What do you get when you combine teen hormones at puberty and mom’s yoyo hormones at menopause? With more and more women putting off having children till later, as mom hits fifty, the kids are hitting twelve or thirteen. It’s called the Hot Flash Clash and it ain’t pretty. In my household that translated into me hitting the sack exhausted at 8:30 pm, while my daughter was not even brushing her teeth yet, let alone in bed.
It had taken seven years and two miscarriages, but we finally had two wonderful children 20 months apart. I was 36 for the first one, 38 for the second. I had no idea that meant I'd be a menopausal crone while my daughter was entering her maiden voyage.
Fast-forward to age 50. My 12 yr old daughter was moodier than my 14 yr old son, and clashed heartily with her mother. We had our best talks when we were in the car, not looking at each other. My son surfed the wave of his hormones as a burly caveman type, grunting rather than conversing, till at age 19 he began to show signs of being human.
And me? I was very restless. I needed a sabbatical from motherhood but that’s not allowed. So I went on retreats as often as I could. I enrolled in writing workshops, yoga weekends, joined a chorus which held annual competitions out of town, anything to get away. I could have called in the temporary insanity clause and written myself a prescription for rest and relaxation, but that might have led to a sanitorium!
I didn’t realize peri-menopause was going to last 7-10 years! With a little help from my women friends, and some short term therapy, I did not need a straitjacket. One day, the kids were old enough to leave home so of course we chose universities out of town (not really, but it did work out well). With any luck, you too will get time to yourself back and open up a creative circle in your living room.
Seriously though, a woman going through menopause needs a way to find alone time with no dogs to walk, groceries to buy and no-one screaming “Mom” down the hallway at all hours. You may need a summit meeting at Camp David to work out negotiations around sharing the load, but do let your family know big changes are going on and you need some help.
It’s the saintly, ‘selfless’ good mother mindset that makes us push ourselves way past our limits, responding to everyone’s needs while neglecting our own. And that’s just healthy. When we forget to take time out for little things like eating proper meals, getting to bed on time, playtime and soul-care, things get tense.
Hence, the clash: teens are good at manifesting general snarkiness. Mom is operating on a short fuse. Kids are oblivious, stomping around making last minute demands: she wants to be driven to the mall, and he forgot his lunch (again) and wants you to drive 30 minutes to school, or a last minute assignment requires a trip to Staples for a fold-out presentation board the day before it’s due. Another McDonald’s take-out supper. And major hot flashes and night sweats abound.
This all boomerangs into fatigue, resentment and frustration. You know what they say:when Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
What can you do?
Set realistic expectations: For one thing, driving your kids’ lunch to school is a no-no. If he has to starve one day, at least it will help him remember to bring his lunch next time. Don’t set yourself up for being available 24-7 when you really don’t need to be.
Pay attention to your body signals. Are your shoulders aching? Are you running ragged, feeling stressed all the time? PAIN means pay attention inward now. Health challenges grow bigger when we don’t listen to the first signals.
Schedule time for yourself each week. Take a class, get a massage. Do what you love: piano lessons, pottery, drawing, something you consider “frivolous” and just for you. It’s time for you to be sensibly selfish and feed your soul.
Take 10 minutes a day to meditate/reflect– quiet time, stillness, staring out the window, day dreaming, gives us down time to hear our own wisdom. This goes against your training, I know, but it’s worth exploring.
Enlist help from others: your partner can drive Suzy to soccer while you get a morning off on Saturday. Do not get sucked into Supermom mode, doing it all yourself. Ask for help. Build a support system: girlfriends, female relatives who are supportive, internet forums about Menopause (Menopause Chit Chat, Owning Pink, Minnie Pauz); find allies. You are not alone.
Try and stay Zen when your teens’ moods are swinging wildly up and down. Mother yourself, and take good care of you! It’ll all be over before you know it….NO! I do not know where the peanut butter is!