Mood swings. Stress. Anxiety. Lack of sleep. Am I describing the early years of parenting or the reality of menopause? Because honestly, it could be either! Let’s be honest, parenting is hard bloody work. Rewarding, yes. But hard in ways you cannot possibly imagine until you are knee-deep in nappies and tantrums.
For many women though, the new reality is one of juggling both young children and the onset of peri-menopause. And that means that for some women they go from pregnancy hormones to new mum hormones to peri-menopause hormones almost without a break - that is quite a journey of hormonal chaos!
According to the Office for National Statistics in the UK the only age-group in which conception is on the rise is women over 40: ‘Conception rates in 2017 decreased for women in all age groups, except for those aged 40 years and over where the rate increased by 2.6%.’ And with menopause taking place on average between the ages 45-55 many women are not only juggling young children but also the highs and lows of menopause symptoms.
One of the best things about the internet is the increasingly real conversations about motherhood, with the need to pretend it is all shiny and perfect dropping away. When I had my first child I wasn’t very tech savvy and having a mobile phone was still kind of a new thing for most people (yes that does make it feel like 100-years ago!), so reading blogs or online magazines wasn’t something that I, or many of the other mums I knew, really did. By the time my third child came along things were different, and these days it’s very normal for new mums to get support online and be able to talk more about the very real challenges of parenting, as well as celebrating the highs.
And luckily menopause is heading the same way, with more information becoming available and more honest conversations taking place (like here at Loving Life After 40). But it’s still early days and lots of women can feel as if they are struggling on alone, especially if they are in those all-consuming early years of motherhood too.
If you’re in the midst of toddler tantrums as well as menopause mayhem then here are a few things that might help:
1 - Talk about how you are feeling - Keeping calm and carrying on isn’t always the best thing (take it from someone who is the Queen of bottling things up) and letting those around you know what you are dealing with and how you are feeling is really important. Motherhood is tough. Menopause is tough. The two together: An Apocolyptic Arsekicking. So grab your girlfriends and talk it out together, if they aren’t going through menopause yet they will be soon, and you might just discover that they feel the same way as you and are grateful to be able to talk about it honestly.
2 - Let go of any shame or guilt - We all struggle with things at times and there is nothing wrong with needing more help. You are not a bad mother/wife/daughter/friend/woman just because life feels hard right now. You don’t have to do this better than anyone else or prove anything. You are 100% enough and are doing your best. Remember that every single woman on the planet has to go through menopause so there is LOTS of support available and many women are trying to navigate menopause alongside motherhood and all the ups and downs that go with parenting. You are not alone in this.
3 - Get Some Time Out - Young children are all consuming and utterly relentless - I adore my kids, but relentless really was the reality when they were young. Taking time out is crucial for any mum but especially one who is also navigating menopause (this is true even when your kids are teenagers!). Whether it’s a short walk around the block, 10 minutes to meditate or a whole day doing whatever you like, make sure you get some time to yourself, it makes such a huge difference.
4 - Educate Yourself - Understanding what to expect during both motherhood and menopause is key to surviving with your sanity (just about) in tact. For the best menopause advice and support I highly recommend checking out the fabulous Amanda Thebe who has a fantastic online support group and a podcast.
5 - Check In With Your Doctor - If you think you might be in peri-menopause talk to your doctor. You can ask to get your hormone levels tested and discuss the various options available to help you. Be your own advocate and take along any questions you might want to ask. Unfortunately not all doctors are supportive of women in menopause so make sure you educate yourself first (see number 4). It’s always worth confirming with a doctor that your symptoms are menopause related and not down to anything else.
Life after 40 can be amazing, and the second-half of your life can absolutely be the best half, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tough challenges to deal with. Just remember that you’ve already survived puberty, heartbreak, losing your virginity, multiple difficult life events AND you’ve grown a human being and given birth - you’re a total legend! You can absolutely make it through this as well.