I’ve been having a lot of conversations recently with midlife women about their Big Vision for their work in the world. As the newest “sandwich” generation, we are stretched between caring for elderly parents and children, the demands of career and home, and the need for money and the meaning.
Some trends I noticed during our conversations were:
#1 Midlife women have greater clarity about what is important to us.
I’m not sure if this is because of the time we’re living in, or the wisdom of age, but many of the women I spoke with are clearer about the work we want to do and how we want to spend the next chapter of our lives. As one wise woman noted, our older selves are ready to help our younger selves’ dreams come true.
#2 Midlife women don’t have time for nonsense.
Between caring for aging parents, parenting teens / pre-teens, and dealing with the physical and mental changes that come with menopause (+ the pandemic + racism + climate change + the war in Ukraine + the economy + political nonsense), they are TIRED. We don’t have patience for things that aren’t important. The era of being “nice” and the “good girl” is over. We only have so much energy at our disposal; so don’t get in our way!
#3 Midlife women‘s confidence has taken a hit.
Even though we have more clarity about what is important to us, have lots of experience, and have no time for nonsense, changing hormones, exhaustion, ageism, and life’s hard knocks have left some of our confidence levels a bit wobbly.
#4 Midlife women are working with how to balance money and meaning.
With retirement on the visible horizon, and for some, children’s college tuition looming, earning money is more important than ever. And so is meaning. At this point, at least one important person in our lives has passed away. We, or a loved one has had a serious illness. We have a deeper appreciation of the fragility of life. Unless we are already doing meaningful work that allows us to save, the desire to fulfill both money and meaning has intensified.
#5 Midlife women are getting ready for a shift that isn’t here yet.
We are living in the in-between space of perimenopause and menopause, work and retirement, children being dependent and independent, and parents’ being a part of our lives and passing away. Even though we may be ready for some of those changes to come now (e.g. working less), that time is not here yet. We’re in a liminal place where we can see the future, but a lot of things need to happen — many not under our control — until we get there.
It’s a lot!
How do we navigate work during this in-between time?
As a woman in her fifties, I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I have some ideas:
#1 Create our own definition of success.
Part of maturing is figuring out what success means to us. We’ve tried out different ideas that may have come from our parents, siblings, friends, spouses, partners, coworkers, or society. We’ve learned a lot. We know now what our values and our needs are. It’s time to sew our own suit of success with a fabric that appeal to us.
#2 Aspire for the ideal and accept reality.
Money and meaning will show up in different ratios at different times in our lives. When we’re feeling unsatisfied with our work, it can sometimes mean we’ve abandoned our ideals, or we aren’t accepting reality. At this stage in our life, we’re ready to hold the tender and complex balance between idealism and reality.
#3 Get support for menopause.
It’s absolutely nuts that so much time is spent talking about getting our period and getting pregnant, but little to no information is shared about menopause and perimenopause (which can be a 4-5 year process!). Menopause and menopause changes us on every level. Get help with this huge transition. Read about it. Talk with a doctor. Share experiences with friends.
#4 Let go of the to-do list as a form of self-torture.
It’s time to admit what we actually have the capacity to accomplish in one day. It’s time to make reasonable sized to-do lists. To ask for help. To delegate. To stop being a perfectionist. To just do the best we can and know that is more than good enough.
#5 Double down on self-acceptance.
This was one of the biggest themes that came out of my conversations with midlife women. As they navigate the challenges of this time, the “answer” often comes down to deep self-acceptance. It’s the hard work of accepting and being kind about the things we don’t like about ourselves as well as accepting and celebrating the things we do well.
What tips do you have for navigating work at midlife during this transition time?
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Photo by Pascal Debrunner on Unsplash