Caring for Kids and Parents…
Learning to Protect Your Own Energy in the Midlife Vise
It’s called midlife – the middle years – when we are considered to be middle-aged. Not very accurate when we consider life expectancy, but it’s still the term used to bunch those of us over forty and beyond together.
I think defining midlife as being the period of time that we are caught in the middle is far more accurate.
There we are, smack dab in the middle between the busy-busy first few decades of life and becoming a senior citizen (ouch!).
But more importantly, we’re caught in the middle – squeezed in the vise – between caring for our teen and young adult children and our aging parents, if we’re lucky enough to still have any.
No one really talks about midlife much.
Yes, there are the occasional mentions of men having a midlife crisis and their last few desperate grabs at youth. But overall, midlife is ignored and sidelined – especially when it comes to women.
Except for throwing around the topic of menopause, society-at-large seems to overlook the intense and life-changing stage that midlife is for women.
Midlife women have notoriously ridden through these years quietly and relatively unheard.
Yet these middle years couldn’t possibly be more dramatic.
We are past raising toddlers and tweens, but still coping with teens (topic for another day she said while pulling out her hair!) and the roller-coaster of emotions that is the emptying nest.
We can be coping with a challenging reconnection to our spouse, or the loss and separation from a partner through divorce or death.
Many of us are trying to find ourselves again – who we were before we became spouses and mothers.
We are worried about our financial future more than ever.
We’re stressed about keeping up with big bills and the ever-increasing cost of living, college tuition, insurance expenses. And wondering whether retirement will ever be an option (and how many cans of cat food we’ll be able to afford if that time comes.)
On top of caring for the kids, the finances, work, and the hopes of finding our own passions again – many of us are now stepping up to the demands of caregiving for our aging parents.
This is not really what we expected midlife to be (although most of us never even gave it much thought).
“Societal trends, such as delays in childbirth and an aging population, have resulted in the ‘sandwich generation’, an increasing number of women simultaneously balancing the roles of mother and parental caregiver.” – National Institute of Health
It’s much more stress and worry than we ever predicted. And yet, ironically, in years to come, we’ll probably look back at this decade as the best o’ times!
This all sounds depressing and hard. And some days, it is.
Some days it feels like way too much of a load to carry and a struggle to cope with. Those are the days we want to lock ourselves in a closet and cry. And sometimes we do (speaking for a friend, of course).
And meanwhile, as women, we are simultaneously expected to maintain the everyday flow of peace, love and happiness in our homes. We’re supposed to bury all of the anxiety and pressures and carry on like a Queen.
So, what’s the point?
The point is for us to recognize that although being over fifty can be incredibly liberating as we come into ourselves and finally find our voice, it is a time when we should be sharing with each other what’s really going on under the “I’m fine” surface.
It’s high time we share what we’re going through so that these challenges become more visible and talked about.
This is our season for understanding the importance of self-care and self-acceptance more than ever before in our lives. And a chance for those of us with kids (especially daughters) to set an example of what self-love looks like.
And it ain’t easy. And you are one person.
One flawed but magically amazing human being.
You are enough and you are doing the best you can on any given day.
You want to fix everything, but sometimes you can’t and that is ok.
We need to accept that there are times when life takes the wheel and we are in the back seat for the ride.
Talk about these stresses with partner (who may seem oblivious to all you’re dealing with).
Talk to your real friends, who love and support you. Talk to anyone who’ll listen!
Why do feel we need to hide the emotional firestorm we’re going through?
Why do we pretend everything is just fine when there are days when feel like a train wreck?
It doesn’t make us weak to have a cry or lean on someone. It just means we are human.
Learn to protect your own energy and vibes so that you can continue to be a positive force for those you love and provide care for.
Incorporate self-care into your life immediately. No one else is going to do this for you. It’s never been more important in your life than right now. It’s never been more worth the time and effort to give yourself love and acceptance than in these years.
Take a bath, have a latte, read a book for five minutes, meditate, organize your pantry (hey, it works for some people!), start a journal, plug in the diffuser, take a walk… you get the idea.
Do whatever it takes to nourish and fortify yourself during these caught in the middle years – because although this time in our lives can lead us on a journey for more, they aren’t easy.
Give yourself a break and find some balance!
Cheers to us sharing the chaos of midlife and to talking more openly about what it’s like to be gloriously caught in the middle between caring for kids and aging parents.
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