Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gather the Women: Menopause and Mothering

SoulCollage(R) Card Multi-tasking Mom Raises a Hand for Help

If it takes a Village to raise a child, then it’s time to Gather the Women.

Yesterday in my Creative Circle class, six women, all mothers, were discussing how hard it is to make time for what you love to do, because it feels self-indulgent and selfish. That led to talking about how overwhelmed we feel with our own emotions at mid-life, our hormonal peaks and valleys, feeling stretched and distracted and having not enough uninterrupted ‘me’ time to journal, write, draw, collage, or just putter around in.

And that led to a story of a woman doctor with three kids who just up and left one day, and didn’t come home for six months. Now there’s a scary thought! It's perhaps the secret fear of every mother,  that we will fail at being a mom. I think the fact that women are putting off having children until our thirties, brings us closer to the perilous period of peri-menopause in our forties. Meanwhile, our children are still at home and needing us to chauffeur, cook, clean and supervise homework for them, which leads to moms feeling ‘on duty’ 24-7 with no breaks, and subsequent feelings of overwhelm. The ideal, multi-tasking ‘supermom’ hits a brick wall at peri-menopause (which begins in your mid-forties), and begins to crumble and crack at the edges.

At menopause, says Dr Christiane Northrup, the reigning expert on the subject, one of the most common needs women express is the need to get away, alone. I’d say the second greatest need is the help and support of other women.

Talking with other women about what really matters is very good for the soul, and very healing. I’ve been part of a woman’s circle for seven or eight years now.  We used to meet twice a month, and lately we’ve moved to once a month, two hours on a Thursday afternoon. We take turns hosting and providing tea, while we have a Circle Chat. It started when our kids were in high school, and we had less opportunity to meet other women while volunteering at school. 

How it works, is that each woman gets to talk about whatever is on her mind, whatever bubbles up from within her soul, for five-ten minutes; we use a crystal rock as a talking stick, so that the whole circle listens deeply,  holding space for her to speak.
This circle of women helped me keep sane and made me a happier mom. I don’t know how I would have gotten through menopause without having these women to talk to about what really matters.

I realized this morning that the discussion in my Creative Circle class yesterday about taking time for ourselves to do what we love, and what pushes a woman to the edge of leaving her kids and family in menopause, are two very related and very important topics.  It’s because we think self-care is selfish that we don’t give ourselves enough down time. Or we think it’s ‘frivolous’ to do something like writing in our journal or making a collage, or something that speaks to who we are, that feeds our creative woman’s soul. 

Some women hesitate to even mention it to their husbands for fear of appearing self-indulgent and less hard-working. Especially if you are a mom who works at home, and already feel guilty that you have time during the day while the kids are at school, so you fill it up to the max with volunteering and other ‘worthwhile’ activities, forgetting to leave yourself any time to do the things that fill the well, make you happy, revitalize and energize you.

Lately I am finding more and more articles and quotes that offer proof that it’s actually better for the people we love for us to take care of our own needs too, and put ourselves on the list. If you have a creative streak, that crankiness and irritability you feel may actually be coming from the need to get back into Flow, to express your creativity. Whatever the needs you have, don’t bury them in busy-ness.

When we truly care for ourselves, it becomes possible to care far more profoundly about other people. The more alert and sensitive we are to our own needs, the more loving and generous we can be towards others. — Eda LeShan

So back to Gathering the Women – when I meet with other women, when I share my feelings about what really matters to me, or just spill the beans about the crazy-making days when I don’t have a minute to breathe, or pee, or eat lunch….when I get a chance to feel heard and seen, and can take off the pretend mask of Perfectionism or Super-mom who has it all together, it saves my life. It probably saves the lives of my kids too, because my mood is brighter, I feel less cranky and irritable. I can give from the well, because my well is feeling rather full. I don't feel like throwing in the towel and taking a year's sabbitical from motherhood.

Can you recognize the symptoms of overwhelm before they explode on you? Can you lean on friends, hire a house-cleaner, leave the house for tea with a friend, make time to write in your journal or start a women’s circle? How can you give yourself a break, cut yourself some slack, ease up on the list of things to do and create some Creative Space for yourself? Begin by gathering other women and having the conversation about this hairy mid-life transition and the strain it puts on our mothering.

As a bonus to anyone who leaves a comment here, I will put your names in a draw for the book An Anthology of Babes, 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice, edited by Suzi Banks Baum. In this book you'll find 36 women writers and artists, sharing their stories, writing from their souls. You will find a circle of voices here.

Namaste, Musemother


Kim said...

Loved this post. I was so lost going through peri-menopause in my forties. No one was talking about it and there were no support circles and such. After a very arduous journey I am finding my way and have a better understanding of taking care of myself. So nice to know that I was not the only one going through those feelings and struggles. I love your blog and insights as well as your book "The Tao of Turning Fifty" Thanks for sharing!

musemother said...

Thank you for your comment Kim. I love hearing from other women who are going through similar a journey. We are not alone! so glad you are enjoying the Tao of Turning Fifty too. keep in touch,

Suzi Banks Baum said...

So much to share on this topic, but for now, let me thank you for your promotion of my anthology. I hope to have your writing in the next one! All my best, Suzi

Rebecca Kinsella said...

Hi. I just happened on this blog. A great post. Really pertinent to everything I am going through right now. Its not that its anything I don't know, but how I need reminding ! Thanks . Just read to my husband !

musemother said...

Dear Rebecca and Kim, thank you for your comments. Would love to send one of you the book, Anthology of Babes, but I don't have contact information for either of you. Whoever sends me their email address will get sent the book!