Since a very young age, being a mother is something I always hoped for.
Twenty years later after having my first of three amazing humans, I can say it is no easy task but one that despite the hardships, very well worth at least it from my perspective. It was idyllic to envision this without experiencing first what it truly means to give birth and raise children.
When choosing to become mothers, women find themselves with many options. Whether to adopt or raise children on their own, that nurturing essence always shines through sometimes even by becoming “mothers” to our own parents in loving and unselfish yet inspiring ways.
My next-door neighbor is a beautiful, young mother of two adorable and energetic boys ages 3 and 6. She is sweetly devoted to those two charming little ones! She spends the day caring for them, making sure they are well-fed and well-played. From my backyard, I hear the pounding of a soccer ball, the splashing water as they dive into their pool, and the giggles and laughter coming from them playing together. Some evenings, I run into her while I walk my dog and I can see the accomplished yet tired look on her face, ready to call it a night. I reminded her once that though the days seem to last forever, the years, in fact, are truly short. I see her with a sort of melancholic admiration as she is a reminder of days gone long ago when my own children were little and those exciting, fun-filled days where I was the whole center of their attention never seemed to end.
Then, on the other side of my fence, lives my dear, unconditional friend: the empty-nester mother of 2 handsome and accomplished young men who have already left the nest to fulfill their own dreams. Despite the distance, she enjoys a true connection with them. A mother’s job and devotion to her children is an eternal thing. Occasionally, she shares their triumphs and achievements with me as she beams with pride and gratitude. I, of course, share in her joy. Though she misses them, she is quite comfortable in this new stage of life. She and her husband enjoy their time together alone. Their daily lives run at a much slower pace than mine however they always enjoy activities and adventures like training for races or their newfound love of Scuba diving. She can allow herself to be spontaneously available for a drink, coffee, or a quick walk with our dogs. She, to me, represents what I should look forward to in the years to come…fingers crossed!
So, why am I writing about my neighbors? Because coincidentally I am in that stage of life where I am caught right in the middle of them both! I am sailing through the perils of perimenopause with 3 teenagers at home. How do I explain to my kids that I am riding a storm, a dissonance between my mind and my body that even I at times don’t understand? Gone are the days of playdates and strict bedtime and yet I do look forward with curious anticipation.
What it will be like when my youngest takes off in a few years for my husband and me to earn the “empty nester” title. As I type this, a plethora of emotions come flowing through. Some days are good, others…hard to explain. Not all women have all of the symptoms, but just having a couple can be quite messy for you and those around you. Picture a sleepless night then having to yet get up before sunrise? Or those dreaded irregular periods, mood swings, and so on…
The lessons learned thus far.
Talk to your family. Talk to your teenagers. Talk to your friends. It’s essential to explain to them what is going on with you…unless you don’t mind them thinking the looney bus must’ve missed your stop! Here’s the thing: they will see you cry in one moment and laugh hysterically the next and that is perfectly normal. Someone once suggested I should never let my children see me cry. I couldn’t disagree more! I allow my children to see me cry because I too want them to feel comfortable with their own emotions. I also want them to understand that what I am going through will pass soon enough. St. Therese wisely said, “This too shall pass” so I keep reminding them and myself that in fact, it will pass but for now, openness and honesty is the name of the game. Cry and laugh, laugh and cry-but talk!
Only do activities that you genuinely enjoy doing together
Now is not the time to pretend to be a supermom and watch every superhero movie out there or to pretend you love rollercoasters just because they expect you to. (Remember vertigo might be a side effect of menopause, do you really want to add to it?) Also, not the time to get a matching tattoo with your daughter. You might regret it when the hormones settle down.
Each family is unique, follow your heart and when you are up to it, engage in activities that will create lifetime moments for you to reminisce with gratitude. This is your time and being able to enjoy such activities will also remain etched in their hearts forever.
Stay active and be mindful of your food choices
I don’t mean active around the house which can be quite wearing. Find a workout that you truly love. My personal experience from having a varied exercise routine that suits me, is that it helps me not only stabilize my mood but also helps me create the energy I need to keep up with the demands of a house full of teens. Let that be one of your non-negotiable moments as this will also help with many other symptoms of perimenopause.
Eat the right foods that your body needs to feel nourished. Let go of processed foods, excess sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. Load up on fresh, mostly plant-based and organic foods when available to you. Your body will thank you for it!
Take time for yourself
Enjoy alone time doing what you most love to do. Feeling like you are being left behind and not listening to your innermost needs won’t serve you in the long run. It is not selfish to take time for yourself. On the contrary, it helps you cope and come back stronger. Stay true to your heart’s desires or you will feel like you’ve neglected yourself during the process.
(Have a look at my article: “Do you take time to be healthy?” for more ideas.)
Menopause is puberty in reverse
You and your teens will probably share some common hormonal expressions, except you are heroically on your way out and they have yet a long way to go. Don’t forget about your partner, innocently floating on a sea of raging hormones coming from all directions without a clue as to when he will safely reach shore. Be sympathetic of their feelings, but don’t forget your own. I guess at this point I don’t expect extra special treatment, but a little empathy and kindness from time to time would be appreciated.
You’ve done well, mom!!
Ana Victoria Villar.