “worthwhile” woman’s life. I’ll bet her books say something similar.
    * My husband frequently talks about how we’ll still be going at ninety-three and he hopes to die in my arms (if we don’t go together). But on the reverse, he lost his father suddenly at 57, and he worries about his own genes. At the least, mortality moves in next door in midlife as we lose parents and other close older relatives and friends. For most of us there’s a lot of life left to us with that reality for a neighbor. I for one would like to explore how to face that life and that reality with joy rather than fear or defeatism.
    * As my oldest (who is so like me) grows toward adulthood, I am beginning to wonder about the more serious mistakes I made in my parenting. How does she remember them? How will her opinion of me change as our relationship shifts? Will she repeat my mistakes with her children?
    * And what does this phase of my life mean to my motherhood? What can I learn from Mary, who lost her son during her midlife but gained a world, and an eternity, of sons and daughters?
    Since I’m not writing this book any time soon, I hope I can find these from another author someday.

  37. Kathy says

    After reading some of the comments how would You include something for everyone in the book? I’m 44 and just delivered our 8th child two weeks ago and my oldest is 15. I just can’t envision midlife transitions or menopause at this point. Is it possible I might pass through that time and not notice because I’m so busy homeschooling and raising children? What I truly hope is that life will keep rolling along and I will graciously accept all the changes and just wake up some morning a wise,holy and grateful woman…I hope so! Something this last pregnancy taught me was to slow WAY down. It was a difficult pregnancy and I was able to see the beauty in my older children and husband. They sacrificed, took over all household tasks, lovingly took care of me and the little kids and never once complained. I’m not expressing this very well, but I don’t think I would have sensed the depth of love I felt if I was younger. If it takes being middle aged for me to appreciate and be grateful for the blessings in my life I’m pretty happy being here.

  38. says

    I too feel that the nurturing role of an older woman is marginalized in the culture. There is so much to be said for a grandma who can be often found at home creating that life, that place that’s so precious to return to for her family. We have treasured memories of my Nonna’s garden, my Babi’s wonderful meals and now, time at our parents’ houses where our kids love to go. We are sure to be called to many things as we grow older, but I hope one of them is creating that “soft place to fall” for my family too :) I am pretty sure it was here that I ran across Leila at http://ourmothersdaughters.blogspot.com/ and her wonderful witness of maturing gracefully and mentoring younger moms! I am probably about the same age as you are, Elizabeth, but behind you in parenting since I got a late start. I have no doubt you will also inspire me on this journey. It’s a blessing to find so many lovely women through the blogosphere who value the things that are dear to me and my family. Thank you!

  39. lisa says

    I am in this stage now, although with entirely different circumstances. That being said, I think something to include in your book would be that I find myself in a different faith need, so to speak. I now have some time and energy to read deeper and wider about – different authors, different approaches, all based on the faith.
    I also find myself able to be more patient with myself, children and others since it is apparent we will survive the teen years!

  40. says

    my ideal book would NOT assume that everyone has had and is having the same experience – as the book you read did – and would also not declare that the only motivations people have are worldly, surface ones.
    That exert made me quite cross!

  41. Helen Russo says

    I totally agree with your assessment of those er, midlife books. I have found that my husband and I don’t fit the mold or the world, or what it would like to see us as…we are still going and if one of us is down the other tries to help. Yes, my youngest is 18 however I don’t see the allure of the ‘outside’ world…it seems sort of cold and faithless. Our life is rich with family, kids, faith, animals and our projects. We enjoy the time we have to explore our area or our shared interests, that is true, however it is different for every family.

  42. Judy says

    Perhaps a little about the importance of female friendships at this time of life would be a worthwhile addition – some thoughts about ways to enter each others lives in deep ways (something more than middle-aged women working out at the gym, playing golf, and lunching which I see a lot of in my city!). Quite often our children need to move away for employment or because they marry someone from a distance, and though we all hope for long years of married life, the death of a partner during these years can and does occur.

  43. says

    I have decided to give some of my opinions without looking at what the other women have had to say, so as not to sway what I would want in that book. I am 40, with 7 kids aged 15 down to 1. Will there be any more? Only our Good Lord knows that. How about a section on dealing with your childbearing years being really and truly over. How about how to be a better wife to your husband when your body is done with birthing and breastfeeding and you can truly give it all to him. I am sure I will think of more later, but those I feel would be most helpful to me in the next few years. God bless. I hope this “book” really does get written someday.

  44. Dianne Forburger says

    I have never commented on your blog, but this one hit home for me. I am 51, but not menopausal (runs in the family — I may go on forever — sheesh!) I am tired of everything being blamed on menopause. When a woman has teenage children, possibly a full-time job, a husband and many volunteer positions, it seems that it would be normal to finally get fed up with having to do it all! I am struggling to find the key — I feel like I have given up everything I enjoy to do everything for everyone else. However, I am also aware that I have made these choices. There is no “magic bullet”, but I do think it is worthwhile for you to address the fact that not everything can be blamed on hormones! Love you…..

  45. Lin says

    As an introvert, I would like to know how to deal with the fact that our children will be interacting with an increasingly wider world, and that if they get married, my family will grow larger with sons- and daughters-in-law and *their* families. In the upcoming years, I realize I will be called upon to take part in this wider world created by the marriages of my children; however, I will still have younger ones at home to homeschool….Even now, it requires all my resources to just keep the ship of our home afloat, and I have minimal dealings with people beyond our home/family. I am easily overextended socially and wonder how it will play out when life calls me to extend myself further, even while my responsibilities at home with younger children remain quite intense. We only have 5 children, but I’m starting to feel that our brood is “too large” for me!
    Thanks for asking for our input!

  46. says

    This is a great point. I once heard that it’s the growing kids years that actually tears marriages apart and then people get to midlife and divorce because they hardly know each other and have stopped really caring.

  47. says

    I think that transition is hard for a lot of us. But we rarely talk about it because we are silenced by the withering looks of women who are eager to be finished bearing children (many of whom have chosen to stop well be menopause). I find that those women are not only not empathetic, but they act as if it’s some sort of weakness or disorder to mourn the passing of baby days. I loved baby days! I was good at it. It was hard work–totally satisfying, soulful, close-to-God hard work. Why wouldn’t I be sorry to see it end.
    I’m noticing though, that the same women who complained bitterly in the baby days are complaining bitterly in the teenage and empty nest days. Perhaps the lessons we learned and the habits of embracing the good of those super-hard baby days will serve us well in midlife?

  48. says

    Thanks for bringing that one up! I’m an introvert and I find myself shutting down frequently in the face of countless emails and phone calls from coaches and teachers. This matter is a very real issue for mothers of a crowd who recognize that as they get older it’s going to get more crowded.

  49. says

    Dianne,
    So, absolutely no perimenopausal symptoms at all? That’s amazing. On the other end of the age spectrum, I have a friend who had regular periods, then a month of hot flashes, then total clinical menopause confirmed by lab work. She’s 44. One month of perimenopause isn’t so bad. For people who suffer over ten years (which is not uncommon) all those swings can be formidable challenges as they also cope with the other things you’ve noted. Hormones aren’t the root of the challenges, but physical limitations caused by rocking hormones can make coping with the struggles much more difficult.
    I am sorry you feel like you’ve given up everything you enjoy. What I’m finding as I start researching this topic is that that regret isn’t uncommon. Even without menopause/hormonal symptoms, the reality that life is finite can have us looking at the choices we’ve made and regretting some of them. I hope your summer is peaceful and restful.

  50. says

    I started sketching this chapter out yesterday Judy because a dear friend suggested it. I admit, it’s mostly blank…One phenomenon I’ve found is that it’s easy to make friends with other women when we’re pregnant together and our kids are little together and those friendships–if well-nurtured–can be invaluable as our children get older. Those friends, ideally, “get” us and “get” our kids. There is a sense of loss when those friendships drift or die (or maybe that’s just me). It’s more difficult to establish that kind of intimacy at midlife (or maybe that’s just me, too).
    Anyway, friendship, yes. We need to talk about that.

  51. says

    I think this is a wonderful idea–I’ve had exactly this same feeling in the bookstore. I’m about to turn 42, and I still have a five year old, so no empty nest anytime soon here. But where are the books about raising older children, and facing the forties? Just the drivel you quote above–ugh! I think the issue of regret mentioned in the last few posts in interesting: I once saw an episode of Oprah where women who had worked full time talked with women who had stayed home, and each side said they had regrets. It wasn’t terribly inspiring, but it was provocative. Perhaps regret is just an inevitable part of aging, and we can react either by celebrating selfishness or by digging in deeper to the hard stuff. The latter is more difficult, and therefore probably what we need to hear more about. There are things that we won’t be doing, ever, and that needs to be faced.
    I’d also love to read/think about the issue of how in our forties and fifties, we live with the consequences of the choices our 20/30 year old selves made, for good or for ill. In my own case, I’m often envious of women who made the choice early on to stay home with their children, perhaps homeschool them, and embraced the domestic life early on. In my 20′s, I was attracted to this life, but it was also completely foreign to me. My husband and I built our life around the premise that I would always want to work (and we need, not just want, my income at this point), and those early choices have shaped our lives in ways both good and bad. More generally, I’ve felt what all mothers who send the (presumably) last child off to school: terrible sadness at no more littles around, the feeling that I didn;t do “enough’ during the preschool years. You see the fruit of your labor–you also see when you didn’t read to them enough, etc.. They’re problems and lives become more complex.
    I suppose that could lead one to say, as the writer above does, “well, I’m done with all this now, time to erase and start over.” Instead I’d like to see an alternative response to the same feeling, one that doesn’t gloss over the very real losses we face with aging.

  52. Lauri says

    I’m 51 and smack dab in the middle of perimenopause. I would love to read a book that has contributions that are helpful, truthful, spiritual and humorous about this season of life. My husband & I have been married 30 years and have 3 young adult kids, 1 daughter-in-law, two 70+ yr parents and 2 grandchildren. I’ve been dealing with PM for the last 5-6 years. Night sweats, hot flashes and irregular periods. I had a span of 9 mos last year with no period and figured I was finally at menopause. Nope! I started having regular periods again. It can drive you crazy not knowing what is going on with your body. We still have two of our college-age kids at home (they go to school locally). I work full-time as my husband is semi-disabled & I carry the insurance/benefits, etc. We have a busy, but overall happy family life. I feel like I’m rambling now with TMI! The bottom line is that I would be VERY interested in a book on aging gracefully. Thanks for bring up this relatable subject Elizabeth.

  53. says

    I think that was a particularly bad book that you found in the bookshop!
    I don’t think it is my hormonal cycle that makes me care for the people in my family, I think it is LOVE.
    My husband has cancer, I have one child at University and the other about to leave home to finish her schooling living with her biological father. That is a choice we made together. It seemed like the bst thing to do for her future. Hope, Love and making informed choices about your life – I reckon those are the guiding beacons no matter what age you are.

  54. Mary says

    Hi Elizabeth,
    I am there now. I am 48 with 9 children ages 4-25. Many years of home schooling left and we just had our first son get married to a wonderful young lady who was home schooled and will home school their children. I understand the angst of accepting babies every 2 or so years and the great joy that brings and then watching it leave. Watching the older children become young men in the world and some pining for the days when they were all little and under your roof. My greatest joy is to have them all around my table again and the bantar that occurs. How I revel in those days and cherish them. And, yet, I treasure the ordinary home school days with my littles, and the long conversations with my teenagers.
    I have always believed that in each stage of life, even if there is a painful transition, grace, prayer and the sacraments will bear much fruit.I look forward to being there for my children as they have children. I am a blessed woman in that my mother and mother in law have always been there for me if I needed them. They weren’t so busy pursuing their own interests that did not have time for their adult children. Why do we put so much value on thinking that our talents have to be used outside the home or family??? Now, they have their own interests and do pursue them, but it is not for career or money. They are interests that can be put aside when they are needed. My mother in law cared for her mother for several years after her catastophic stroke and my mother cared for her mother in law with alzhiemers for 5 years. They are wonderful mentors for me and involved grandparents. They do not live in the same city with all of their grandchildren and they travel to be there for Baptisms, First Communions, big soccer games, dance recitals…… They volunteer at St. Vincent de Paul, they sew for the church, make pilgrimages to holy places, go to daily Mass, belong to a church bowling league, belong to stitching groups, knitting groups….the list is quite endless! But, the most important thing is that they are still very much the matriarchs of their respective domestic church. My goal is to be available to take long walks with my husband, help out when a new baby arrives and new mom can take a shower, or nap;-) I plan on serving my family even after they are all grown.
    God bless,
    Mary

  55. says

    I just want to say I am excited that this book will be out there. At 47 with lots of signs that menopause is right around corner, my biggest cross is the loss of fertility. My kids are 10, 8 and 6. There was a year of miscarriages (four) and then it appears that I am done. So I am dealing with that sadness. But then, I don’t fit in with the moms who have grown kids and all the joys and challenges of those times. And I can’t relate as well to the young moms (especially when they talk about how they are “done” having kids….my heart breaks!)
    I think that for some, at least, the end of fertility can bring an identity crisis. Who am I now? Who will I be in ten years when my kids are just teens? I look at women who appear 10-20 years older than me and I don’t see me in that crowd…do you know what I mean?
    Anyway….enough rambling. :) So when is this book coming out???

  56. Frazzled Mom says

    I’m in my late 30′s, but when I am past raising my own children, I do not want to go find my own career, etc. I would love to be able to be of help to them as they raise their children. The pressure on families today is really too much. I don’t think even two parents are enough to raise a family, we need grandparents around to help, so that parents aren’t so stressed and families are happier! At least that’s what I wish I had right now!
    In a very un-Christian way, I think no wonder there are so many lonely older people. When they were young grandparents were they sacrificing to help out with their children and grandchildren or were they finding themselves, or running around volunteering with other organizations or on vacation enjoying their retirement. Well, now they get back what they’ve put in…

  57. Mary says

    I never married until I was 38 years old, and blessed with two beautiful children who I had at age 39 and 41 — at age 55 I guess you could say I’m way beyond middle age! Because I had my children so late, I was in a new part of my life then with babies and toddlers so I guess I didn’t notice middle age changes. And its not that I was happy the baby days were over, but I find that each stage of parenting is challenging and exciting in its own way. I’m still thrilled that after all those single years, I was able to find a good Catholic man to marry, and have two lovely children. I also feel blessed that I was able to be home with my children, and over the years I have been able to work part-time, mostly when the children are in school, so I have been able to keep up my professional connections. My life is far from perfect, and many days I feel like I’m in the crazy house, but I thank God that we are all healthy, my husband has a good job that he enjoys and our family is able to live within the means that my husband provides. And yes, I would love to read more about mid-life, because I know at some point it will certainly hit me that I’m facing my mid-life years.

  58. Helen Russo says

    :) In coming back to read some more responses I have to add, at almost 51 I don’t feel old, but I do feel like there is not a great representation for me out there in books, magazines etc. I once picked up the magazine “40″ -cough- that was a joke. I am perimenopausal and have been for ah, years. I use a herbal formula which I ran out of last month so this month has been stressful-when one does NFP and is avoiding er, another lovely little one (dh is 61 and would have a heart attack, not good. Among other reasons…), it can get very stressful. That is not all that defines us but I believe we are in a balancing act at this stage, it makes it difficult to find friends too. My dk are all out of the groups where I used to see adults, and I just stopped volunteering after 20 years for various groups. Praying for knowledge of where I go next whilst working and supporting my family. Most my friends, by the way, are on line as they have moved or I met them via Unschooling Catholics elist (formally Catholic Unschoolers) other elists, homeschool groups (they moved) or facebook. Makes face to face chats tricky.

  59. Sharla says

    My in-laws are very secular, but they were the first I saw go through this (insert word here) (I think they just called it retirement, since they were both very into their careers while raising my husband). They even commented on how little there was written about this transition though, so they were left to define it themselves. In their search for what to do during this time of life, as it sounds like it is an earnestly trying time for all, they are trying to make their “heaven on earth” — a utopia…they’d arrived…they’d worked hard and now earned this lifestyle. By this lifestyle, I mean the million-dollar house in a resort community that they had commonly vacationed at before, the time-share in Hawaii, and the many lavish trips around the world. Oh and they sneak in a trip to the grandkids once a year (no resentment, clearly). I truly feel sorry for them. They are nice people, but without faith they just don’t see as clearly…this is what the world has told them will make them happy, and if you aren’t looking forward to your reward in heaven, then you make your reward here for yourself.
    All of their (also secular) friends were retiring around the same time, and the talk was where and what kind of house they would build. One liked the beach and built their dream house on the beach, another liked wind-surfing on the Columbia, and so they bought a townhouse there — a mountain community was my in-laws’ choice.
    There is nothing wrong I know with living within your means, and if you’ve been blessed with much, building a nice retirement house where you can relax and grow in this next phase of life is fine. They are just missing the bigger eternal picture. So I don’t know if you’re planning for a larger audience, but I think this book is very needed!
    In contrast, I know others that are enjoying their grandkids, still paying for college, etc. as many of your readers have chimed in. What I see as a difference is the openness to life (meaning not just selfishly blowing into town to have your grandkids entertain you for a few days and so you can take back a couple of cute stories to share about each one) — supporting your children in both good and trying times, still living your vocation as wife and mother until the end. It does seem that if you were more open to God’s will in your life earlier, you just naturally are in this stage too. I love the idea some have shared about the wisdom gained after menopause!
    I am about 10 years behind you, but know that I would love, love, love to read something by you that would bring hope to those years. Family Foundations (the magazine put out by CCL) targeted this topic a few issues back. You could find more nuggets there possibly. And lastly just to thank you and others who do write books/blogs for those of us coming up behind you. They have been invaluable. It was such a confusing time growing up with so little to model after and these books/blogs have been my guides to try to build up something holy in my life and the family God has given me. A priest yesterday at mass was plugging adoration and talked about how we imitate what we’re surrounded with/what we look at, and how if our kids have posters of rock stars, etc. they imitate those…we imitate our parents (sometimes to our dismay!) because we looked upon them so much. I’m sure you see the link, but he was saying the more we gaze upon Jesus, the more we imitate Him. I loved this image! And I’m relating it too to you, thank you for opening up your family on this blog (though I know it’s only a snippet) and not that I try to imitate your family, but more the dedication and striving for holiness that I see. So thank you again!

  60. Deanna says

    I am 43, so certainly in that midlife stage. But I don’t think about it often. I have 9 children, between 3 and 19 years, so I am still in the midst of raising my children. And these years have been especially difficult. It began with the premature birth of twin sons, and ended with the premature birth of a daughter. In between, another premature son and one with a rare genetic disorder. Several of my children have special needs that require lots of time and energy. And at least one child will never be able to live on his own. When he was born, I realized that my husband and I may never have an empty nest. I don’t anticipate a transition, but a continuation. And now that I have experienced the struggles of caring for special needs children, I think that, as my children grow older and become somewhat more independent, I will naturally use my time and energy to assist other mothers, to advocate for people with special needs. This is perhaps outside the scope of your book, but I am interested in the experience of mothers with special needs children.

  61. Kathy says

    As another introvert mom I would love to read some advice about this time in life. I’m scared. I’ve had a terrible time since we moved to this area six years ago. It has been very hard finding like minded friends heading into middle age. I have a feeling I will also have a hard time once my kids start getting married etc. I get overwhelmed easily with things that take me out of the home and away from my daily routine.

  62. Joan says

    Elizabeth, I would love to help you out with this in any way I can. I am so sick of reading about women who “choose” to dispose of their spouses at midlife because “oh, we just grew so much apart etc. etc….” As I commented on F&F today I would love to know about other women like myself who struggle with their spiritual lives at this time, who are moody and have all kinds of physical and emotional needs that never happened before.

  63. JMB says

    What if you are happy that your child bearing days are over? That’s my situation. I don’t want to read a book about middle aged women longing to hold an infant in their arms again. Been there, done that. I loved having babies but I am looking forward to this new stage in my life, just like I looked forward to graduating college and starting a career. I don’t want a sentimental journey backwards.

  64. Laurie says

    Oh Elizabeth, I love the idea of you writing a book about this!
    I’m several years ahead of you, at 52, with 9 kids.
    This has been a difficult transition for me, with my youngest being 8 yrs, and my hormones wreaking havoc on my sweet mommy attitude. As my OB/GYN put it, “this is when we no longer ‘suffer fools gladly’”. I laughed when she said that, as it was exactly how I had been feeling.
    I know the reality is that my hormones are greatly affecting my attitude, and also the fact that most women my age are mothering older kids, or haven’t been mothering for as many years as I have. It’s harder to relate to many moms I meet because I’ve been in this mom stage for almost 30 years, and I still have almost 10 more years ahead of me. I avoid the books out there, expecting that they wouldn’t relate to me much at all.
    I love my husband. I love my big family. I love serving my husband and big family. I want helpful advice on how to do that at this challenging stage of life. I don’t want someone to tell me how to be free and selfish.

  65. Monica says

    I haven’t had time to read all of the comments, but someone said something about looking forward to midlife. I am, too! Not certain aspects, of course, but I look forward to being in a different season. Whenever I think, “I’d love to go to Italy (or Hawaii or Ireland or a coffee shop with JUST my husband or anywhere without having to get a babysitter ahead of time),” I remind myself that I’m not in that season right now, but — God willing — we’ll get there. And I should enjoy this season now and save for that season the joys of it. Someone asked us if we were going on a trip for our tenth anniversary this summer. Yeah, we’re going cherry picking with our kids. It’s just not the season for couple travel by ourselves, and that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to when it is!
    In answer to the idea that midlife is when a woman wants to start widening her area of work to outside the house and a man wants to spend time with his wife, I have watched my parents do this, but what they did was embrace a cause together — they got involved in things they believe in and now have time to really work on — TOGETHER! — that they never had when my dad had a full time job and my mom stayed home with her kids. They do marriage preparation, marriage ministry, and teach NFP. And now they’re more busy than they ever were when my dad was working full time. He has a part-time job for the diocese where they live, and he and my mother do all kinds of other volunteer work, travel for conferences, and spend their time working in the vineyard together. They would never trade it for “retirement living” as our culture understands it, and I think they’d probably go crazy with each other if they tried! :)

  66. sara says

    Haven’t read every single comment, but could you do a chapter on FIGURING OUT FASHION?? I go into the mall and I don’t even know which section I’m supposed to be shopping in anymore, or what size I am, after nursing so much, and then stopping… I despise the “women’s” clothing – it just looks like “old lady” things my mom would wear – on the other hand, the “juniors” section just looks like shoe-strings wrapped around hangars with skinny jeans – and that’s not gonna work, either. And as long as we’re homeschooling, I’m really not interested in getting up and putting on a lady’s suit or something tight around the waist or something that needs ironing, either…
    And perhaps a chapter on just how in the world I make the transition to going back to work after so many years of staying home?? Unlike many other moms, I have a dh counting the seconds to when I can go back to work so he can quit the job he hates and find something more suitable. I honestly can’t even think about the day I send my kids to school and get a job without winding up in a ball of tears on the floor… when dh isn’t looking, obviously. I can only assume it will be like ripping off a bandaid, and we’ll adjust, but I’m scared.

  67. Suzette says

    I am 45 years old and am enjoying this midlife thing very much. I would like to add that I am married to the love of my life, whom God brought into my life, for 22 years . I have 3 young adults ( my children) that God has gifted us. To me age is just a number. I still see life through the eyes of a chid. Now I need to tell you that my mother passed away two years ago, my middle son has a chronic condition as well as myself. My son deals with Ulcerative Colitis and I am dealing with Fibromyalgia. I have been peri-menopausal for about 10 years now. I know with great certainty that I can handle whatever is to come because God promised He would be there to help and guide me. I just take life 1 day at a time. If you write a book I will definately read it.Thanks for letting me babble on.

  68. says

    Confessions of a mother! I am 57 and mother of 8, ages 8 to 31. Our last baby was born when I was 47 … What a gift! But with that gift came surprises! I was really in the middle of the ‘Afternoon of Life.’ The rushes of joy and bliss that always came with a new baby were soon replaced by emotions of fear, anxiety and a very real helplessness. Such was my introduction into menopause … and I didn’t have a clue! (In fact, all of these changes, but to a lesser degree, accompanied the birth of our seventh. I was just very ignorant!)
    We have been homeschooling for 25 years now. As I write, I am sorting through my curriculum trying to pray and decide what we will be doing come September (October!). I’ve been a sort of eclectic mom, phlegmatic — slow and scattered? It’s no wonder we had a hard time staying on track! Now I try to plan in short increments or quarters.
    These last years, however, have truly ushered in new emotions. What once filled me with joy and bliss, is now a challenge. Where I once experienced enthusiasm and confidence, now I drag and doubt — even my prayers are quiet and searching, ‘Stay with me, Lord’.
    Our youngest sweetheart is eight and beautifully inquisitive just like our oldest. But I feel a sort of helplessness with her as though I can’t do what I did with our older children for whatever reason.
    ‘Ahah!’ … God behind all things, especially difficulties — it is a new time in life, not for just me as a mother, but for our family. We are always growing, never static. We have four almost five graduated from college. Most graduated with highest honors … please, not a brag, but a witness, God has done great things for us. We have a little grandson who delights everyone in our family and is the apple of our eye.
    And still, my energy (which never was great) is really lagging! What I am noticing in our lives is how the older ones now are caring for us and each other. They take on tasks for us that make my heart melt. They love one another and are close. Whatever academics I used, it seems the tutoring of their hearts was where grace was at work.
    Ideals and real life! … As we age, the ideals seem harder to work toward. Spiritual ideals are less about sanctifying our work and more about saying yes to suffering. Practical ideals are striving to do more with less — managing a household on a song and a prayer (I guess that’s not too new), maybe just a prayer! Change does include a ‘little dying.’
    Someone once gave me a card that said, “Holiness is not knowledge, but a childlike love for the Father.” In all of this change, the Kingdom of God is really being built, we just can’t see it with our eyes. This change in our lives is really a ‘suffering’ that we couldn’t have seen coming. We wanted to go on forever doing what we were doing because the graces were so exhiliarating.
    In reality God’s grace is probably so much more now and His nearness so much closer. Menopause, the dark night of the soul, suffering are all the ways of God helping us to a childlike faith in Him as Father. This truth has been with us from the incarnation.
    ‘My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak’ so familiar, yet new!
    It’s been so nice to share and know there are ‘mothers afte my own heart’ out there. Maybe we should start by looking up the latin roots of ‘menopause’ and see if it’s really negative! … God Bless

  69. says

    I didn’t read through all the comments, so this may have been mentioned, but I would love a way to prepare myself for how my relationships change as I enter mid-life. Relationships with my kids and parents and siblings would eb the most important.

  70. says

    From Webster …
    MENSIS = month
    PAUSE = to cause to rest.
    Shakespeare = To stop; to wait; to forbear for a time.
    Pretty positive!! Or, at least, we can look forward to what is to come!

  71. Tina says

    Wow, what a great idea, Elizabeth! I would definitely buy a Catholic book on this topic! I’m late to the game and don’t have time to read all the comments, so I don’t know if this has been mentioned — but I think it would be helpful to include a Catholic man’s perspective on midlife, and how their lives are changing, too, in relation to ours. I also wish I could find a “list” or something more concrete on what to expect when going through perimenopause and menopause… i.e., how will our fertility signs change? Do I have to change my method of NFP? I turn 40 this year and things are definitely different for me — what seems to have worked for years isn’t as reliable as before. Just some thoughts… great discussion!

  72. says

    At 51 with two teenagers I’m not an empty nester yet, but I do find myself reflecting a lot on Mary and what her life must have been like after Jesus’ ascension. Her role changed so much, and yet…she quietly kept living her life and honoring her Son. I could be wrong on this, but I think the tradition is that she began the Stations of the Cross by tracing his steps on the way to Calvary during these years. I think a lot, too, about the little house at Ephesus–isn’t that where we traditionally say she lived? Maybe there’s a way to frame your book around Mary’s life at Ephesus. Just an idea.

  73. Catholic Mom transitioning to Catholic Woman says

    Hi Elizabeth,
    I’m 51, mother of 3 (one to college in the fall, next one the following fall, and a 13 y.o.), practicing NFP again (when I haven’t for 20 years! I’m lonely, but not in a sad way. Just don’t have the things in common with moms around me that I used to. Often think about being a contemplative in my old age. I feel sorry for my 13 y.o. as I am a “boring” mom compared to my earlier years!
    Looking for new hobbies as the old ones were more often tied with younger children. I steer away from crowds and have reverted back to my naturally introverted self. I think more about dh and I being alone again and do wonder if we’ll have a romantic old age or become old fuddy duddies. We both comment on our parents lives now and don’t like what we see.
    I think I would benefit most from chapters creating a friendship or peace/contentment with myself, finally, after all these years of being distracted from myself, and discussion on being a friend to my husband sans children. Everything used to revolve around the kids, didn’t it? It was lovely then, but I feel the movement for change away from that (my poor 13 y.o….)

  74. my turn Tina says

    So I guess I’m the only one who actually completely agrees with the excerpt! That’s exactly my situation and I guess most of you will trounce me for saying so. I’ve done my job, I have absolutely no desire to do anything child-related any more and yes indeed, it’s my time to shine! Well, to be truthful, I shone at motherhood. I shone at being a stay at home wife. I shone at all the community volunteering I did. And now I want to shine in a way I never have before, developing my talents, my passions and my love for trying new challenges. So sue me.
    I’ll be forging ahead with new and exciting plans for this stage of my life, and it doesn’t include being matronly, and it’s NOT SELFISH to want to do these deep-seated, innate creative things at this point in life. What’s selfish? Define it for me, please. Because it sounds to me like people are confusing selfishness with changing direction in your life and having husbands somewhat surprised that I don’t want to putter around the house anymore, caring for babies. That’s over and I’m so glad! And remember: that’s how God designed it. If fertility were something to be revered forever, it wouldn’t end. Time for something new; thank you God!

  75. says

    Mid-life…never thought I’d be there! As the youngest in my family, I have always thought of myself as young, perpetually 18 years old, that is until I recently turned 40. It wasn’t a depressing thing for me, rather a sobering one. My mid-life so far has found me pondering Heaven more than I ever have. Encouraging myself to keep going, to keep my eye on the only prize that really matters. I have so many things I’m interested in, so many things I want to do! Learn to sew, read, keep memories, learn to knit, make all those great projects I see on Pinterest, bake, read some more…the list doesn’t end. And then there are my two boys whom I love so much! I am an older mom…becoming a mother was a battle for me. Now I feel a little less energetic but feel like my mothering years of young children are going to end so quickly after they began, and not when I’m at my best!
    Mid-life is thinking about what I have and don’t have, becoming more confident. Not living to please those who are impossible to please, but living to please God. I’ve never really been able to do that. Turning 40 flipped that switch for me and while it’s a bit scary to start being more intentionally me, it’s good, too. Mid-life is wrestling with whether to add to our family…the desire is there, but is it God’s will for us? Hearing too many voices weighing in on that question so loudly that I cannot hear God’s. Working on that. Working on giving it all to my kids…I’m an introvert with a great need for space and time alone! Not happening much now. But trying to remember that this is my only chance at it all. Mid-life is reminding me daily that I need to do the right things NOW.
    This is so not eloquent or well-thought out but I wanted to at least try to share with you! Thanks for all you share!

  76. Anne says

    Elizabeth,
    I’ve visited your blog over the past few years but have never posted any replays to any of your wonderful posts until now. Boy did you speak to my heart on this one! I would love to see a chapter on starting families mid life, as I know many like myself who spent years praying for a good Catholic spouse and married later in life. I don’t fit into the group of women who purposely postponed pregnancy to advance a career. I will turn 45 this fall and am grieving the loss of my fertility in a big way, yet most people can’t understand why I long for another when I have a 5, 4 and 2 year old to keep me busy.
    In many ways I feel like we’ve just started our wonderful life together yet already we are leaving the season of babies. It breaks my heart. It reopens the old wounds from my single days when each birthday, especially in my thirties, meant one less baby I could have someday. Yet at the same time I feel so incredibly blessed to have 3 living (2 in heaven) beautiful healthy children when so many women never achieved pregnancy at 40. My husband’s openness to life at his age of 53 makes me love him all the more deeply. My heart is overflowing with gratitude for the life I am living yet the grief in losing my fertility can be so difficult to bear sometimes.
    In recognizing all of this I have made more time for prayer which has been a huge help. Reading a book penned by you about others in my situation would be a welcome gift!

  77. Anne says

    Carol, I just read your post after posting my reply. I’m right there with you! Had my babies at 38, 40, and 42 and now at the age of 44,wish I could have another. I often think I’m in my early 30s since that’s the age of most moms I know…then they start talking about how great it is to be “done” and it kills me!

  78. says

    my turn Tina~
    I think there is room for that here. Elizabeth has also touched on this very topic… being glad to move on with her kids, not having that ache for a newborn, but looking contentedly at her life with her beautiful blessings and even having her oldest engaged… more and more to look forward to!
    The problem becomes a bit sticky when suddenly we women think that our spouses or children are hindering us from our “true” occupation or vocation. That our gifts can “finally” be developed now that they have moved out. I prefer to think that my gifts will be developed to further serve… whether our children or others.
    My mom will always be my mom… and I hope that I will always be a mom to my kids. And hopefully I will have more and more to offer them.
    Many blessings and peace to you.

  79. Suzanne says

    As I slowly approach this myself, I’d like to know quite a few things. How do you deal with the post-childbearing grief? What about launching your bigs while still working with littles, and balancing that act with aging parents? I’ll be 58 before I’m finished with homeschooling, what should come next? And there seems to be a liberal slide that comes with aging, what do I need to do to persevere in the faith, keep running the race? That last one is my biggest concern. I know that between original sin and free will, some of my kids could make very poor choices, how do I keep from excusing their behavior while still accepting them?
    I think you’ll be meeting many needs with this project, God bless!

  80. my turn Tina says

    Thanks, Megan, for you thoughts. I believe it’s the wording that I find problematic. E.g. if having babies is my “true” vocation, then it stands to reason that my loss of fertility would be devastating. But, God designed having babies as a temporary thing, so I must come to realize: this is His will, so it is good. Yes, I’ll always be a mother, but in a very different way once the kids are adults. So, post-fertility, can it be that my “true” vocation is now looking very different? It was exactly what I needed to do at the time I was doing it, but things change and the big difference is that I’m glad and so many others are not.
    But it is correct that I can “finally” develop talents of mine that I previously had to repress. It’s not healthy to pretend I didn’t. It devalues the sacrifice I made. I made it willingly, but it was a huge sacrifice. Now that I can go back to it, I feel so much more…well-rounded.
    Also what’s being ignored is the biological reality reflected in that book excerpt. Post-menopausal women do have less estrogen, the “nurturing” hormone and have relatively more testosterone. Aging men lose testosterone (which is what alllll those Viagara commercials are about…) and they do tire of being the hero breadwinner/defender of hearth-and-home. It’s natural that they look for more home-time. And it’s natural that I look for less. These hormonal changes are very real. I feel like I have whole new worlds to challenge me. My husband is looking forward to semi-retirement; I am thrilled that he is thoroughly supportive of me being home less. We work well together!

  81. says

    Tina,
    I’m confused. I re-read my post twice and don’t understand where you got the idea I said that having babies is the only true vocation or the whole extent of true vocation. I think we can agree that, at midlife, the Blessed Mother was a real human mother just like the rest of us. From the cross, Jesus made her mother of the whole world. Clearly, the Creator thinks women are hormonally capable of heroic nurturing well past our childbearing years. I think your early mothering years differed from some of the others here and maybe that makes your midlife perspective different from mine. Not better or worse, right or wrong, just different. I don’t feel at all as if I’ve had to repress talents. Instead, I look back on the last twenty years and wonder gratefully at how beautifully God has allowed me to discover and use my talents. And I look forward to making new discoveries.
    Who is ignoring biological realities? I think we are all well aware of biology shifting dramatically in our bodies. It’s kind of hard to miss. However, just as I caution my teenager that PMS isn’t an excuse to sin and she needs to work a bit harder to be virtuous when she feels irritable, we can meet hormonal shifts with dignity and grace in our behavior. Hormones are not an excuse to stomp our feet and demand we get everything our way because we’ve slaved and sacrificed and denied our real identity and think that now it’s our turn to be self-serving and selfish (I’m not saying that *you* said this, but it is the feeling I get from a fuller reading of the book I quoted). If that’s the case, perhaps we need to take a closer look at how we perceive the vocation of motherhood and homemaking in the premenopause years, regardless of whether a woman is employed outside the home. I don’t feel as if I’ve been repressed all these years, slaving away while I wait my turn to finally do what I want. I have felt fulfilled to the brim.
    Perhaps it’s natural for some men to look for more home time, but what I’m hearing from several men is that they are actually looking more forward to travel time. They want to go places and explore things–with their wives. And I’m hearing from an equal number of women that they are looking forward to quiet peaceful gourmet dinners for two and decorating with an eye towards a “grown up home.” I think this might be largely a factor of temperament. As an introvert, I’m not surprised that even as my hormones shift, I’m not wanting to become a social butterfly. I would, however, dearly love, some time alone to set a pretty table and make a grown up dessert. Contrary to some of the assumptions of other menopause authors, I don’t think all women are eager to begin a new career at midlife, no matter how creative the opportunity. (on the other hand, my father, and many, many of the men who graduated with him from the Naval Academy, started new careers at midlife. In my recent correspondences, men and women both say they are a bit tired and are eager to just enjoy each other’s company, unless the marriage has some troubles. Then, they are terrified of what is to come. And almost every woman I’ve talked with has looked forward to the blessing of grandchildren. Sometimes, their eager anticipation is only exceeded by that of the prospective grandfather.
    What I think is much more important than trying to make sweeping generalizations about what *all* women or men feel at this stage of life is to acknowledge the need for couples to grow together, both before and during this stage. Family relationships are not disposable. It sounds like you are blessed with a thriving marriage. Some couples find this stage a bit more of a struggle.
    I think I’m most troubled by your initial assumption that people would be unkind to you here or attack you for feeling the way you do. i don’t think everyone feels the same way as her neighbor. And I think it’s really important that women are kind to one another, being careful not to belittle or condemn someone’s feelings as we honestly explore an issue. I’m sorry you assumed it would be otherwise here and I hope that you will find we can understand your perspective. Just as I think we need to be a kind heart and caring friend to women who are genuinely grieving the loss of fertility and the absence of young children in their homes, I think we have to open to the honest feelings of women who are very eager to embrace midlife without even a backward glance. Perhaps we all have something to offer each other.

  82. Judy in Japan says

    Dear Elizabeth,
    I’m very late to the discussion here. I typed out a full comment the other day on my tablet and it got lost somehow when I tried to post. So I figured it wasn’t supposed to be posted. :-) But this evening when looking for study resources for the women’s group in our parish, I happened upon the website for Endow, which is based in the Archdiocese of Denver (I believe). One of their studies (here http://endowgroups.org/classes/discover-your-dignity-part-ii/ ) approaches at least in part this same topic, so I thought it might be one place for you to look as you consider the topics you would like to cover. Maybe it would also be a good resource for others in parish women’s ministry?
    Wishing you and your family a blessed summer,
    Judy

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