Fake News: Parting your hair on the side and/or wearing yoga pants is now considered “out and old.”
Pshaw. This perimenopausal girl has standards. Goodness. As if the “change of life” symptoms aren’t unforgiving enough for middle-aged women. I refuse to look like Alfalfa with my hair parted down the middle to fit in. Trend or no trend, I am out.
Still, I have a conundrum. I am 50. Our youngest daughter, Harper, recently turned 13. Think about the lifespan development and our discrepancy. Let it sink in.
Life is playing a cruel joke on both of us. The ebbs and flows of hormones and estrogen fill our days. Harper’s levels are shucking and jiving while her mom’s are spiraling and combative, hot flashes of sweat dripping from my chin. The only thing “thinning” on me these days is my uterus. My ovaries are in the life-stage development of shrivel and dry. I cry when a stranger blesses me for sneezing in the grocery store (God’s people are everywhere!) and simultaneously want to key a car for someone who doesn’t think to hold the store door for me (Satan lives!). Oh, yes. I am indeed a vision. Literally, a hot mess.
This too shall pass, they tell us. In like…10 years. Oh, for Heaven’s sake.
My mom, a retired nurse of 50 years, coined the comment, “Girls are slaves to their ovaries for life.” I recall being in high school when my mom was experiencing perimenopausal symptoms. I listened to and watched my mom with such bewilderment when she told me, “It’s not you. It is me. I don’t even like myself right now. It will pass. Be patient with me.” Thirty-five years later, I understand that statement with every raging and plummeting hormone in my body.
From the other side, puberty whiplashes my baby girl. From snuggle bunny full of PDAs (public displays of affection) and baby talk to eye-rolling, I now hear one-word grunts of annoyed response and see chilling recollections of my own teenaged facial expressions of shock and awe.
Puberty and perimenopause are cleverly aligned in our house, colliding under one roof. Perhaps in yours, too. While there may not be a magic wand for balancing the roller coaster of emotions, it does not have to be all doom and gloom. I am comforted and even assured by seeing how many women and families survive these years of their lives!
I found some helpful survival tips on a blog, Menopause Chicks, titled: Puberty-Perimenopausal Smackdown. Feel free to leave these lying around your home for your housemates to read — Harper loves to talk about hormones. Psycho.
Try not to project: “Isn’t puberty awful?” or “Perimenopause is no big deal.” Neither one of these comments is helpful. Everyone’s ride on the hormonal teeter-totter is different and unique. Empathize, but try not to pretend you know exactly what the other person is going through.
Name it: I remember during puberty feeling alone and that my parents didn’t understand. There’s a good chance your kids feel this way. Turns out the onset of perimenopause is similar: I feel alone. Your kids may not want to hear every detail of what’s happening for you and your life phase. However, it’s good to acknowledge you are aware of the hormonal changes they might be going through, and to share when you’re having feelings that are also new and unsettling. Naming it, i.e., “I feel moodier than usual today, I’m emotional because…” helps to take the mystery out of a confusing subject matter and can also reframe these life phases from something to be potentially ashamed of to a change that is good and necessary and ought to be embraced.
Seek out opportunities to share: Chances are your kids know about puberty, but they are less likely to understand and care about — or they’re grossed out by — your perimenopause and menopause. Do not push uncomfortable subjects aside. Use whatever opportunity you can (a car ride, a commercial, a TV show) to crack open the conversation. You’ll both benefit. During a recent shopping trip, my son turned to me and said, “Remember that time before you hit menopause when you yelled at me in the mall?” Rather than saying, “Which time?” I used the opportunity to explain the difference between perimenopause and menopause and that I had not yet reached menopause (the one-year anniversary following no periods for a year).
Prepare: We spend a good part of parenthood preparing our kids for what to expect in life — everything from how to ride a bike to how to get into college. Imagine what could happen if we explained to them what can potentially happen when puberty collides with perimenopause … before it actually happens. For example:
As you’re going through puberty, you’re going to experience changes in your body, brain and emotions. These changes are often overwhelming and can sometimes make you feel out of control. I’m going through similar changes with perimenopause and although I hope it doesn’t happen often, I want to warn you that one day we might butt heads or disagree or we might yell at each other for what seems like no good reason. I want you to know that I love you, there is nothing wrong with either one of us, and it will pass.
Know your kid; know yourself: Paying attention to cycles can have huge pay-offs. For example, you may have noticed that your teen is no longer capable of engaging in conversation first thing in the morning. Save your important chats for after school or after dinner. Recognize your own cycles too, know which times of the day and month you are more irritable. Acknowledge when you haven’t slept well, eaten well, or missed out on exercise and how it affects your mood. Leverage those times to treat yourself to a break, a bath, or a soothing cup of tea, and don’t be shy about sharing this information with your family members.
Practice compassion: Sometimes a simple, “I understand,” is all that’s required to keep all the stars aligned.
I will add two more cents:
Pray and laugh.
Do NOT part your hair down the middle or toss your yoga pants.
This, too, shall pass.