Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Midlife Mentor: Advice for the 40- to 50-Something Woman

Dear Midlife Mentor,

I just celebrated my 42nd birthday, and it seems strange to me even writing this: I remember 24 distinctly. In fact, each year until my late-30s felt distinct, but since leaving the workforce to raise children the last (almost) decade feels like a blur. Now, all my memories are of my late-30s and early 40s, or the ages of my kids at the time. Help, is this normal?

— Life in a Blur, Berkeley

Dear Life in a Blur,

A belated happy birthday to you! As for living life in a blur, you are not alone. For those who’ve left the workforce to raise children, yours is not an uncommon experience. Your life moves at a different pace, with a different focus, which for many stay-at-home parents feels like a blur. Also, historically speaking, parenting young children at midlife is a relatively new phenomenon. For you and your cohorts, there’s the added dimension of moving into the next chapter of life, while still fully engaged in activities of the previous chapter. This is not to say that rearing young children can’t be done at midlife, but it poses new challenges and opportunities.

Many of the developmental tasks of midlife involve psychological deepening; we are called to take a fresh look at what has meaning for us, now, at this stage of life. Prior roles, although still meaningful, may not be fully satisfying. It might be time to ponder other avenues, possibilities; creative projects that might be calling for your attention. This (soul) journey is different from the first half; questions are the starting point.

I’d like to suggest that you check out either of these wonderful books: Listening to Midlife, by Mark Gerzon, or Awakening at Midlife, by Kathleen A. Brehony. I think you’ll find them helpful in sorting out what your next step will be. I wish you well.

The Midlife Mentor

Dear Midlife Midwife,

I’ve worked as a professional for the past 25 years, and I have enjoyed my work [and] am very good at what I do. Over the last few years I’ve noticed that my superiors are getting younger; I am 51, my superior is 35.It’s difficult being told what to do by someone so much younger, with less experience. How can I cope and keep my self-esteem intact?

— A Seasoned Professional, Pinole

Dear Seasoned Professional,

Do not let the younger supervisor shake your confidence. Just because she is your supervisor, doesn’t mean that she is fully confident about supervising a seasoned professional. In fact, that younger supervisor may feel she has to measure up to you. Think about it. How would you feel knowing you are less experienced than someone you’re supposed to supervise? A bit intimidated maybe, or somewhat insecure, perhaps harboring a little doubt about measuring up? Really, it’s probably not as easy as she’d like you to believe. You’ve been around the block, and you know that success is not a destination; it’s a path. This gem of understanding is worth its weight in gold! How will you cope? Oh, I’ll bet your self-esteem comes through it all just fine. I wish you well.

The Midlife Midwife

Dear Midlife Mentor,

I’m 47 years old with an IUD in place, and I am infertile. I already have a 21-year-old son; however, in the last month or so, I have started experiencing symptoms of pregnancy. I know I’m not pregnant; however, these symptoms don’t seem to be disappearing. I’ve seen my gynecologist and my shrink; both are completely baffled as I’ve had everything medically possible ruled out! I’ve had quite a few people suggest that it could be something called “phantom pregnancy.” I’ve heard of this, but I’m not very knowledgeable on the subject. Is it possible I’m suffering from this?

— A Phantom Pregnancy, El Cerrito

Dear Phantom Pregnancy,

If all the other, more practical possibilities have been ruled out, I’d like to suggest something to you. Your pregnancy is real,’s not about having a baby! Could these “phantom symptoms” be a wake-up call signaling that it’s time to “birth” some new side of your self? Perhaps it’s time to consider doing that something you’ve had on the back burner of your life for a while.

We often resist change because it requires work and emotional commitment, so when we’re not moving in the direction we need to be, our soul sends us a signal...phantom symptoms! What in your life needs your attention or focus right now? Are there issues needing to be addressed that you’ve been avoiding? What goal or commitments have you yet to make whose time has come?

Ponder the possibilities, and you just might find that something other than a baby is waiting to be carried to full-term! I wish you well.

The Midlife Mentor

Toni Tarango received her master’s degree from the Graduate School for Holistic Studies at JFK University. She has worked in the human service arena since 1977 and created The Midlife Women’s Circle in 2005. Send your column questions to: Midlifepassage[at]