The other day I read a tweet commenting on how every 35-ish year old woman this person knew was going through some sort of major life upheaval/transition.
I thought about it, and realized how true it felt. Of the women in our mid-30s-to-40s with whom I am close enough to be privy to these sorts of things, a whole lot of us seemed to be going through some major life stuff-- divorces; job and career changes; mid-life crises and coming to terms with unaccomplished goals and the new reality that entailed; even new mental/cognitive/health diagnoses that changed the person's perspective. Not all of these changes are bad, but they all involve a good bit of unheaval and mental adjustments to new realities.
A lot of my fellow parent friends have kids who are entering tween/teendom, and grappling with what that means. A couple years ago I wrote about the surprise of parenting feeling more emotionally needy as my kids got older vs when they were younger, which seems silly to admit but has been a surprise given how much attention is given to the early years, and the story that by the time our kids are these ages that their friends matter more, that parental influence lessens, that while we may stress over our teens they don't really need us much anymore... when really it almost seems like they need us more, but few people talk about that. There's so much written at parenting in the first 5 years, and much less attention, it seems, to guiding parenting as our kids get older, and our challenges get so much more complex.
Similarly, there's this cultural story that our teens and twenties are the ages where we struggle most to "find ourselves," figuring out our life path... and that by the time we hit our 30s most people have that path figured out, and it's nice and neat and brightly lit. There's little room to acknowledge the fact that life doesn't stop throwing curveballs at us just because we pass a certain birthday or hit a specific milestone. Even most conventional wisdom about mid-life crises seems to treat them as silly, with cartoonish depictions of men rushing off to buy hotrods and find new hot young girlfriends. There's little in terms of meaningful depictions of what it's like to be, say, a woman dealing with realizing her marriage is deeply unfulfilling, and/or realizing the reason she's struggled so much in life is because of undiagnosed autism, or coming to terms with the fact that her devotion to her kids and to her career are fundamentally incompatible, or how to help her kid's emerging anxiety and depression, all while dealing with hot flashes and memory loss from perimenopause.
It's disturbing that I feel strange about even listing those things, each of which are things people I know (close and/or distant) are dealing with, and it feels too intimate/revealing to even mention them even though I'm not even hinting at any names, and this itself is part of the problem, right? It feels so taboo to talk about this stuff. But if there's one thing I learned about blogging through my kids' early years, it's that being able to talk about the hard shit, and have others say, "HOLY SHIT YEAH ME TOO," helped even if it did nothing to alleviate the problem itself. Just knowing that it was normal, that other people experienced it too, is such a relief.
Hiding in the dark helps no one.
But it's also so much more complicated to talk about this stuff, because you can't talk about a marriage, or about parenting older children, without telling part of someone else's story, too, someone else who may not want their dirty laundry aired. I feel like that's yet another challenge to those of us, often women but certainly not exclusively, whose lives are so entwined with other people's and with caregiving, that our stories get entangled with the people we care for, and they become a little less our own, and thus harder for us to tell.
Several months ago Netflix came out with a new movie by Amy Poehler called Wine Country that was about a group of women who were in their 40s or so, who meet up in Napa for a birthday trip. It was funny and cute and I love most of the women in it, and it touched on many of these life transitions women go through in mid-life, and we get so few movies or media like that. It was so refreshing, to see those stories told that way. And just, I dunno. It would be nice if we could get some more media like that.