Tuesday, February 02, 2016

mid-life crisis. post #1.

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Maybe it’s not a crisis.  Maybe more of a mid-life transition, or, as my friend Josie called it, a Mid-Life-Adjustment.  Whatever it is, it has occupied a big space in my brain and heart over the past year or so.   And having talked to many friends I’m realizing that I’m not alone.  Something happens around now in our lives, and it feels different.  There I was, bumping along a pretty challenging, but predictable path, and now suddenly there’s a big turn to make.

I went to Peter’s pre-k orientation this fall and they surprised me with the news that they’d enrolled Peter in more school hours than I had expected.  Of course I know I didn’t have to accept this schedule, but I had a big pit in my stomach as I sat there in his school with the teacher telling me all the reasons why this would be so great for Peter.  I wasn’t prepared for this kind of separation yet, wasn’t expecting to have to do it until kindergarten next year.  And it wasn’t really about the separation from Peter.  It was about the separation from this life covered with babies and little kids. As much as I had fantasized over the years about how much I could get done once all my kids were in school, I wasn’t emotionally prepared for life without little ones clamoring at my calves. 

Peter has been going to school more that we had planned this year, and during the fall it didn’t feel so strange since life was so packed with photo shoots and holiday prep.  In fact, it felt pretty fantastic to get so many things done without interruption.  But now that we’ve settled into a new year and the novelty of it has worn off I’m finding myself more aware of this big mid-life transition. 

I’m sure everyone experiences mid-life differently.  But in processing this transition for myself I’ve discovered a few things.  First, the root of it?  I think it’s that I’ve come to the end of my flushed out life vision.  Growing up my parents and church leaders and school teachers and mentors helped me to use my own desires and talents and ambitions to craft a vision for my life.  That vision included college and graduate school and starting in on a career and finding a soul mate and becoming a mother.  But it sort of ended there.  Of course I knew there was life beyond that horizon, that kids would grow up, that life wouldn’t end once I’d had my last child.  But I never created a real vision for it.  I’m not sure why, but talking to friends and family I’m finding that this is a common experience. 

This fall I spent lots of time running in the Fells listening to music (something I haven’t done much since I’ve found such a great running partner).  I have a totally cheesy country song on my play list that pretty much does me in every time I listen to it.  It always has.  It’s called “You’re Gonna Miss This.” The cheesier than cheese lyrics run you through a story of a girl who is always wishing for the next stage to arrive and being reminded by others who have lived longer about how much she’s gonna miss each stage once it’s gone.  As embarrassing as it is, I’ve listened to this teary eyed through the years and it’s been a good reminder to live in the moment, to appreciate the season I’m in without rushing to the next.  But this fall my mid-life transition/adjustment/crisis lens made me hear this song differently.  It dawned on me that it has quite a problematic ending.  Here is the last stanza/chorus. 

Five years later there's a plumber workin' on the water heater
Dog's barkin', phone's ringin'
One kid's cryin', one kid's screamin'
She keeps apologizin'
He says "They don't bother me
I've got two babies of my own
One's thirty six, one's twenty three
Huh, it's hard to believe, but

You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this

While that stanza has really resonated with me for the past 11 childbearing years it hit me that…what the heck!…that’s the end of the song!  The writer didn’t go on to describe the next stage that we will one day miss. I doubt it was intentional, but somehow that ending sends a message that there’s no more life to miss after this stage with little kids clamoring at our calves. Do we just spend the second half of our lives pining for the days with a house full of little ones?   

I’ve spent a lot of energy over the past decade wishing the chaos away, waiting for some time to come up and breath, and now you’re telling me I’m going to spend the next 20 years wanting it back?  I sure hope not.

I’m determined not to go that route, not to believe that message.  These have been golden years, I can see that even more clearly now that I’m teetering on the other end, about to move into a whole new stage.  Even though those days were long and monotonous, those childbearing years were fleeting.  But I know life has all kinds of richness as kids grow up, as nests grow larger and then empty, as our children expand into bigger spaces in the world and we age into new stages of mothering.

I’m in a place where I’m not surrounded by friends and acquaintances who have moved onto this next stage.  I’m far from my sisters who are doing this so gracefully, and because of where we live our church congregation is comprised of lots of families younger than we are, there are only two families who have teenagers and not a whole lot of older women who’ve lived through similar mothering circumstances as mine. 

So, I’m looking for mentors.  And I’m finding them in all kinds of places.  I’m watching sisters and asking my mom and reaching out to friends and reading and thinking and asking and working hard to craft a vision that extends way down the road.   A vision that helps me see who I want to be in this next stage, what I want to accomplish, what I want to learn and experience, how I want to feel, how I want to love. 

Because I don’t want to go through the last half of my life wishing I was re-living the first half.

I’m hoping to get some help to write a few more stanzas of that cheesy song.  Who can tell me what I’ll miss about this stage with bigger kids, what I’ll miss about teenagers?  What I’ll miss about empty nesting and retirement? 

I really think with a little more perspective and deliberate processing I can create a new vision that will ease me through this transition, help me to feel full and alive, allow me to live in the present, enriched by the happy memories of the past and excited by the promise of a full and challenging and pretty great future. 

There are good things to come. 

(Stay tuned for part 2 of my mid-life crisis, more practical things I’m trying to do to ease this transition.  Would love to know how others out there have navigated this transition.  Please share!  I have a feeling I’m just at the very beginning of trying to unpack this and figure out how to make my way through.)

12 comments:

  1. Oh wow. You have been a mentor to me for several years, since I first found your blog. Among all the poignant thoughts I've read on here, this one is remarkable. I can see this dilemma ahead for me, maybe sooner than I ever planned. The phase of parenting and life, I agree, that doesn't seem to have much recognition or even advocacy. I look forward to seeing more of your thoughts and deeds as you take on the stage yourself.

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    1. Thanks Rachel. I always love hearing your thoughts.

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  2. Hi Saydi,
    I have been in a similar crisis/situation, and this is what helped me:
    Writing in my journal, talking about it and seeking advice from family and friends, talking to a therapist (I highly recommend this; a therapist has such a neutral perspecive on one`s problems and situation, and he always sees the whole picture, this has helped me A LOT!); reading books and listening to ted talks about this topic.
    On a more practical note: I have learned to be sensitive to my body and my emotions. What is good for me? This may be things like working out, finding a new hobby, picking up an old hobby/passion, volunteer, spending time with relatives and friend....
    And maybe you can (need to?) change family time/hobbies because you`ve all grown up, individually and as a family. Finding new things to do together could be fun, spending one-on-one time with your kids, including them more into household related things (maybe a new schedule for cleaning).
    One of my friends who has two daughters told me that her teenager kids are "moving along with her." Her focus what not only on her kids and their needs but had shifted more on her and her needs. They found a new hobby: horse riding, every saturday. They all enjoy this immensely.
    I hope you will soon find a new perspective for your role as a mother and that the crisis/weight you feel will be lifted off your shoulders.
    Thank you for sharing your feelings.
    All the best!
    Matilda

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    1. Thank you Matilda! This is such great advice. I'm going to implement some of it right away!

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  3. Hi Saydi,

    Thanks so much for your honesty. When women talk about the hard parts of our lives I think we support others through their challenges too.

    On the one hand I understand what you're saying; my youngest is 6 and started kinder this year and I found myself feeling really tender about being done with the baby stage. I loved those toddler cuddles so much! On the other hand as a full time mom (I don't think there are any part time moms!) who also works for pay 32 hours a week I cannot relate "what should I do with my time?" feeling. Sounds like you don't have the need to bring in revenue to the family like most moms who work for pay but maybe you should consider it anyway. Getting outside the family zone and engaging with adults on a joint project is stimulating and rewarding if you're in the right feild. Dressing for the outside world and spending time in a sphere that is not connected to your husband or your children is confidence boosting in a way I cannot quite describe. Plus you get paid! With all your experience and passion for natural birth, breastfeeding etc, maybe you could mentor younger moms and turn that into a business?

    Also, your kids still need you lots, I'm sure you know. School aged children require lots of support and guidance. My 10 year old needs me more than even in the evenings these days.

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    1. Jenny, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! You're right, my kids do still need a lot of me, a different part of me than before, but the needs of older children sure are incredibly demanding, emotionally and physically.

      Your comment worried me that the post came across as me wondering what I should do with my time. I still feel like there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I'd like to do for myself and my family. The extra hours with no little ones along for the ride has enabled me to do things a little faster, but I have the same load really. Mostly I'm just craving a vision that will make me as excited and driven for the next stage of life as I did for the stage I'm coming out of.

      During my busy photography season I'm working 20-30 hours a work for pay, and you're totally right, there's something really awesome and confidence boosting about having my own thing. And I LOVE the idea of childbirth prep stuff. I have lots of ideas stewing, and different projects I'm exploring with people, it's just hard to figure out what direction to go when I have such a blank slate ahead.

      Anyway, thanks so much for your thoughts.

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    2. Just re-read a noticed my tone sounded a little judgemental; I'm sorry about that. Good luck on your future adventures!

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    3. No, not at all! I didn't feel judged, just thankful for your insights.

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  4. Oh, Saydi, I love you! Thanks for writing this and for being so thoughtful...and for being a few years ahead of me in the parenting realm so I can anticipate what's coming.

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    1. I miss you barb! Come visit!

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  5. Your blog is the only one I read that is so relatable and most of all, real and honest. Keep posting often, I always leave feeling like I'm not the only one going through similar trials and struggles in motherhood!!

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  6. Even though I have one extra toddler who just turned 2 I find myself entering this phase as well. I appreciated this post because it has made me feel like I am not the only one going through this. If you have any ideas and want help from afar I would love to be in on doing something just for the sake of learning to do other things besides being a mom to little kids. Not that I don't love it I just need to learn how to be myself again!

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