Are you a midlife mama with kid(s) in college or kids who have moved out? Are you feeling lost, angst-y, sad, or stuck? Is there an empty hole where something feels like it’s missing? You want more, but not sure what that looks like?
Wanna know why I ask? Because not only have I felt that before (yeah, all of those things!), but many of my clients have too!
You aren’t alone.
Midlife, particularly for mothers, can be bittersweet. The transition from a bustling home of busy kids to a quieter home when or as they grow older and move away can be quite a change!
“When my youngest left for college, I wept the entire day. I felt sad and drained for another week. No one told me it would be like that.” (Anonymous Mama, age 51)
What is it about this time of life that for so many of us, hits us so deeply to take a look at our past, and think about how we’ll move forward into an exciting and meaningful future? What does that look like? How do you do that? Aren’t we too old for that (you’re never too old!)?
My midlife “crisis” started before I was forty. My 17 year marriage was beginning to crumble. I decided to go inward and I did a major excavation on my childhood crap. I was sick and tired of carrying that around with me – it affected everything even though I was very careful about trying to tuck it away nice and safely so that no one would notice how deeply traumatized I still was.
I’ve worked with older women, women in their seventies and eighties, who were still carrying around assorted childhood issues. One was sexually abused, and one had a cold, neglectful mother. They were able to distance themselves from the emotional pain by continuing to be very invested in their children and grandchildren’s lives. What a great distraction for them! But when their children began to pull away, they finally sought counseling.
Midlife angst does not have to be painful. When you approach it with curiosity, with the idea that this is a wonderful opportunity to delve within and find the peace, joy, and meaning you’ve been longing for – well, this is what makes my work so rewarding! You get to put all that behind you so that you take control of your life and create it beginning with the inside. Work on yourself so that everything else that follows is just the proverbial icing on the cake.
Here’s an exercise to do to check in with where you’re at today. Get out a pen and paper and write down the answers to these questions:
What do you want? Answer this truthfully – from the deepest part of your heart. List out 2 or 3 major issues that are affecting your life and state in a sentence what it is you want and how you want to be feeling. For example: I want a better quality relationship. Great – let’s turn it into something solution-focused and positive.
I’m madly in love with the love of my life.
Different feel to it, right?!
Next question: Where are you right now? You may want to use the Wheel of Life exercise to assess the different life categories as a way to gauge where you are on a scale of 1-10, 1 being absolutely terrible to 10 being AH-MAZING!
Last question: What would it take to get to your ideal life – to have an amazing relationship, optimal health, thriving career, great friends, wonderful home, etc? Choose the 2 or 3 areas that need the most attention, and write down 3 steps you can take for each of the areas that you can act on starting today.
For example: You want to fall back madly in love with the love of your life, your spouse. You’re currently VERY comfortable with each other and tend to take each other for granted. Maybe there’s a little bickering? Feeling more like best friends/roommates instead of romantic partners? What are 3 steps you can take- starting today- that can bring you closer together?
What does he/she say is their primary love language (see the Love Language article here)? Use this as a starting point. Let’s say they really respond to physical touch and affection. Start with hugging and kissing more. Hold their hand in the car. Massage their shoulders.
Do you argue a lot or bicker? Start by paying attention to the ratio of negative to positive sentences you say to your loved one. A good ratio is 1 to 5 – for every one negative statement, it’s best to have 5 positive statements. “Pick up your socks; you’re a slob” – instead of complaining/nagging, zip it and compliment them on something else. They know your complaints. Take them by surprise and do the opposite.
Be committed to making this relationship the best it can be. What does that feel like? How would your thoughts be?
Please don’t just read this, do the journal exercise! Really think about your answers and how you’ll consciously take inspired actions now that you’re aware of where you are and where you want to be.